Caught Up in the Takata Airbag Recall - 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Long-Term Road Test

2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Long-Term Road Test

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2007 Dodge Charger SRT8: Caught Up in the Takata Airbag Recall

July 16, 2015

2007 Dodge Charger SRT8

The Takata airbag recall has affected about 40 million vehicles worldwide, according to the New York Times. (Honda added 4.5 million vehicles outside North America on July 9.) Takata has been working around the clock to get the replacement parts shipped, but demand is exceeding supply. Early reports were estimating that it would take two years to produce the parts needed.

If you're unfamiliar with this recall, the inflators on a number of Takata-supplied airbags proved to be defective and can rupture during an accident, resulting in metal debris that flies through the cabin and in some cases has killed drivers. The problem seems to be exacerbated if the vehicle has lived in humid climates.

The 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 was among the vehicles recalled, but we knew that before we bought ours. This was a chance for us to document the recall process and how long it would take to fix.

Our Charger spent its entire life in San Diego, so in theory, the humidity wouldn't have degraded the inflator as much. We considered parking the car until the fix was ready. But at the time, we had no idea how long that would be. The average buyer would not have had the luxury of parking the car until there was a fix, either. Plus as we understand it, the faulty inflator doesn't spontaneously explode. The malfunction occurs when the car is in a crash that's serious enough to trigger the airbag.

So we felt assured that if we applied our usual standards of driving care, we would be reasonably safe in the car. So we decided to keep driving, checking in with Dodge from time to time to see if the fix was available.

Much to our surprise, things went smoother than expected.

Before we get into the repairs, here's a bit of the backstory. We first spotted the recall notice when we ran a Carfax vehicle history report on a few of the Chargers we were interested in buying. The report showed that there was an open recall for the driver airbag inflator and provided an 800-number to Dodge customer service.

While negotiating with one dealership, we mentioned the recall and asked if the airbag had been fixed.

"We won't sell you the car unless the recall is taken care of," said the salesman. This was good to hear, but since this wasn't a Dodge dealership, it would require more effort than they cared to put into the Charger.  We called to check on the status of things a few days later and it turned out the dealership had taken the car to be sold at an auction.

The salesman didn't say why the car had gone to auction when there was an interested buyer. The decision may not have been his to make. But we have a strong suspicion it was related to the recall. At the time, no parts were available to fix the airbag. When we typed the Charger's VIN into the NHTSA database, "Remedy not yet available" appeared in the status field. Perhaps the used-car manager felt that this timeframe was too uncertain and figured he'd cut his losses by sending the car to auction.

When we finally located our Charger in San Diego, we decided not to mention the recall for fear of this car being taken to auction as well. But the dealer sold us the car and didn't break any laws in doing so. There are reports of some consumer advocacy groups calling for a requirement that dealers disclose any open recalls, but as of now, the onus is on the buyer to search this stuff out.

Once the car was ours, we set about getting the airbag fixed. We called a local Dodge dealer, playing a little bit dumb, to ask if there were any open recalls on the car. "Nope, I don't see any current recalls on it," the service advisor said after running our VIN. In character as a regular Joe, I mentioned that I had heard about "some type of airbag recall."

"Oh yeah, that recall," said the advisor. "There's no fix for that, so you'll have to check in at a later time."

It's distressing to think that most folks would have taken him at his word when he said there were no recalls and gone about their business. Then again, most people probably don't check on any recall status when they buy a used car. As our experience shows, they should.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks later. We called another Dodge dealer and mentioned the recall. After verifying our VIN, the service advisor made an appointment for the following week. The repair took the morning and by midday the Charger was back in action.

Now we can drive the car without fear of a frag grenade going off in the steering wheel.

Total Cost: $0
Days out of Service: 0

Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 62,210 miles

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