The Week of Recalls Continues
By Chris Haak
Though nowhere near the number of vehicles recalled by Toyota at the height of its sudden unintended acceleration crisis of late 2009/early 2010, there have been a fairly sizable number of vehicles recalled by GM and Chrysler over the past week. Ford also had its name dragged through the recall mud a bit, perhaps proving that Toyota’s persecution at the hands of NHTSA was not a politically motivated attempt to bolster government-owned GM and Chrysler. But who knows?
Ford’s Floormat Problem
Ford benefitted perhaps more than any other automaker from Toyota’s recall crisis, snatching marketshare from the Japanese juggernaut almost point-for-point, as Dearborn-based Ford basked in its bailout-free balance sheet and income statement. Ironic, then, that NHTSA is investigating Ford midsize cars (such as the Fusion and Milan) for potential accelerator pedal entrapment caused by improperly installing all-weather floormats above carpeted mats. The company was quick to point out that there were no reported cases of properly installed all-weather mats causing pedal entrapment. I’m sure that Ford is hoping that it doesn’t find itself entrapped in a similar conundrum to what Toyota is crawling out of.
Chrysler’s Sticking Pedals
When news surfaced months ago that the Toyota products with sticking accelerator pedals contained components made by partsmaker CTS, Inc., it was also pointed out that several other manufacturers’ vehicles also contained CTS-sourced pedals. At that time, there was no clamor to also recall CTS-made pedals in other vehicles. Now, things have changed. Chrysler is recalling 35,000 Dodge Calibers, Jeep Compasses, and Jeep Patriots to repair accelerator pedals that may stick or fail to return to the idle position.
Chrysler’s Brake Lines and Wiring
Chrysler is recalling 288,968 Jeep Wranglers for the 2001 through 2010 model years to a fix a defect caused when liners inside the fenders contact right-front and left-rear brake lines. This defect leads to wear, which may cause fluid to leak and raises the risk of a crash, according to the NHTSA. The company is also recalling 284,831 2008-2009 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans to repair a wire’s insulation that can become worn by the van’s sliding door hinge. The company is not aware of any accidents or injuries from either of the situations described above.
GM’s Heated Washer Fluid Problems
At the time that GM launched the forgettable Buick Lucerne sedan for the 2006 model year, one feature that it incessantly touted in its ads was the heated washer fluid feature. Upon activation via a pushbutton on the dash, a special underhood heater would heat regular washer fluid to a scalding-hot temperature, then spray it onto an icy windshield to quickly clear it on a freezing cold morning. It sounds like a nice feature to have; my own 2008 Cadillac CTS has it, and I’ve used it once out of necessity and perhaps twice for amusment (playing with the button – not to scald bystanders). My mother’s 2007 Suburban also had the feature, and my parents loved it. I always thought it was a stupid thing to boast about in advertising, though.
Unfortunately, it also is prone to starting underhood fires. The device’s manufacturer, MicroHeat, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008 and stopped producing the units, and appears to now be out of business. GM initiated a recall in August 2008 to install a wiring harness with a fuse for the heated washer fluid system, but there were still five fires even after the fix. The company’s current solution is to just remove the device from all so-equipped vehicles and compensate owners with $100 for the removal of a feature from their vehicle. The picture at the top of this article is GM’s underhood windshield washer fluid heating device that is to be removed as part of this recall.
The company is recalling 1.5 million vehicles, which include the 2006-2009 model year Buick Lucerne; Cadillac DTS; Hummer H2; 2008-2009 model year Buick Enclave; Cadillac CTS; 2007-2009 model year Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe; GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL; Saturn Outlook; and 2009 model year Chevrolet Traverse. If every owner brings their vehicle in for the recall (which I’m not convinced I will do; of course I don’t want my car to catch fire, but also don’t like the idea of features being disabled), it would cost GM $150 million.
Are cars less safe today than they were a few years ago, in light of all of the recalls? Definitely not. This is just a symptom of everyone – manufacturers, suppliers, and regulators being overly-cautious and conservative about vehicle safety so another Toyota 8.5 million-vehicle problem doesn’t crop up anytime soon.