In July 2013 we traded our 2009 Maxima for a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. The 2013 Pathfinder was the first year of a new generation of Pathfinders and is built on the Maxima platform. Mechanically and trim-wise it was very similar to the Maxima.
We get lots of compliments on the ride of the Pathfinder, especially from backseat passengers.
Early on we noticed that occasionally when I was driving and my wife was in the passenger seat that the "Front passenger air bag status light" was indicating "OFF." The owners manual says "The front passenger air bag will not inflate if the passenger air bag status light is lit or if the front passenger seat is unoccupied." The problem happened with other passengers as well.
Several times while this was happening I drove to the nearby Nissan dealership and pulled into the service bay. A few seconds after I came to a stop and before a service representative could come over the light went off.
I eventually took it in to let them look at that problem. Of course, they didn't find a problem. And the problem persisted.
I took it back in and they found a water bottle under the seat and attributed the problem to that. And the problem persisted.
Then I read about a related recall. I took the Pathfinder back in and they applied the recall update. And the problem persisted.
I took the Pathfinder back in and they reapplied the recall update. And the problem persisted.
The service manager asked me to video the problem. I did and submitted 3 YouTube videos. After a week or so, one had been viewed 6 times and one twice (one was probably me) and the third one only once (probably me).
I finally made an appointment to have a Dealer Technical Specialist (DTS) look at the car. The DTS said that when the vehicle is started the sensors (There are two sensors on the left seat rail of the passenger's seat - forward and aft.) determine if there is a child in the seat and "classifies" this to the air bag control module. There are 3 conditions that can be "classified" - empty, child, and adult. When the gear shift lever is moved from Park the status ("classification") at that instant is retained. Subsequently if the vehicle comes to a complete stop (regardless of gear selection) for several seconds then this "classification" is repeated.
The DTS and the service manager were able to "manipulate" the car to leave the air bag status light displaying OFF by putting a partial load in the passenger seat and then moving the gear shift from Park to Reverse and subsequently to Drive. The light would continue to display OFF until they let the car come to a complete stop for several seconds.
They concluded that this "manipulation" was what was happening when my wife and other passengers were in the passenger seat. This is a characteristic of the algorithm of the air bag control module. It is related to the changes made by the recall but not the specific situation.
The DTS then said that this was "normal" and couldn't be repaired.
I disagreed with this and the DTS suggested that I call Nissan Consumer Affairs (800-NISSAN1) about the Pathfinder. They were recording it so I began recording as well. The representative terminated the call because I wouldn't stop recording. On a second call the representative said it was a "user problem." When I asked him to repeat that while I was recording he terminated the call.
I filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in June 2014. There were hundreds of related complaints.
The issue went through years of NHTSA bureaucracy and Nissan's pushback. All the while I had to adopt a deliberate startup process to ensure that the passenger airbag was engaged.
Finally in January 2016 Nissan notified NHTSA that there had been 3 injury accidents attributed to this situation and that Nissan was going to address it.
The recall was issued in May 2016. It affects 3,278,983 vehicles. For reference the top 10 all time recall was 3.7 million.
When I visited the dealership on June 22, 2016 I was told that parts wouldn't be available until August.