Nissan has issued an urgent "do not drive" warning for nearly 84,000 vehicles from model years 2002-2006 due to the potential for Takata airbags to explode. This advisory, announced on Wednesday, underscores the serious safety risks associated with these defective airbags, which have already been the subject of extensive recalls.

The warning specifically covers 2002-2006 Nissan Sentras, 2002-2004 Nissan Pathfinders, and 2002-2003 Infiniti QX4s. These vehicles were already under recall from 2020 for defective Takata airbags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explained that the inflators in these airbags might explode because of "propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, high temperatures, and high temperature cycling."

Serious Risk Highlighted

"Due to the age of the vehicles equipped with defective Takata airbag inflators, there is an increased risk the inflator could explode during an airbag deployment, propelling sharp metal fragments which can cause serious injury or death," Nissan stated on its website.

The NHTSA emphasized the gravity of the situation, advising vehicle owners to check if their cars are part of the recall and, if so, to schedule a free repair at their dealerships immediately. Nissan and Infiniti are offering free towing, mobile repair, and in some areas, loaner vehicles to facilitate the necessary fixes.

"Even minor crashes can result in exploding Takata airbags that can kill or produce life-altering, gruesome injuries," the NHTSA warned in a press release. This stark advisory reflects the severe consequences of not addressing the airbag defects promptly.

Historical Context and Broader Impact

The Takata airbag recall saga is one of the largest and most complex in automotive history. An estimated 67 million Takata airbags have been recalled across various manufacturers due to the defect, which has been linked to 27 deaths and over 400 injuries in the United States alone.

Takata's defective airbags have been a significant safety issue globally, with more than 100 million inflators recalled worldwide. The problem stems from the airbag inflators' propensity to degrade over time when exposed to fluctuating high temperatures and humidity, causing them to explode and send metal shrapnel into the vehicle cabin.

In 2017, Takata pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges and agreed to pay $1 billion in criminal penalties. This financial fallout, compounded by the safety crisis, led the company to file for bankruptcy later that year.

The issue of faulty Takata airbags has not been limited to Nissan. Other automakers, including Chrysler and Toyota, have also issued similar urgent warnings. Last year, Chrysler's parent company, Stellantis, advised owners of 29,000 Dodge Ram pickups from 2003 to stop driving them immediately after a fatal incident caused by an exploding airbag inflator. In January, Toyota urged owners of 50,000 older model vehicles, including the 2003-2004 Corolla, to seek immediate recall repairs for the same reason.

Next Steps for Affected Nissan Owners

Nissan's latest directive adds another layer of urgency to the ongoing efforts to address the Takata airbag crisis. Owners of the affected Nissan and Infiniti models are urged to stop driving their vehicles and arrange for repairs as soon as possible. The company has assured that all necessary repairs will be conducted free of charge, with additional support services such as towing and loaner vehicles provided to mitigate the inconvenience.

The NHTSA has reiterated the importance of these recalls, noting that the age of the airbags increases the risk of a dangerous malfunction. "Older model year vehicles put their occupants at higher risk, as the age of the airbag is one of the contributing factors," the agency stated.