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General Motors Recalls 1.4 Million Cars in U.S. for Oil Leak Fire Risk

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General Motors has issued the third recall in seven years for fire risk in certain models, now believed to be caused by an oil leak problem.  1.4 million mostly older vehicles are covered by the most recent GM recall.

The oil leak fire problem was brought to GM’s attention by U.S. safety regulators in 2007.  GM recalled the affected vehicles in 2008, and again in 2009. During its 2009 recall, GM recommended owners not to park the vehicles “in a garage, carport or other structure” until repairs were made because most of the fires occurred shortly after the engines were turned off.  In 2008, GM reported 267 car fires related to the oil leak problem, including 17 fires that also burned down structures.

More than 1,300 cars are believed to have caught fire since they were taken to the dealership during the previous recall. GM says it is aware of 19 minor injuries caused by the fire problem over the past six years, with no deaths or crashes.

Which vehicles are affected in the GM recall?

GM’s latest recall affects the following vehicles:

  • 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix
  • 2000-2004 Chevrolet Impala
  • 1998-1999 Chevrolet Lumina
  • 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  • 1998-1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue
  • 1997-2004 Buick Regal

All of the vehicles have 3.8-liter V6 engines. For Pontiac and Oldsmobile brands, GM says that owners can take their vehicles to any Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac dealership for the repair.

How has GM fixed the recalled vehicles?

Company spokesperson Alan Alder says that GM hasn’t yet developed a final fix for the oil leak problem.  They believe the problem is caused by a valve cover gasket, which when it degrades, allows oil to seep out.  When the brakes are firmly applied, drops of oil can fall onto the hot exhaust manifold and catch fire, potentially spreading to a spark plug wire channel and the rest of the engine.

Unsuccessful repairs during previous recalls replaced the spark plug wire channels.  According to documents filed with the government, previous repairs made no mention of oil leaks.

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