General Motors is recalling several 2018 and 2019 GMC, Chevrolet, and Cadillac vehicles due to seatbelt assemblies that might not switch to locking mode when used to install child restraints.
Normally with these vehicles, caregivers would lock the seatbelt by pulling the webbing all the way out when installing child restraints. In the affected vehicles, seatbelt assemblies for the second and third row may fail to lock when the webbing is pulled all the way out. This can leave the seatbelt and child restraint loose, and could prevent the child restraint from working properly in a crash, increasing the possibility of injury.
What vehicles are affected?
This recall includes 15,800 vehicles from the following models:
2018 Chevrolet Suburban
2019 Chevrolet Suburban
2018 Chevrolet Volt
2019 Chevrolet Volt
2018 GMC Yukon XL
2019 GMC Yukon XL
2018 Cadillac CT6
2019 Cadillac CT6
2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV
2019 Cadillac Escalade ESV
What’s the fix?
GM will notify owners. Dealers will inspect the rear-seat retractors and will replace the assemblies if necessary.
What do I do in the meantime?
GM’s official position is “await notification,” but people can take steps in the meantime. If you own one of these vehicles and have a child restraint installed with the seatbelt, check to make sure the seatbelt is locked. (Once you have installed the child restraint, pull the seatbelt webbing all the way out, then feed the excess back into the retractor. If the belt is locked, you shouldn’t be able to pull the webbing out again.) If the belt locks, there is nothing to worry about at this time. If the belt does not lock, you have some options:
Try a different seating position in the vehicle
Install the seat with lower anchors (LATCH) if your child is within the LATCH weight limit and the seating position is equipped with lower anchors
It is important to note that this problem does not affect the emergency locking function of the seatbelt. That means the belt will still lock as usual in a crash or hard stop when it is restraining an adult, an older child not using a child restraint, or a child using a booster seat where the seatbelt goes over the child’s body.
If the child seat is not properly secured in the event of a crash, it can increase the risk of injury.
NHTSA Campaign Number: 18V673000
Manufacturer General Motors LLC
Components SEAT BELTS
Potential Number of Units Affected 15,800
General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain 2018-2019 Cadillac CT6, Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Suburban, Volt, and GMC Yukon XL vehicles. Certain second-row or third-row rear seatbelts retractor assemblies may not automatically lock when the seatbelt is fully pulled out of the retractor, possibly preventing a child seat from being properly secured. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, “Occupant Crash Protection.”
GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the rear seatbelt retractors and replace them if necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006, Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020 or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM’s number for this recall is 18315.
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.
I’ve been driving my Tesla Model X for a long time now and I finally feel I have enough data to write about it without sounding like an advertisement. We’ve been through a couple of Vegas summers together and a couple of winters. I’ve been thrilled, frustrated, and entertained by my SUV with a personality. Hop in and see what the fuss is all about.
Probably the first thing you notice about the Model X (MX) is the windshield. It’s humongous and when you sit inside, you instantly feel like you’re in a fishbowl. Even though Tesla has tinted the top portion, the sun is still intense during the summer and I did get sunburned during long afternoon drives, so it was a little weird to get in the habit of putting on sunscreen before hopping in the car to run an extended errand (I know, I know—I should be wearing sunscreen all the time anyway but I hate the stuff). The 2nd row has windows in the ceiling as well, which makes it feel even more spacious than it already is.
An attempt to save money takes lives and ultimately costs millions in fines. Are you flipping mad yet? You should be. Updated January 10, 2019
In the largest auto recall in history, tens of millions of vehicles have been recalled to have 28.8 million airbags replaced. Takata airbag inflators have injured more than 100 people and killed 16 people: 12 in the U.S. and 4 in Malaysia, with the most recent being a 50 year old California woman on September 30, 2016. The woman was driving a 2001 Honda Civic and, according to Honda, several recall notices had been sent to the registered owners though the woman had bought the car at the end of 2015.
This story has been in the news for years and you’ve probably paid some attention to it just because of its frequency on the news, but with the media’s fixation on the election, disease du jour, ISIS, and so on, a few airbag deaths get left behind in our daily news consumption of dread.
What’s been happening is that the airbag itself isn’t killing drivers: it’s shrapnel from the explosive device used to deploy the airbag. These metal fragments explode out at such a force that they slice right through skin, eyes, arteries, and even spinal columns. This is happening when the airbags deploy in minor crashes, collisions from which the victims should be walking away.
