Massive BMW 3 Series Takata Airbag Recall Targets Owner-Modded E90s

394,000 vehicles have been recalled because their owners may have swapped in steering wheels with bad airbags.

BMW is recalling more than 394,000 E90-generation 3 Series (model years 2006 through 2012) over faulty Takata airbags. While Takata recalls are of course far from news at this point and BMW has carried out its own campaigns on affected cars in the past, there’s a bit of a twist this time around: this one concerns a popular owner modification.

In 2015, BMW, among many other automakers, issued recalls for swaths of vehicles containing Takata airbags with potentially lethal inflators. Since then, countless BMWs have had their airbags replaced free of charge at dealers. Unfortunately, it seems the manufacturer has reason to believe there are still a number of 3 Series out there it didn’t or was unable to catch, because their owners exchanged their vehicles’ stock steering wheels for upgraded M Sport units that contained the very same dangerous airbags.

According to the report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 394,029 vehicles “may contain a sport or M-sport steering wheel equipped with a Takata driver’s front air bag module that contains a PSDI-5 inflator that could have been installed by an owner, even though it was not officially offered/ approved by BMW as a replacement part.”

Non-U.S. BMW dealerships reportedly found some customer cars, while in for service, that had faulty Takata airbags despite the vehicles not being part of the initial recall. That led BMW to suspect that owners were swapping out steering wheels with unapproved ones, so the company is now simply recalling all E90s to have their wheels inspected for bad airbags. Of the nearly 400,000 vehicles being recalled, BMW estimates that only 1% of them are defective. Per the official Safety Recall Report released by NHTSA, the automaker made this determination by cross-referencing “vehicle production information” with release dates for the “sport and M-sport steering wheel spare parts” to settle on a start and end date for at-risk sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons.

If exposed to heat and humidity over several years, certain components inside the faulty airbag inflators can degrade, causing excessive pressure when it deploys. That increased pressure can send metal shrapnel through the airbag and toward passengers. There have been more than 30 reported deaths from Takata’s defective airbags worldwide.

Owners of any BMWs involved in the recall will be notified. However, if you’re one such owner and your haven’t replaced your steering wheel, you’re likely in the clear. It’s obviously still worth bringing your car in for the recall service, as you might not know what its previous owner did. E90s are almost 20 years old now, so there aren’t too many still in original hands.

Got tips? Send ’em to