In September 2022, Meyers & Flowers filed the first of several lawsuits against ARC Automotive, Inc. (ARC) for their role in manufacturing faulty and dangerous car airbags.
ARC uses dangerous phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (“PSAN”) to inflate its airbags
To protect drivers and passengers from striking the inside of the car or other objects in the event of a crash, airbags are supposed to “fire” during an impact. The “firing” inflates the airbag cushion with gas and creates a barrier between drivers and passengers and the vehicle or surrounding objects. Airbags “fire” because they are equipped with inflators, which are small metal canisters that contain a chemical propellant. The inflators used by ARC are “toroidal,” meaning their shape resembles a small, circular ring. The propellant is located within the toroidal canister. During a crash, the propellant heats the gas, which, in turn, the gas fills the airbag with air. The lawsuit alleges that ARC airbags use a hazardous gas known as phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (“PSAN”) to inflate its airbags. PSAN is known to be highly volatile – and therefore dangerous – to use inside of vehicle airbags, yet it is a cost-effective alternative chemical propellant. As pressure increases within the inflator, the volatility of PSAN causes it to burn faster than more commonly used propellants. The faster burn rate causes over-pressurization, which can cause the canister to explode. When the canister explodes, the metal from the canister shatters and the shards can then pierce through the airbag cushion and toward the driver and passengers. One such incident occurred during a 2021 Michigan crash when the ARC inflator in a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse ruptured and killed a mother with her children in the vehicle with her. The police report states that during the autopsy, parts of the metal inflator were found lodged in the driver’s neck.
ARC manufacturing practices can increase the likelihood of an explosion caused by “weld flash”
The lawsuit further alleges that, in addition to the use of PSAN, the welding method use to fuse the canister together can increase the chances of the canister exploding. The toroidal canister that holds the PSAN is made up of two metal pieces welded together in a way that causes the softened metal to splash outside of the weld location, leading to hardened metal pieces – called “weld flash” – to form outside of the weld area. When an airbag deploys, these weld flash pieces can fall off of the canister and partially or completely block the exit orifice the gas uses to escape the canister. When this blockage occurs, pressurization within the inflator begins to rise and increases the likelihood of over-pressurization and an exploded canister. Manufacturers can specify welding parameters that ensure weld flash is either prevented during welding or removed after welding is complete, but ARC did not take such measures.
ARC PSAN inflators are found in many vehicle makes and models
Several vehicle recalls have been put into effect due to the dangers of ARC’s PSAN inflators. These recalled vehicle makes include:
- General Motors
ARC’s PSAN inflators poses a severe danger, resulting in an ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as multiple limited recalls for certain subsets of vehicles equipped with ARC’s defective inflators.
Meyers & Flowers stands for your safety
ARC and the other defendants named in the lawsuit put profit over people. ARC’s carelessness in using PSAN inflators have resulted in numerous injuries and deaths around the United States which will only continue until all ARC PSAN inflators are off the road. “ARC’s PSAN inflators are incredibly dangerous, and anything short of a widespread recall unnecessarily puts unsuspecting drivers at serious risk” stated Meyers & Flowers attorney Peter Flowers. Meyers & Flowers prioritizes the safety of you and your loved ones, especially on the road. If you or someone you know has been involved in a traffic crash resulting in the deployment of an ARC PSAN inflators, call 630-576-9696 for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.