General Motors has recalled another 1.4 million vehicles for fire risks that the company has been unable to resolve during two prior recalls.
The previous recalls happened in 2008 and 2009. Of the 1.4 million cars GM just recalled, 1.1 million were involved in the previous recalls, and of those, 1,345 of them caught on fire in the six years since 2009 — after dealers already had made repairs or adjustments following the earlier recalls.
GM said in 2008 that its vehicles were responsible for 267 car fires, and a minimum of 17 of those also burned structures in which the cars were parked.
GM says it’s received reports of 19 relatively minor injuries over the past half-dozen years since the last recall due to fires related to the defect, but it knows of no deaths or collisions pertaining to it.
With the latest recalls, it seems that GM just can’t seem to solve this issue.
The only good news is that, by federal law, repairs made for a defect causing an automotive recall must be performed at no charge to the owner.
The cause of the fire risk in GM vehicles involves oil leaking onto a hot manifold on the vehicles’ engines after what GM calls “hard braking.” On the manifold, the oil can catch fire and spread to a plastic spark plug wire channel before spreading to the remainder of the engine.
The oil leak is due to a valve cover gasket degrading over years of driving, allowing oil to seep from it.
More than 80% of the fires occurred when the car had been parked, its engine was off and no one was in the vicinity.
In its 2009 recall, GM sent a recall letter to owners of the vehicles involved with the admonition that they not park their vehicle in a garage, car port or other structure — so that any potential vehicle fire would not spread.
Some of the GM vehicles in the latest fire risk recall include Oldsmobile and Pontiac models that have been discontinued. Owners of those vehicles can take them to any GMC, Buick, Cadillac or Chevy dealership for repairs, GM says.
The recalled GM vehicles are:
• 1997–2004 Buick Regal
• 1997–2004 Pontiac Grand Prix
• 1998–1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue
• 1998–1999 Chevrolet Lumina
• 1998–2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
• 2000–2004 Chevrolet Impala
The vehicles involved are more than a decade old, and each has a 3.8-liter V6 engine.
GM fire incidents linked to the auto recall for fire risks include a fire in May of 2014 involving a 2003 Buick Regal owned by James Kirkpatrick of Arlington, Texas. He said his car erupted in fire around 10 minutes after he parked it upon arriving at work.
According to fire investigators, the car fire began in the vicinity of the exhaust manifold, but they said its cause was undetermined. Fires starting on a hot manifold are the incidents GM has cited in its latest recall.
Kirkpatrick’s vehicle had received recommended repairs after it was previously recalled. Now that vehicle – which was destroyed by fire – has been recalled yet again.
The car fire danger became apparent long before the 2014 incident. In 2007, at least 21 car owners complained about engine fires that spurred the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to launch a probe into the matter. It was discovered that a majority of such fires erupted 5 to 15 minutes after engines had been cut off, and a total of three injuries occurred.
GM then recalled over 200,000 vehicles with “supercharged” engines in March of 2008, followed in 2009 by another fire danger recall of nearly 1.5 million vehicles without supercharged engines. The repairs then only involved replacing spark plug wire channels and did not involve oil leaks.
Jim Adler & Associates urges drivers to heed all vehicle recall notices and take their vehicles in for repairs when needed. But as noted, sometimes those repairs are inadequate — as in the case of the earlier GM car fire recalls.
Victims of car fires may need a lawsuit to protect their legal rights. If you need legal help after a GM car fire, notify a car fire lawyer with our law firm for a free case review. You may be due a considerable amount of money for your losses, particularly if you were injured as a result.