Road salt is a menace to every car, but in this case, it’s also a threat to drivers and passengers. Nissan Motor Co. is recalling 218,019 of its popular Versa compact cars and minis in the United States to replace critical front-coil suspension springs that aren’t as resilient to the corrosive force of sodium chloride as they should be.

“If a front coil spring fractures, it may contact the tire, possibly puncturing it, increasing the risk of a crash,” said a recall acknowledgement letter dated Sept, 30 that was posted Friday on the web site of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Salt-Belt The Salt Belt states (and the District of Columbia). Photo: Creative Commons

The recall was announced nearly five months after the NHTSA launched a preliminary evaluation after receiving consumer complaints of fractured suspension coil springs. Consumers will be able to take their cars in for free repairs by mid-November, the NHTSA said.

The Detroit News confirmed that an additional 101,000 of the affected cars are in Canada and that Nissan isn’t aware of any accidents or injuries related to the flaw. However, some consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA site describe harrowing tire blowouts at high speeds because the flaw. Nissan claims the NHTSA had in the past agreed that this wasn’t a safety issue, the News said.

The recall covers cars that were sold or registered in 22 states and the District of Columbia, collectively known as the U.S. Salt Belt, where roads are routinely salted in the winter to combat hazardously icy conditions.

Regional recalls like this are controversial because auto safety advocates argue cars bought or registered in one state could wind up years later in another part of the country. But Salt Belt recalls are common because the risk is linked multiple years’ worth of road salt exposure. Used car buyers can easily determine if cars have excessive rust corrosion in the undercarriage and ask used-car sellers to provide vehicle history reports. These reports are available online for a few dollars using the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. The reports show where the vehicle has been registered, bought and sold since it entered the market. 

Nissan Versa car owners can also check for recalls using the VIN at this Nissan web page. The NHTSA has a similar tool here. Nissan will also inform vehicle owners by mail, as required by law in both the United States and Canada.

The U.S. Salt Belt states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.