GM Recalls 4.3M Vehicles Over Airbag Software Problem That May Cause Failure in Accident

Nearly 4.3 million General Motors (GM) vehicles are being recalled worldwide, including recent models from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, which may have a software defect that deactivates frontal air bags and seatbelt pretensioners during an auto accident

The massive GM recall was announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on September 9, following at least three reports of injuries and one death linked to problems with the air bag sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) software.

The NHTSA warns that the software may, under certain conditions, activate a diagnostic test while the vehicle is in motion, rendering the air bags and seat belt pretensioners inactive.

The SDM software recognizes an occupant within the seat and electronically relays commands to tighten seat belts and deploy the air bags in a crash. Owners are being advised to have the recall repair done as soon as possible after receiving notification, and are being warned that no warning chime or display on the dash will illuminate to warn the driver if the error occurs.

GM first learned of the issue on May 17, 2016, after an owner of a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado submitted a warranty claim indicating the driver’s frontal airbag and seatbelt pretensioners failed to deploy during an accident. Following the report, GM opened an investigation on June 7, and reviewed the electronic data recorder (EDR) within the Silverado and several other vehicles with similar warranty claims.

GM submitted the seat belt pretensioner and air bag warranty claim data to its sensing and diagnostic module supplier, Delphi Automotive. GM and Delphi subsequently performed multiple field tests to recreate the reported defects and found the diagnostic module in certain vehicles which control the airbags and seat belt pretensioners contains a software defect that may randomly enact a diagnostic test while the vehicle is in motion. GM and Delphi concluded that in this event, the airbags and seat belt pretensioners would fail to deploy and tighten in the event of a crash, posing a serious and potentially fatal crash risk. On August 31, GM’s Safety and Field Action Decision Authority (SFADA) finalized their analysis and decided to enact a safety recall.

The recall impacts an estimated 4.3 million vehicles worldwide, with 3.6 million in the U.S., including:

  • 2014 through 2017 Buick Encore
  • 2014 through 2016 Buick Lacrosse
  • 2015 through 2017 Cadillac Escalade
  • 2015 through 2017 Cadillac Escalade ESV’s
  • 2014 through 2017 Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit
  • 2014 through 2017 Chevrolet Corvette
  • 2014 through 2017 Chevrolet Silverado
  • 2015 through 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 trucks and 3500 trucks
  • 2014 through 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV
  • 2014 through 2016 Chevrolet SS
  • 2015 through 2017 Chevrolet Suburban
  • 2015 through 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe
  • 2014 through 2017 Chevrolet Trax
  • 2014 through 2017 GMC Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500
  • 2015 through 2017 GMC Yukon
  • 2015 to 2017 GMC Yukon XL models.

GM’s repair process will include either a reset or an upgraded version of the SDM software that changes the oscillation test so that it does not affect the multipoint system’s airbag and seatbelt pretensioner deployment decisions. This change will prevent a test from rendering the airbags and seat belt pretensioners inactive.

According to GM, the repair process will include an inspection of the SDM software. Dealers will be instructed to reflash the SDM software to eliminate the defect and any vehicles with previous deployment events recorded will have their SDM replaced with the latest software free of charge.

Owners with previous repairs related to the SDM modules will be reimbursed by the automaker. A notification schedule has not yet been produced. However, customers with questions may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300, Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006, Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020, or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782 and refer to GM’s recall number 16007.

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Image via Linda Parton /

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