WASHINGTON, June 17 (UPI) -- The vehicle identification numbers for all of the estimated 34 million vehicles recalled for defective air bags have been added to a searchable database on the U.S. Department of Transportation's website, the agency said Wednesday.
When the widespread recall was first announced in May, officials knew it would affect an unprecedented number of vehicles. What wasn't clear at first was exactly which vehicles needed to have parts in the air bag mechanism replaced.
Now drivers can determine if their cars are affected on the SafeCar.gov website, a news release from the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.
"An informed consumer is one of our strongest allies in ensuring recalled vehicles are repaired," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "NHTSA's VIN search tool at SaferCar.gov makes it easy for consumers to check if their vehicle is affected by the recall, and to take action in getting the air bags replaced."
After months of requests by the NHTSA for the recall to be expanded nationwide, Takata Corp., the maker of the air bags, agreed there is fault in certain types of driver- and passenger-side air bag inflators. The inflators degrade over time with exposure to moisture, causing a chemical propellant to ignite too quickly. The extra pressure causes the inflator to rupture, sending metal shrapnel into the passenger cabin.
This defect has been blamed for at least six deaths worldwide.
Takata initially recalled only vehicles in high-humidity areas due to excess moisture, but in November the NHTSA called for the recall to be expanded to all vehicles nationwide.
A news release from the NHTSA called the move "one of the largest and most complex product recalls in history," adding that it will take time to work with automakers to identify which vehicles will be affected by the recall.
The recall currently affects vehicles manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.
"As this recall progresses, NHTSA will organize and prioritize the replacement of the defective air bag inflators to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible," said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind.