GM recalls 400,000+ Chevrolet and GMC pickups over exploding airbags

GM is recalling more than 400,000 pickup trucks, having identified an airbag fault that could see the safety equipment unexpectedly explode, sending pressurized gas and potentially broken components into the cabin. The recall, confirmed by the US NHTSA, affects select Chevrolet and GMC trucks, and comes after a handful of reported incidents where airbags have erupted.

Three versions of each company's pickup have been included in the recall. For Chevrolet, it's the 2015 and 2016 Silverado 1500, Silverado 2500, and Silverado 3500. On the GMC side, it's the 2015 and 2016 Sierra 1500, Sierra 2500, and Sierra 3500.

In all, 410,019 vehicles could potentially be impacted, General Motors has confirmed. Most prevalent is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, of which almost 223,000 are affected by the recall. It covers pickups regardless of drivetrain and body style.

The issue itself is focused on the roof-rail airbag (RRAB) inflators, which are located in the left and right side roof rails above the headliner. They could contain a manufacturing defect, it has been discovered, which might lead to inflator end cap separation or a split in the inflator sidewall.

"If the end cap separates from the RRAB inflator or a sidewall rupture occurs," GM explains, "the compressed gas will escape from the inflator and the end cap or other components can be propelled into the vehicle, potentially causing an occupant injury if the vehicle is occupied."

The automaker blames the manufacturer – Joyson Safety Systems, then-operating as Key Safety Systems – for the flaw, which is believed to be down to corrosion inside the inflator vessel itself. Moisture, which was introduced while the inflators were being produced, led to that corrosion, while high-temperature regions accelerated and aggravated it.

So far, there have been three explosions of which it has been made aware, GM says. In mid-June 2021, an inflator in three 2015 model year Silverado vehicles ruptured. "In all three inflators," GM says, "the steel inflator-body sidewall split open, suddenly releasing the gas stored inside the chamber." The vehicles were unoccupied and not in use at the time.

GM will be replacing the inflators in the affected trucks, free of charge. However, hampering that process is the fact that parts are not currently available, the automaker admits. GM has instructed dealers not to sell or use for demonstrations any pickups not yet repaired that they may have in stock.