Before you run out and disconnect your airbags (and I know some of you will), these explosive devices, or inflators, are needed in order to deploy the airbag. In fact, they’re in other safety devices throughout your vehicle and activate in crashes, but we’re focusing on airbags here. When the airbag sensors detect a crash, the inflators ignite, starting a chemical reaction that fills the airbag with gas. It sounds crazy scary, but airbags have saved thousands of lives. Between 2010 and 2013 (the latest year from which we have data), 9,554 lives were saved by frontal airbags. Many thousands upon thousands more lives have been saved since the frontal airbag was introduced in the ‘70s.
Problems with exploding airbags initially cropped up back in 2004 in Alabama when a Honda Accord airbag exploded, injuring its driver. Because it was the first incident, both Honda and Takata chalked it up to being an anomaly and moved on without issuing a recall. According to the New York Times, Honda did report the incident to NHTSA, but didn’t elaborate in the report that it was an airbag rupture. Then again in 2007, three more ruptures were reported to Honda, and again, Honda did not elaborate in their reports to NHTSA that the airbags were exploding. In 2007, Honda told Takata of the ruptures and Takata went to work to find the cause: manufacturing problems at their Mexican plant. However, the ruptures continued and after more testing, Takata linked the problem to manufacturing problems at their Washington state factory.
Recalls began in 2008 and initially only driver’s side airbag inflators were recalled, but passenger airbag inflators were added as those started to rupture as well. Then in August 2015, side airbag inflators came under inspection when a Volkswagen Tiguan’s seat mounted side airbags ruptured after a collision with a deer. GM also reported a rupture to NHTSA. This “SSI-20” inflator is found in Volkswagen and GM vehicles and has been recalled in those vehicles too.
The recalled Takata inflator assemblies use a propellant made of ammonium nitrate, which is susceptible to long-term heat and humidity. Takata is the only airbag manufacturer to use ammonium nitrate, an inexpensive chemical. According to a New York Times article, engineers within the company even expressed concern to management about using it. Ammonium nitrate is compressed into small tablets similar in size to baby aspirin, or into wafers. It becomes unstable when it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and when temperatures vary from day to night, which any vehicle owner knows can happen to a vehicle left outside in the sun. Other manufacturers use guanidine nitrate, a more expensive but stable propellant, and Takata has followed suit for its new inflators.
The obvious solution to the exploding inflators problem is to not use ammonium nitrate, but since it’s such a major component of Takata design, it can’t be completely eliminated right away. Other airbag manufacturers, such as Autoliv, TRW, and Daicel, are helping supply fixes, but since their designs are different than the Takata design, their replacement inflators must be specially fitted to work. In the meantime, Takata has incorporated a desiccant to absorb extra moisture to make it less likely a rupture will occur. We find desiccant packets in everything from pill bottles to shoe boxes to purses, but will this simple fix work in an airbag? The next testing step for the ITC is to see if the desiccant is helpful. NHTSA has given Takata until the end of 2019 to prove it’s safe; it’s not allowed to use ammonium nitrate on new orders, but it can to fill existing orders. This leads to an interesting question: what is an existing order? Is a new model year vehicle an existing order or a new order? Can Takata continue to place ammonium nitrate inflators in new vehicles simply because it fulfills an outstanding order that was placed years ago?
Vehicle manufacturers can take some responsibility in the matter and some have. Honda, which owns a minority stake in Takata, stopped using Takata airbags in its vehicles in late 2015. All but one of the deaths so far have been in Honda vehicles; a man from Georgia died in December 2015 in a 2006 Ford Ranger. Nissan, Ford, Mazda, and Toyota have also fired Takata as a supplier of airbag inflators in their new model vehicles, following Honda’s lead.
What Is the Connection to Child Passengers?
Scott Yon, Chief of the Vehicle Integrity Division in the Office of Defects Investigations at NHTSA, hinted that they’re at little risk of injury because they’re not driving. Passenger side inflator ruptures have injured, but not killed, so far. This is because the passenger side inflator is buried inside the dashboard housing and deploys in an upward motion first, then toward the passenger. However, since there have been injuries recorded, this is another incentive, a very strong one indeed, to keep children in the back seat.
When asked if any shrapnel was found in the back seat, where children under 13 should be sitting at all times in proper restraints for their size and age, NHTSA replied that none was seen. NHTSA also stated that there was no evidence of shrapnel in the roof liners of vehicles where inflators had exploded, which indicates that all damage remained in the front seats. That doesn’t mean that it will always be that way, though, since inflators for side curtain airbags can be found at the A pillar, in the roof line, or at the C pillar, behind the back seat.
