NHTSA Launches Nissan Air Bag Sensor Investigation

2014 Nissan Sentra

A 2014 recall involving nearly a million 2013 and 2014 Nissan vehicles is now the subject a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation, according to the Detroit News. At issue is whether the previous recall fixed an air bag sensor problem, since the NHTSA says it keeps getting complaints.

Nissan announced the recall in March of 2014 after discovering a software defect with the Occupant Detection System. The system is supposed to determine who is sitting in the front passenger seat, whether it’s a child or an adult. This is important, because if an adult is in the front seat, the air bags turn on and deploy in the event of a crash. If a child is in the front seat, they turn off because they could injure children. What was happening in this case is that the sensors weren’t detecting an adult, which deactivates the air bags.

Recalled vehicles included the 2013-2014 Altima, Leaf, Pathfinder, and Sentra, 2013 NV200, 2013 Infiniti JX35 and 2014 Infiniti Q50 and QX60.

Since announcing two recalls to address the problem, the NHTSA reports 124 complaints involving the Occupant Detection System, from both Nissan and Infiniti owners. This is even after recall repairs were made. “The majority of the complaints allege the passenger air bag status light stays on (i.e., indicating passenger air bag is turned off) for adult front passengers. Some of the complaints state the dealers have made multiple repairs but the problem still persists,” NHTSA said.

NHTSA’s investigation is to determine if Nissan’s original software update did the job or whether it needs a new recall fix.

Last year, Nissan blamed “a combination of factors such as high engine vibration at idle when the seat is initially empty and then becomes occupied, or unusual occupant seating postures immediately upon being seated.”

Reuters reports that according to NHTSA documents, Nissan identified two accidents in which the passenger airbag did not deploy, however a spokesperson said the company could not draw any conclusions about that being related to the software issue.

There is no word on how long the probe will take and whether government safety experts will recommend additional action.


Meanwhile, Nissan recently expanded an unrelated recall involving its top-selling Altima sedan to more than 800,000 vehicles in the U.S because faulty hood latches could allow hoods to fly open while a car is being driven. The issue is with the secondary latches that are supposed to hold the hood down if,  for some reason, the main latch isn’t fastened before driving.

Photo Credit: Nissan
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