The Biggest Auto Recall Ever

by Chris Bjorklund
Chris Toyota

Chris’ 2003 Toyota was one of millions in a recent recall. Check for up-to-date recall information. Photo: American Ratings Corporation (2015)

It’s easy to tune out news about automobile recalls—most aren’t serious, and they usually don’t apply to a vehicle you own. However, my ears perked up when my 2003 Toyota was among millions of cars being recalled. Vehicles of many different makes (Honda, BMW, Subaru, Mazda, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Mitsubishi, Nissan) have Japanese-made airbags that could explode upon impact and injure drivers and passengers with flying shrapnel. That’s pretty scary. I called my local Toyota dealership right away to schedule the “fix” specified in the recall. The free repair was completed with minimal hassle earlier this year.

Unfortunately, since my repair was performed, more problems have been discovered. A second recall has been issued—it states the first fix didn’t fully resolve the problem and replacement part failures have been reported. Now, the entire electronic control unit has to be replaced, but those parts won’t even be available for several months. High humidity areas where more failures have occurred are being given priority.

Manufacturers say the failures are extremely rare, so it’s OK to keep driving most of the recalled cars. When I contacted the Toyota dealership and asked whether I should have my airbags disconnected as some reports suggested, they advised against that. They did say to bring in my car right away if the airbag warning light comes on.

For the time being, all you can do if your car is on the recall list is keep checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website,, and the manufacturer’s 800 number for updates. This same website can be used to find out about any vehicle recall, which is helpful if you’re buying or selling a used car. You can check by make, model and year, or get even more specific and search by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The site also includes information about investigations, complaints and technical service bulletins.