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BMW 3 Series Recall Is Hunting for Deadly Takata Airbags Installed by Owners

BMW is issuing a recall for over 375,000 3 Series cars, all of which are over a decade old. The cars could have dangerous Takata airbags in their steering wheels, but but weirdly, the recall isn’t targeting airbags installed by the factory. The automaker discovered that owners may have inadvertently installed an unauthorized Takata airbag if they had replaced the original steering wheel with the sport or M-sport option, and it’s issuing the recall out of an abundance of caution.

The recall covers a range of model years, body styles, and powertrains. Most of the recall, some 378,263 cars, are the 2006-2011 BMW 323i, 325i, 325xi, 328i, 328xi, 330i, 330xi, 335i, and 335xi models. BMW is also checking the 2006-2012 BMW 3 Series SportWagon, which involves 10,089 325xi, 328i, and 328xi cars, while some 5,677 2009-2011 335d owners will have to trek into their dealer’s service center.

BMW began investigating these older 3 Series models after non-US dealers started to report that some cars were arriving for service with a potentially affected inflator even though they hadn’t been part of any recalls, according to the recall report. The company then confirmed that an owner in the US who had replaced their car’s original steering wheel with the sport or M-sport option could have installed the unapproved airbag inflator.

BMW says it’s unaware of any accidents or injuries related to this issue, but that doesn’t negate its need for proper due diligence. Automakers have been dealing with the Takata airbag recalls since 2013. The scandal involves approximately 67 million inflators in tens of millions of vehicles that were sold by nearly every automaker in the US.

The ammonium nitrate propellant in these airbags can degrade over time when exposed to long-term temperature changes, high heat, and high humidity, potentially causing the inflator to explode during deployment and jettison shrapnel into the passenger compartment. The inflators have killed 27 people in the US, and older cars are especially dangerous. BMW even issued a do-not-drive order for 90,000 early 2000s models, joining Nissan, Toyota, and others in motivating owners to fix their cars. 

Check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s dedicated landing page to learn more about the Takata airbag recall.

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