First it was the Obamacare website, now it's Safercar.gov. Consumers trying to find out if their car is part of the Takata airbag recall are having a tough time getting the Safercar.gov site's VIN number look-upto work.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) introduced the VIN look-up page a few months ago and, like a lot of things, it was fine until thousands of people tried to use it. Now the agency has a static page with links to auto manufacturers' VIN look-up pages while it tries to get its look-up hooked up properly.
A much better VIN look-up site -- one that actually works -- was set up recently by Carfax. http://recall.carfax.com is free and has worked each time we've tested it. All you have to do is enter your car's VIN number and it will tell you whether there are any open recalls.
Carfax also has an app -- www.mycarfax.com -- that will notify you whenever new recalls are issued for your car.
8 million cars
You can thank Takata for all the confusion. The company makes airbags that are used by many if not most auto manufacturers. It's thought that nearly 8 million cars, most of them older, are equipped with Takata airbags that can explode with such force that they spray passengers with potentially deadly shrapnel.
Safety advocates and some lawmakers say Takata should recall all the airbags, something it is understandably reluctant to do. What's more galling is that NHTSA has so far displayed the same reluctance and has allowed the company to get by with recalling a limited number of cars sold in hot weather states, on the theory that hot weather worsens the problem.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a frequent NHTSA critic, says the current situation "is the worst of all worlds,” producing lots of confusion but not much else.
“The law requires a safety recall but they’re letting the manufacturers do service campaigns,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. He said NHTSA should immediately order a nationwide recall of all the Takata airbags.