No question about it: the long, drawn-out recall of Takata airbags has been needlessly slow and complicated, hindered by reluctance, ineptitude, and a lack of leadership. Every party involved shares some of the blame: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 11 automakers that used the airbags, and of course, Takata itself.
(If you feel like you've lost the thread of the story, you're not alone. Have a look at our most recent summary posted here.)
The good news is, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. According to NHTSA, the vehicle identification number (VIN) of every last car, truck, and SUV affected by the sprawling recall of driver-side and passenger-side airbags has now been loaded into the agency's search directory.
That means that, if all goes according to plan and the website doesn't crash, you can visit NHTSA's recall look-up page, plug in your VIN, and know with relative certainty whether you need to schedule a trip to your local dealership.
However, there's one major caveat: even if you've already had your vehicle's airbag inflators replaced, you may still need to go back to the shop. As we've seen before, many of the replacement devices supplied by Takata are just as fatally flawed as the ones cars came with. If your vehicle is subject to a recall, read the fine print to see if you need to make a return trip to the garage.
We should also point out that NHTSA still believes that 34 million U.S. vehicles are affected by the Takata recall -- a number that may be thoroughly inaccurate. The fact that the agency is still tossing that figure around makes us wonder if there isn't more trouble ahead.
But let's take good news where we can find it. Head to SaferCar.gov and use the VIN search tool to see if your car is subject to the Takata recall -- or any recall, for that matter. You should also sign up for email notifications about recalls of your make and model, and download NHTSA's recall app for iOS and Android to receive notifications on your mobile device.