Volkswagen SUVs Recalled Because Airbags May Go Off Unexpectedly

Water from a blocked air conditioner drain is to blame

2021 Volkswagen Atlas front static Photo: Volkswagen

Volkswagen is recalling over 54,000 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs from the 2020 and 2021 model years because their airbags may unexpectedly deploy even if there isn’t a crash. 

The problem is due to a poorly manufactured part within the vehicles’ air conditioning systems that can leak water onto the airbag control module. If this module gets wet, it could signal the airbags to deploy. The airbag warning light on the dashboard may also illuminate if the module is water damaged. If this happens, Volkswagen says that owners should contact a dealership immediately and make arrangements to have the vehicle inspected or repaired.

In documents provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Volkswagen says it started investigating the issue in July after learning about a vehicle whose airbags had deployed without a crash or an impact. A spokesperson for the automaker tells CR that Volkswagen is not aware of any crashes or injuries related to the issue.

The Details

Vehicles Recalled 

Volkswagen Atlas SUVs from the 2020 model year and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SUVs from the 2020 and 2021 model years. In total, 54,249 vehicles are being recalled.

The problem: A manufacturing error at a supplier may cause the drain tube within the vehicles’ air conditioning systems to become blocked. As a result, water that was supposed to drain out of the vehicle could spill on the airbag module instead, causing a malfunction that could set the airbags off unexpectedly.

The fix: VW dealerships will repair the drain tube and replace the airbag control module if necessary, free of charge. According to Volkswagen, parts for the repair might not be available immediately.

How to contact the manufacturer: Volkswagen will contact owners of affected vehicles by mail starting Jan. 14, 2022. Owners may also contact Volkswagen directly at 800-893-5298.

NHTSA campaign number: 21V892. Volkswagen’s own number for this recall is 87H4.

Check to see whether your vehicle has an open recall: NHTSA’s website will tell you whether your vehicle has any open recalls that need to be addressed.

If you plug your car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into NHTSA’s website and a recall doesn’t appear, it means your vehicle doesn’t currently have any open recalls. Because automakers issue recalls often, and for many older vehicles, we recommend checking back regularly to see whether your vehicle has had a recall issued.

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Head shot photo of CRO Cars CIA editor Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Despite my love for quirky, old European sedans like the Renault Medallion, it's my passion to help others find a safe, reliable car that still puts a smile on their face—even if they're stuck in traffic. When I'm not behind the wheel or the keyboard, you can find me exploring a new city on foot or planning my next trip.