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Audi Recalls Issued Over Coolant Pump Risk Fire, Airbag Problems

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Nearly 600,000 Audi vehicles have been affected by two separate recalls, involving problems with coolant pump failures that may cause engines to overheat and catch on fire, as well as defective air bag inflators that may corrode and fracture, propelling shrapnel into the cabin at passengers. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Volkswagen Group of American, Inc. announced an Audi Q5 airbag recall on January 6, and a coolant pump recall for a number of different types of Audi vehicles with 2.01 Turbo FSI engines on January 9.

The coolant pump recall involves certain vehicles equipped with 2.0L TFSI engines that may be subject to overheating due to foreign debris blocking the coolant pump from the cooling system, potentially causing the system to overheat and start a vehicle fire.

Audi first learned of the issue in 2015 when several consumers reported parts of the engine overheating and smoldering. By early 2016, Audi had opened an investigation to determine the root cause while continuing to monitor field reports. In December 2016, Audi concluded their investigation after identifying that foreign material or road debris could block the coolant pump and cause an overheating and fire risk.

The recall includes an estimated 342,867 model year 2013 through 2016 Audi A4 Sedans, 2013 through 2017 Audi A5 Cabriolet vehicles, 2013 through 2017 Audi A5 vehicles, 2012 through 2015 Audi A6 vehicles, 2013 through 2017 Audi Q5 vehicles, and 2013 through 2016 Audi A4 vehicles.

Audi announced that it will begin its recall notification process in February and plans to have dealers add software that deactivates the power supply to the coolant pump, in the event the pump becomes blocked with debris.

The other recall involves overhead airbag inflators rupturing due to the potential for water to enter the panoramic sunroof. According to the NHTSA, if the water drainage system is impaired, moisture can enter the side head curtain airbag, causing corrosion of the helium filled airbag canister.

In the event the canister corrodes and cracks, the inflator could crack and propel metal fragments into the passenger compartments, striking and potentially causing serious injury to vehicle occupants.

The problem is unrelated to the rupturing Takata airbag inflator recalls that have impacted tens of millions of vehicles.

Volkswagen opened a joint investigation with the inflator manufacturer, iSi Automotive Austra GmbH, in June 2016 after receiving several consumer complaints indicating the inflator had ruptured.

After analyzing additional consumer complaints, investigators determined the ingress of water could cause the helium-filled canister to corrode and crack, allowing for the projection of shrapnel toward occupants. After notifying the NHTSA, the agency determined there was a significant safety risk to passengers, warranting a recall.

Included in the recall are an estimated 234,054 model year 2011 through 2017 Audi Q5 vehicles with production dates ranging from May 28, 2010 through August 13, 2016.

Audi announced that it would begin its recall notification process in February. Customers will be instructed to schedule a free repair appointment at their local dealer where the dealer will inspect for water ingress, examine the drainage system and disassemble the headliner and trim to inspect for water intrusion.

Dealers are being instructed to remove the foam within the headliner and inspect the side head curtain airbag canister for corrosion. In incidents where surface corrosion is found, wax will be applied to the inflator and in cases where heavy corrosion is noticed, dealers will replace the inflator canister.

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