NHTSA Closes Auto Investigations, No Recalls for Chrysler, GM Despite Complaints

NHTSA Closes Auto Investigations, No Recalls for Chrysler, GM Despite Complaints
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April 9, 2015

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed two auto defect investigations this week without issuing any recalls, saying that the problems were not due to manufacturer-caused defects or did not pose an increased risk of accidents.

A 2014 investigation into stalling Chrysler minivans found that low speeds and a low failure rate was not likely to lead to accidents while a 2010 investigation into corroded brake lines on General Motors trucks and SUVs found that drivers can mitigate the problem by washing the underside of their cars to prevent road –salt buildup.

Corroded GM Brake Lines

Stemming from a 2010 complaint, the NHTSA spent four years investigating brake-line failures in GM trucks and SUVs built between 1999 and 2007.

The 2010 complaint was one of about 3,650 that included 107 crash reports and 40 reports of injuries. The Associated Press reports that 75 percent of the complaints came from trucks made 1999-2007.

The agency blamed short staffing in its investigations department for the delay.

Four years later, the agency found no defect and blamed the problem on a buildup of salt and other de-icing chemicals. Since the problem was not caused by GM, it did not issue a recall.

An analysis of state safety inspection data and a survey of about 2,000 vehicle owners found that brake-line corrosion was not unique to GM vehicles and similar issues were especially found in states using salt to de-ice the roads in winter.

"Older-model vehicles, often driven in harsh conditions, are subject to corrosion over long periods of time, and we need owners to be vigilant about ensuring they, their passengers, and others on the roads are safe," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement.

NHTSA officials advise owners of older-model cars to prevent corrosion by washing the undercarriage regularly throughout the winter and give it a thorough washing in the spring to remove salt and other chemicals.

Owners should be on the lookout for signs of corrosion by having regular inspections and be aware of brake fluid loss, unusual leaks and a soft or spongy feel in the brake pedal. Cars with corroded brake lines should have the entire assembly replaced.

Stalling Chrysler Minivans

The agency found no safety issues with Chrysler minivans despite at least 700 complaints of stalling vehicles.

Looking at Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & County and Chrysler Voyager minivans that were built in model years 2003 to 2007, the investigation found that stalls are only occurring after immediately filling up the fuel tank and at low engine speeds.

No injuries or accidents have been linked to the problem.

Reuters reports that the NHTSA last year denied an investigation petition because it had limited resources and had to focus on priority safety issues.

In 2014 64 million cars were recalled for various defects including a defective ignition switch in GM cars and airbags that could rupture during a low-impact accident.

At least 80 deaths have been attributed to problems with GM's ignition switch.