The Takata airbag recall has raised the alarm for more than 4.7 million car owners whose vehicles contain potentially defective airbags, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Monday. Recall notices sent to vehicle owners typically tell them everything they need to know about the recall, including a description of what is wrong with the vehicle and the possible risk posed by the problem, how the manufacturer plans to fix the problem, when the repair will be available, and what to do next. 

How do you know if your vehicle was one of the models involved in the airbag recall? As with all recalls, you should be notified by mail or email. Auto manufacturers affected by the airbag recall include Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and BMW, comprising cars, SUVs, vans and trucks manufactured between 2000 and 2006. The recall involves vehicles that contain airbags by Takata, the Japanese manufacturer of vehicle safety parts that makes airbags for at least 10 different automakers. They are being recalled for a possible defect in their inflator mechanisms that sends metal shrapnel flying when the airbags inflate in crashes, according to Reuters

The traffic safety administration has set up an online tool for drivers to look up their vehicle to determine if any recalls apply. It's worth looking up your vehicle through the service to determine if it falls under any recalls, including the Takata airbag recall.

Owners of vehicles recalled for the airbag issue can make an appointment with their dealers to fix the problem. Dealers are instructed to replace the passenger airbag inflators without charge, but if the parts are not on hand or in stock, dealers will hang a warning sign on the passenger door informing riders that nobody should sit in the front passenger seat until the airbag is fixed, USA Today reports.

Officials say the airbag problem varies depending on where the cars are sold. "At this point, the issue appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity,” the traffic safety administration said. “However, we are leaving no stone unturned in our aggressive pursuit to track down the full geographic scope of this issue." The recalled vehicles are those specifically registered or sold in Southern Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa, according to USA Today.

Faulty airbags have been linked to multiple deaths in the U.S., including that of a 51-year-old woman in Florida who was a passenger in a 2001 Honda Accord sedan when the car was involved in an accident. The airbag deployed, but metal parts from the airbag tore through the bag and caused fatal “stab-type wounds” to her head and trachea, according to Automotive News.

More vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. in 2014 than in any year since 1970, when the traffic safety administration was established, according to Car and Driver. Automakers have recalled more than 56 million vehicles this year, more than the 1999 record of 55.6 million. General Motors tops the list of vehicle recalls with 26.5 million cars in the U.S. The Detroit-based auto manufacturer has issued 74 recall notices so far in 2014.