It’s the biggest auto recall in U.S. history: 49.5 million airbags from the Takata company installed by 19 automakers, totaling 37 million cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Takata airbags have faulty inflators, which are the part that deploys the airbag when a vehicle is in a crash.

In the defective airbags, moisture can enter the inflator over time and affect the chemicals inside. That can create an explosive force great enough to hurl parts of the inflator’s metal casing into the vehicle cabin, seriously injuring or killing the occupants.

The toll has been grim since the nationwide recall was announced in 2015. Fifteen people, NHTSA reports, have died in the U.S. because of these airbags, and at least 240 have been injured.

More on the Takata Airbag Recall

In 2017 Takata filed for bankruptcy protection, and—until recently—getting replacement airbags was difficult for consumers. Many have waited months for them.

More than 26 million of these airbags still need to be replaced. Fortunately, replacements aren’t as scarce as they once were, NHTSA says, so consumers should press ahead in seeking one.

In a report in late 2017, NHTSA applauded some automakers for being aggressive in their outreach to owners, but it didn’t mention them by name.

Fiat Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mazda, Tesla, and Toyota have told CR that they’re reaching out to owners by doing such things as updating their website (Toyota), tapping into social media, adding more customer service representatives, and even hiring representatives to track down owners of older cars (Honda).

The agency noted that some automakers are lagging behind in the effort to get the dangerous airbags replaced, but it didn’t name them.

“Takata and the auto industry as a whole are not doing enough to protect consumers from deadly, defective airbags, as this report makes clear,” says David Friedman, director of cars and product policy and analysis for Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

Jen Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center, says consumers should continue to pay attention to this recall, even though the reports of people being injured aren’t as prevalent as they once were.

“The danger to drivers and passengers is real,” she says.

You can check to see whether your vehicle needs a new airbag inflator by using your vehicle identification number (VIN). The number can be­ found on your car’s registration, at the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side, or on a sticker on the driver’s doorjamb.

Plug the VIN into NHTSA’s website ( to find out about any recalls for your vehicle.

Models That Urgently Need Replacement Airbags

NHTSA says occupants in certain Acura, Ford, Honda, and Mazda models face a higher risk—up to a 50 percent chance of rupture if the vehicle is in a crash—from Takata airbags that could potentially explode with deadly force. Owners should get them fixed immediately.

2001-2002 Honda Civic
2001-2002 Honda Accord
2002-2003 Acura TL
2002 Honda CR-V
2002 Honda Odyssey
2003 Acura CL
2003 Honda Pilot
2006 Ford Ranger
2006 Mazda B-Series

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the April 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.