Car Industry

Nissan recalls over 3 million US vehicles for airbag issues

This airbag recall has nothing to do with the Takata recall, but it's no less troublesome.

Josh Miller/CNET

2016 Infiniti QX60

Emme Hall/Roadshow

If you've been in a vehicle of recent vintage, you may have noticed a small airbag light that comes on when the passenger seat is empty. That's because a sensor in the seat determines whether or not that seat is filled, and it only activates the airbag when an adult is present in that seat. That system is at the center of a gargantuan Nissan recall, covering some 3.2 million vehicles in the US.

The recall covers a total of 3.53 million vehicles, nearly all of which are in the US. Vehicles involved in this recall include the following 2013-2017 Nissan vehicles: Altima, Leaf, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Sentra, Rogue, NV200 and NV Taxi. It also covers the 2013-2017 Infiniti JX35/QX60 and Q50, as well as the 2015-2016 Chevrolet City Express (it's a rebadged NV200).

As mentioned earlier, the recall is due to a passenger occupant classification system gone awry. The system may classify an adult as a child or an empty seat, which means the passenger-side airbag will not deploy in an accident. While this is good if there's a car seat up front, it's bad news bears if a grown adult is riding shotgun. This is the fourth Nissan recall of its kind since 2013.

The fix is different, depending on the vehicle. Some cars require only a module reprogramming, whereas others will require actual parts replacement.