The Deadly Airbag Defect Behind Fiat Chrysler’s Recall

Fiat Chrysler just announced a recall of 1.4 million vehicles in the US over an airbag defect linked to three deaths and five injuries. If you own a Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Compass or Jeep Patriot made between 2010 and 2014, your vehicle could have the defect.

According to Fiat Chrysler, the defect involves an internal computer called the occupational restraint controller. This device is responsible for tightening the seatbelts and inflating the airbags during a car accident. Vehicles with defective occupational restraint controllers may deploy airbags and seatbelt tighteners without warning or not at all.

Although Fiat Chrysler is refusing to disclose who manufactures the defective occupational restraint controllers, this is its second recall in a year involving dangerous airbags.

The other recall is much broader. One in four vehicles in the United States, including many made by Fiat Chrysler used or still use defective Takata airbag inflators. The defective airbag inflators made by Takata do not use drying agents (also known as desiccants) that can prevent instability. Humidity causes moisture to enter the inflators and degrade the ammonium nitrate propellant. Once the propellant is degraded, it can burn too rapidly and cause the inflators to explode with too much force. People killed or injured by Takata airbag inflators were hit with small pieces of metal shrapnel.

How You Can Receive Repairs for Free

The good news is that automakers and dealerships are required by federal law to fix defects at no cost. Automakers are also required by law to inform you of vehicle recalls. This is most often done by mail. However, you can check to see if your vehicle has been recalled in a matter of minutes.

Gather your vehicle identification number (VIN) and visit www.safercar.gov. Your VIN can be found on your insurance card, car title, windshield or inside of the driver’s side door. Plug your VIN into the website’s VIN search engine, and it should list whether or not your vehicle has any active recalls.

If you do have an active recall, contact your nearest dealership and schedule a time to receive your free repairs.

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