Nissan PathfinderNissan North America Inc. recalled almost 196,000 Nissan Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s because road salt used in 20 northern states and Washington, D.C., in winter can corrode part of the sport utility vehicle's strut housing. This corrosion may lead to the steering column breaking, creating a crash hazard, said the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 1996 to 2004 model years of Pathfinders and 1997 to 2003 models of Infiniti QX4s are affected by the recall.In a letter to the NHTSA, Nissan said it first became aware of a possible problem in October 2010 when it learned of a 2001 Pathfinder in Canada that lost its steering. No information was available on whether anyone was hurt. However, because of the overall condition of the Pathfinder -- which showed it had been exposed to severe environmental conditions -- Nissan concluded there wasn't a defect with the vehicle and continued to investigate the issue.

Meanwhile, NHTSA said it had received 35 reports of corrosion and a failure of the driver's side front strut tower, including 18 reports that the corrosion affected steering.

During Nissan's investigation, the car maker discovered that under certain conditions, the corroded strut housing would hit the steering column shaft and make a grinding noise. Steering would be noticeably more difficult when the housing hit the steering column. Nissan also learned that the strut corrosion was only present in cars from areas of the country that used heavy amounts of road salt in the winter. Nissan decided on April 13 to recall the vehicles.

Vehicles affected by the recall are registered in Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

Nissan owners will be asked to take the recalled SUVs to a dealer for inspection. If the dealer finds corrosion, a sealant, a patch or a reinforcement plate will be put on the strut housing assembly. Consumers can expect to get a recall notice in the mail by mid-May. For more information, call Nissan at (800) 647-7261.

Just last week, Toyota recalled certain Rav4s and Highlander SUVs because of a problem with the airbags.

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