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Car and Driver: Nissan Recalls 3.2 Million Cars for Airbag Sensors


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2016 Nissan Sentra SR

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Nissan is recalling 3,177,645 cars in the U.S., including Infiniti models and Chevrolet-badged NV200 vans, to fix sensors that may disable the airbags in a crash, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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The front seat occupancy-classification sensor (OCS), which measures weight or capacitance to determine whether to disable the frontal passenger airbag for an empty seat or for a child or small adult, is defective on several models. That includes the 2016–2017 Nissan Maxima; 2015–2016 Murano and Chevrolet City Express; 2014–2017 Rogue; 2013–2017 Pathfinder; 2014–2016 Infiniti QX60 and Q50; 2013–2016 Altima, NV200 (including the taxi model starting in 2014), Leaf and Sentra; and 2013 Infiniti JX35.

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2016-Infiniti-QX60-PLACEMENT

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This is the third recall for the same faulty airbag sensors since February 2013, when only 82,038 cars in the U.S. were affected. In March 2014, Nissan expanded that recall to include 989,701 cars. Nissan had cited “unusual seating posture” and engine vibrations as possible reasons for the OCS failing to recognize seated passengers. But after dealers updated the OCS software, owners still reported illuminated passenger airbag lights on the dash, which indicate the airbag is deactivated, when there were grown adults sitting next to them. NHTSA opened an investigation in March 2015 after receiving 124 such complaints, and to this date Nissan and NHTSA know of at least 3283 complaints and warranty claims for OCS failures after the repairs were completed. At least one person has been injured as a result of the defect.

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Dealers will perform two separate repairs, depending on the model. For Altima, Maxima, Murano, Rogue, and Sentra models, the airbag control unit and the OCS electronic control unit will be reprogrammed. For all other vehicles, the OCS electronic control unit will be replaced. Owners will receive an interim notice within two months, although not all parts will be readily available. Chevrolet City Express owners will be notified separately by General Motors.

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Of the nearly 3.2 million cars affected—which includes vehicles previously recalled for this problem—all of the 622,110 Sentra models must also have their front seat belt brackets reinforced as that can affect the OCS. Specifically, this happens only when a child seat is installed in the front (which Nissan warns against), the seat belt lock is engaged, and the belt is “significantly over-tensioned.”

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