When answers weren’t forthcoming as to why these inflators were exploding, a group of 10 automakers calling themselves the Independent Testing Coalition (ITC), led by former NHTSA Administrator David Kelly, hired Orbital ATK, a rocket science and defense company, to run independent tests and found that failure of the airbags is likely due to a combination of the use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant, the construction of the inflator assembly, and the long-term exposure to humidity and heat found in many southern states. The ITC consists of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford, GM, Mazda, Fiat Chrysler, and BMW, and formed in 2015 when it became clear that their vehicles would be affected by the recalls.
You know when certain chemicals react to water there’s an awful reaction (e.g., trying to put a grease fire out with water)? What NHTSA also found in its testing was that ammonium nitrate doesn’t age particularly well. So add heat and humidity to an unstable chemical and we’ve got a recipe for disaster.
What does long-term exposure to high heat and humidity mean anyway? In testing the recalled inflators pulled from fixed vehicles, it became obvious to Takata there was a zone in the U.S. where most of these vehicles had spent a significant amount of their time. The southern Gulf Coast states, well-known for high absolute humidity—eastern Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia—had vehicles where the inflators exploded on testing. Interestingly enough, there were inflators tested in other parts of the U.S. that exploded without explanation; that is, until it was discovered that these vehicles had come from a Gulf Coast state. Being in a warm, humid climate for a vacation, or even for a winter isn’t enough for the propellant to break down. Ruptures start happening in the window between 5-10 years, so we’re talking a significant amount of time.
Vehicles manufactured before 2008 have priority for repair in the recall of the inflators because of the aging propellant issue. NHTSA has mandated that these vehicles have their replacements before the end of 2017. It’s not that easy, though. They may get their replacement, but may also need another before it’s all said and done. Because there are so many inflators that need to be replaced posthaste, newly designed parts simply aren’t available; this is called an interim remedy. Rather than allow defective inflators to stay in vehicles, vehicle manufacturers are replacing them with newer versions of the same Takata inflators. This essentially sets the clock back to 0 and gives Takata and other inflator manufacturers time to design a new inflator that won’t react to environmental issues.
Each affected vehicle manufacturer was asked by NHTSA to prioritize its recalled vehicles into four risk groups:
Priority Group 1: Highest risk vehicles, generally the oldest from model year 2008 or older, have spent time in the high absolute humidity region, and have either a recalled driver’s inflator or both recalled driver’s and passenger’s inflator; parts must be on hand for repair by March 31, 2016, and total completion of remedy must be by December 31, 2017 Priority Group 2: Intermediate-high risk vehicles that include all vehicles with recalled driver’s inflators not in Group 1, and vehicles with passenger inflators that have higher rupture frequency and have spent time in the high absolute humidity region; parts must be on hand for repair by September 20, 2016, and total completion of remedy must be by December 31, 2017 Priority Group 3: High risk vehicles, generally outside the high absolute humidity region, with only passenger inflators or those with certain passenger inflators that have a lower risk of rupture; parts must be on hand for repair by December 31, 2016, and total completion of remedy must be by December 31, 2017 Priority Group 4: Vehicles that will require an interim remedy because alternate parts are not available. Risk of rupture is very low in the years following the fix.
However, NHTSA is concerned about 2 types of owners in response to the interim remedy: the type who will wait years with a dangerous airbag unit until the final fix is available and the type who will get the interim remedy fix and never go back for the final fix. Both would be driving potentially deadly vehicles and what about when they sell or trade-in those vehicles? It then becomes the next potentially unaware owner’s problem. It’s imperative that if a vehicle qualifies for an interim remedy, it should also go back for the final remedy.
Chrysler has issued a recall of more than 150,000 Pacifica minivans due to engines stalling the van is being driven. A problem with the engine control module causes the stalling, requiring drivers to turn the car off and then back on.
According to a New York Times article, the stalling issue most often happens when the vehicle is idling, starting up, turning, or moving at low speeds, but some drivers have reported issues in intersections and on highways. Chrysler said it is aware of one crash potentially caused by this problem, but no injuries.
The recall affects gas-powered Pacificas (not the hybrid model) from the 2017 model year. The fix consists of an update to the vehicle’s engine control software. The company will notify owners when the update is available, and dealers will install the update for free.
As of Monday afternoon, no information was available on the NHTSA website, but we will update as more details become available.