General Motors is under increased scrutiny in light of a second recall over car fires. According to Associated Press, the company issued a recall several years ago due to a defect that could cause engine fires. In some cases however, the reportedly-repaired cars still caught on fire. AP reports that 1,345 car owners across the country got their cars repaired, but the vehicles caught fire regardless. GM admitted that the fix did not work and issued another recall affecting 1.4 million cars. The fact that the fires still occurred after the supposed repairs has raised questions about whether preventative action could have been taken by GM or the government.
“Over 1,000 fires is a huge number that should have generated a safety recall by GM before now,” said Clarence Ditlow, head of the nonprofit watchdog group Center for Auto Safety, according to AP. “To make matters worse, NHTSA missed the defect in its complaint database.” Drivers affected by the recall are advised to park the cars outdoors until repairs are done, in case the vehicles burst into flames and spreads to nearby structures. A total of 19 injuries and 17 structure fires have been linked to the recall so far. In the case of one Pontiac in North Carolina, the fire spread and damaged two houses.
The recall involved the valve cover gaskets, which are supposed to keep oil inside the engine. The problem is that the oil can seep through when the gaskets become worn over time, dripping oil onto the hot exhaust manifold on the 3.8-liter V6 engines. GM issued recalls for two versions of the V6, one in 2008 and another in 2009. In total, 1.7 million cars were affected. The gasket was replaced in some cars, but in others the fix only involved swapping out flammable plastic parts near the manifold.
According to some legal experts, GM decided not to fix the leak because it was too expensive. AP reports that while the valve cover gaskets themselves are relatively inexpensive, the labor to do the repairs would add up to about $112 million for the 1.4 million cars.
According to an AP review of NHTSA complaint data on one model, the 2001 Grand Prix, there were 466 complaints for engine fires; 33 concerning fires happened after the recall. The complaints date back to June of 2009.