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Colorado ZR2 Owner Reports Disturbing Airbag Deployment While Soft-Roading - Details & Images


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ZR2 airbag Joe Finn from inside.jpg

John Goreham
Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com

A Colorado ZR2 owner, Joe F., at the Facebook Colorado ZR2 Club has reported a disturbing airbag deployment that occurred during some relatively benign soft-roading. If you’d like to jump directly to the club’s page you can do so here. Joe’s truck was just under a month old when this occurred. He had not modified the truck in any unusual way. He had added a winch and LED lights. Other than that his truck was bone stock. 

colorado zr2 airbag from outside with road Joe Finn.jpg

Joe says that just prior to the side curtain airbag deployment, “I was moving up a hill slowly in 4WD LOW with OFFROAD MODE on, passenger side wheel in a rut which had me leaning to the right. It certainly wasn’t leaned over too much. Going maybe 3 mph.” Joe’s image above shows the road that he was on. Joe says the event  “…was quite a violent deployment (explosion).” He was not injured, and the truck was able to run after the event. 

colorado Zr2 airbag side view Joe Finn.jpg
Joe has provided a long version of the events that took place after the improper deployment. He has had difficulties with GM. Neither the dealer nor GM wants to handle fixing the truck, which has an estimated repair cost of $6,500. Since the circular firing squad is only just now being put together, we will hold off on saying GM won’t take responsibility at the end of the debacle. You can read Joe’s full overview of the situation to date at the link above for all the gory details on his struggles to get help. If Joe posts a final outcome story we will update this post, or add another. 

side airbag from inside zr2 Joe Finn colorado.jpg
This sad story leaves us wondering if any other GM-Trucks.com members have ever had an airbag deploy during off-roading. YouTube does have some videos of airbags deploying when they should not, but there are surprisingly few. If something similar has happened to you, or you witnessed it happening, please give us the story. 

colorado zr2 airbag deployed Joe Finn looking at drivers entrance.jpg

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This has been an ongoing issue for GM since they introduced the 900-series trucks. At least a couple of the magazines had the side airbags deploy during mild off-roading where no one else had a vehicle do so. There was also a case of a Trailblazer SS that got into a mild slide in the rain which made them deploy. It isn’t widespread but it isn’t happening to the other guys. Disappointing they haven’t fixed this after 10+ years.

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1 hour ago, MikeNH said:

This has been an ongoing issue for GM since they introduced the 900-series trucks. At least a couple of the magazines had the side airbags deploy during mild off-roading where no one else had a vehicle do so. There was also a case of a Trailblazer SS that got into a mild slide in the rain which made them deploy. It isn’t widespread but it isn’t happening to the other guys. Disappointing they haven’t fixed this after 10+ years.

Ongoing? A few cases each year extremely sporadic isn't ongoing, especially when all manufacturers have had this issue (Jeep, Toyota, Fords/Raptor). Many of times the point at which they exploded are in a much worse angle than the posters lead on (just like this guy saying not leaned over "too much" makes it sound worse than it was and that the sensors deem safe). This guy hit a big dip at 3 mph, 3 mph off road over terrain like that is pretty significant and can put it on 3 wheels quickly. At that point the sensors have to decide (based on parameters set that we can't see to know if we are exceeding) if a roll over is close enough on the info they have. I'd side with the manufacturer most of the time as more often than not they exceed the sensors parameters which as with any failure is not designed to be exceeded.


Either way this isn't a common issue (only a few ZR2's have had this happen) and falls in line with other makers that have had this happen.



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Toyota was smart enough to let people disable the side airbags on previous generation Tacomas. Should be standard. 



There is zero reason for an airbag to deploy at 3 mph. I’m sure it has happened to other brands but GM has seemingly had it more often than others. It’s a design flaw. If you can’t off road the off road truck then something is wrong. 


If this has happened to a few truck already, that is a red flag. 

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The yaw sensor saw something it didn't like, but if it wasn't a severe angle like he says, then its possibly an overly sensitive system.  My guess, is the angle/dip was bigger than he is suggesting.  There was some folks doing autocrossing that have run into this. 





Edited by newdude
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Hi Fellows, 


This is my ZR2 and I wanted to comment directly. 


Most of the comments here are fair enough, if the yaw sensor felt too much a learn then the airbags deployed as intended.

Where does it say in the manual the degree angle you shouldn't pass, using the built in off road angle display that's on the DIC?

It doesn't. 

