What Toyota's Latest Airbag Recall Means to Consumer Safety

This is not a Takata airbag recall. But, consumers still need to take seriously critical safety issues in 1.4 million vehicles recalled worldwide involving defective airbags on the driver and passenger sides.

The airbags have inflators composed of two chambers that are welded together and could develop a crack in between, according to the automaker. Toyota announced this week a recall of Prius and Lexus models equipped with the defective airbags manufactured by Sweden-based Autoliv Inc.

According to Toyota’s announcement, the cracks in the welded inflator chambers have been identified when the vehicle is parked and unoccupied for a period of time.

“If an inflator separates, the [curtain shield air bags] could partially inflate, and, in limited circumstances, one or both sections of the inflator could enter the interior of the vehicle.  If an occupant is present in the vehicle, there is an increased risk of injury,” the automaker said.

The recalled models include three hybrid models, the Prius, Prius plug-in and the Lexus CT200h produced between October 2008 and April 2012, according to media reports. Toyota has not received any reports of injuries or fatalities.

In seven incidents, side current airbags in Prius cars partially inflated without a deployment signal. In all cases, the cars were parked at the time of deployment with no one in them and no reported injuries, according to a report by the L.A. Times.

The faulty airbags are not related to the massive recall crisis linked to defective Takata airbags affecting nearly 70 million vehicles. The airbags, made by Japan-based Takata Corp., can rupture or explode with excessive force and shoot metal shrapnel into the faces and necks of vehicle occupants.

The Toyota airbag recall was announced at nearly the same time as a second recall of Toyota vehicles for faulty fuel emissions control. No vehicles in North America are involved in the recall.

In an announcement, Toyota said cracks can develop in the coating of an emissions control part called the canister, possibly leading to fuel leaks.

Vehicle owners affected by the Toyota airbag recall should contact their nearest dealer immediately to schedule a repair. To find out if your vehicle is included in the Toyota airbag recall, visit safercar.gov and enter your vehicle identification number to check whether it has any outstanding safety recalls.

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