The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.
The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:
26 Apr 18
The largest automotive recall in Australia's history was recently issued by Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar, following an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) safety assessment. The recall highlights the need for thorough vehicle checks and car history reports.1
Defective Takata airbags, which have caused 23 reported deaths and around 230 injuries worldwide are believed to affect approximately two in seven Australian vehicles.2 'Alpha' airbags, which are a subset of Takata, are thought to pose the highest risk, and so far around 89,000 have been replaced, although there are still some 25,000 to be recalled and renewed.3
What went wrong?
Takata airbags can deploy with excessive force ejecting shards of metal causing serious injury.
A chemical called phase-stabilised ammonium nitrate was used on the airbags as a propellant, however some of the airbags that used this chemical did so without a drying agent, which resulted in a design defect. Because of this, the propellant can become exposed to moisture and degrade.
In the event of sudden breaking or a collision, these dangerous airbags can deploy with excessive force, causing the airbag inflator to rupture and eject shards of metal.
What cars are affected?
A number of auto manufacturers including BMW, Chrysler, Ford and Mitsubishi used Takata airbags in their vehicles, and cars over six years old are more likely to be affected.
Japanese manufacturers Honda and Nissan have the highest number of vehicles affected by model, some of which were installed with 'alpha' airbags. According to the ACCC, compulsory recall requires suppliers to prioritise replacement of airbags in vehicles which are older than six years, feature driver-side inflators and/or are currently registered in areas of high heat or humidity.4
In Australia the two reported cases of Takata airbag malfunctions causing serious and fatal injury occurred in a 2005 Toyota RAV4 and a 2007 Honda CR-V. Both of the vehicles were included in voluntary recall campaigns by the car manufacturers at the time.5
How do used vehicles fit into this?
Whether you purchased your car new or used, you are entitled to receive a replacement airbag free of charge. If you are looking into purchasing a used vehicle it's paramount to check whether it is on the recall list and whether it has any other issues the current owners are not aware of or may not disclose.
Incidents like the Takata airbag recall highlight the importance of checking used cars for mechanical information, details about kilometres travelled and previous owners. And it's not just cars; a small number of motorbikes are also on the recall list.
How can I ensure my car doesn't have any serious issues?
The average age of all vehicles registered in Australia is 10.1 years,6 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and generally the older a vehicle is the more likely it is to experience mechanical issues. Investing a small amount of money into a Car History report can provide you with detailed information about your vehicle.
A Car History report includes comprehensive data about a car you are interested in buying, including a written-off and stolen vehicle check, engine details, odometer history and the standard fittings/options the car is equipped with. If you haven't been notified and would like to check if your vehicle is subject to the Takata airbag recall, you should contact the Australian office of your car's manufacturer, and visit the ACCC website.
1 Productsafety.gov.au. About the compulsory Takata airbag recall. Accessed March 2018.
2 Productsafety.gov.au. About the compulsory Takata airbag recall. Accessed March 2018.
3 Productsafety.gov.au. About the compulsory Takata airbag recall. Accessed March 2018.
4 Productsafety.gov.au. Explanatory statement. Accessed March 2018.
5 Productsafety.gov.au. Explanatory statement. Accessed March 2018.
6 Australian Bureau of Statistics. Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 31 Jan 2017. Accessed March 2018.