Nissan cars recalled: Ignition problem? Do this.

Nissan cars involved in the recall have a fault-prone relay in the ignition that, in extreme cases, could cause your vehicle to stall while you're on the highway.

Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/File
A 2005 Nissan Frontier 4x4, pictured in Boston, is part of the latest Nissan recall in 2010. Some 760,000 trucks and SUVs sold in North America have a relay in the ignition system that can make it difficult to start, cause rough idling, or in rare instances stall the vehicle while it's moving. Compact cars sold in Europe and Japan have also been recalled for the same problem.

You're driving down the road and suddenly the engine stalls. Steering gets harder. So does braking.

Such an occurrence is rare but possible with various models of Nissan made between 2003 and 2006.

On Thursday, Nissan announced it was recalling 2.1 million vehicles worldwide to fix that potential problem – one of its largest recalls ever. Some 760,000 of those vehicles were sold in North America. The rest were sold in Japan and Europe.

The Nissan recall in North America affects Nissan and Infiniti trucks and SUVs: all Nissan Armadas, Titans, and Infiniti QX56s for model years 2004 to 2006 and all Nissan Frontiers, Pathfinders, and Xterras for model years 2005 and 2006.

If you own one of these vehicles, here's what Nissan suggests you do.

If the car starts normally and there are no unusual problems, like a rough idling, wait for the company to send you an official recall letter so you can schedule an appointment with a dealer to make a fix.

The fix involves an electrical relay, or switch, in the ignition system. Nissan technicians can replace the part in less than 30 minutes.

Those recall letters will go out in early December, which will give the company time to distribute parts and tools to replace the relay, says Colin Price, manager for technology communications at Nissan North America in Franklin, Tenn.

But if you own a recalled vehicle and it's taking a long time to start or has a rough idle, get it serviced now, Mr. Price says. Those are the most common symptoms of the problem, which is caused when a silicon vapor oxidizes the electrical contacts in the relay.

"If you're experiencing anything unusual, go see a dealer," Price says. The fix will take longer because dealers will have to replace the entire engine control module.

Both these fixes are free to customers. The recall is unlikely to expand because in 2006, Nissan replaced the modules for an unrelated issue.

Nissan has received 13 reports of the problem in the United States. There were no accidents or injuries caused as a result.

"Most of the time, the idle gets rough or it takes a long time to start," Price says. If, in an extreme case, the vehicle does stall, "you can simply bring it to a stop," even without power steering or power brakes.

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