The things that I want to point out is that Chevy markets this truck and a "purpose built premium off road truck" and markets it with photos of it jumping, sliding, rock crawling, etc.   While the sensors or programming in this truck might be perfect for all other GM trucks, this one is supposed to be special - they pretty much dare you to push the limits of the ZR2 in the marketing.  I did just that. 

With that said, my first gripe is how the engineering on this truck and marketing are two far different things if the airbags can go off (even on just a small number of them) when it's not in an actual rollover situation.

When I said "not leaned over too far" I mean that there was absolutely no chance of the truck rolling over and I felt I had before been on angles steeper than when it went off.  I know, it's subjective.  I was moving slowly, in 4wd low in offload mode, there was not sudden drop or jolt. 

GMC could very well just change the software to disable or raise the side curtain airbags when in off road mode, or with a switch - with all the appropriate warning labels. 

They have overlooked this and left in the same parameters as all other trucks, which isn't right for a ZR2. 


The thing that really has me fired up is instead of telling me why the airbags went off, giving me any data they most certainly have from the Raytheon investigator analysis of the black box, they have chosen to make up excuses of not paying for repairs. 

I could live with them telling me "you were at 20º lean when the airbags deployed, they work as intended and we're not covering it". 

Instead they said:" it was advised that damage to your Colorado and aftermarket wiring may have had some impact in the deployment no repair assistance will be provided by General Motors."


The "damage" was a minor dent on the fender THAT THE DEALER CASUED AFTER I DROPPED IT OFF, they have taken responsibility for it. that was the icing on the cake to find fresh damage to my truck yesterday when meeting my insurance. 

So that leaves my "electrical modifications", which was adding LED lights and a power cable for my winch.  Anyone with some technical knowledge would argue that correcting a few accessories the battery could not effect airbag deployment. 


GMC has dug in and will not answer my phone calls, I have requested their findings in writing and they have not sent it to me, beyond a reply on facebook from Chevy Trucks that I quoted above in the official reason they are denying the claim. 


In my view, this is a safety issue for all ZR2 owners who are more likely to drive their trucks on challenging terrain that folks with more standard trucks. Besides that, I'm looking at being without my brand new truck for 5-6 weeks and it's unknown if my insurance is going to cover it. They can't determine if it was a system malfunction which should be a warranty thing, or if it was a comprehensive claim due to how I was driving the truck. I'll either pay out of pocket completely or I'll pay the deductible and look forward to higher premiums.  I've never made an auto claim in 30 years of driving. 


Part of my frustration is the fact that it happened, the other is the response from GMC to a lifelong customer. 

I'm sharing my story in hopes of helping anyone else avoid this mess, it's happened 4 times in ZR2's so far that can be found online.

I don't see GM changing their mind... they are done with me obviously and shame on them. 

Edited by ~Lost~
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Honestly this sucks it happened to your truck. Hell it will probably happen to my silverado someday. This is pretty common on new vehicles with side airbags. Heck I remember years ago wanting a Nissan Xterra and saw some people had their airbags deploy on them while off roading. I held off buying one for that reason but then I saw it happening to others makes/models and now I just say **** it, and buy what I want anyways. Worst comes to worst, I just remove a fuse if i'm worried. Modern age, modern bullshit.

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yes, pulling the fuse (#18) is a workaround, also not replacing my side curtain airbags is another possibility. They are primarily for rollovers, the truck would still have the side impact bags in the seats. 

very true, modern age modern BS... though this could be address with a software change.

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Obviously you need to find a different dealer but the fact that GM is also weaseling out of it is the most disturbing thing to me! If this ever happened to me, who has also been a life long GM customer I would also be very pissed! But I have a very good dealer in Davis Chevrolet in Airdrie and I know they would back me up! This is almost a sign of the times though! The corporate world is run buy weasels! Sounds like GM has progressed in that direction as well!


But why do you keep saying GMC, should you not be saying Chevrolet??????? Or is this claim not what you say it is? Are we hearing the whole story?

Edited by Likarok
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I had a similar experience in my new 2015 GMC sierra 1500, 800 miles on it, driving on a dirt road, I drove up on a side bank, not very steep, but at an angle (04 avalanche with side airbags had no issue on it, 08 silverado, etc) Curtain airbags deployed, onstar thought the vehicle was in a rollover, which it clearly wasn't. GM was hesitant to fix it, and said don't offroad it like that. Ironically, I was also looking at the Ram 1500 when I bought the truck, and for the 1.5 months my Sierra was in the Shop, GMs rental company gave me a RAM 1500, which took the same path and did not set off the airbags. Now as I'm looking a trading up to a 2019, the Ram is starting to look better to me as more and more info comes out about the 2019 Sierra...

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