Scary Automotive Recalls
Proof positive that real life is always scarier than the movies.
If you’ve been paying attention to the auto news as of late, odds are you’ve seen something scarier than anything Hollywood can come up with: a flurry of dreaded auto recalls. Lexus owners got a fright after a fatal accident caused by faulty floor mats. The cars would accelerate uncontrollably until stopped by an immovable object or the floor mat was moved. Then Nissan joined the list with a huge recall of Altimas and Maximas due to faulty suspension components. Those are pretty terrifying, but fortunately the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and manufacturers caught the problem before things got too out of hand. That hasn’t always been the case, though.
Back in 2000, Firestone had a particularly embarrassing recall involving widely produced 15-inch tires called the ATX and ATX-II. Normally, a failing tire isn’t too big of a problem -- consumers simply pull to the side and swap the flat for the spare. The real issue came when Firestone partnered with Ford to make the ATX standard equipment on its Explorer SUV – a vehicle prone to roll over in the event of a flat. It’s estimated that 250 people died because of the defect and that up to 3,000 were seriously injured. The recall was a disaster for both companies, but likely saved lives.
Lexus isn’t the only company that has had a problem with vehicles accelerating uncontrollably. Way back in 1971, General Motors had to recall 6.7 million cars and trucks for a similar problem. Instead of floor mats causing the trouble, the GM vehicles had faulty engine mounts. Over time, the mounts would decay, causing the engine to slump forward and actuate the throttle. No one’s saying just how many consumers wound up in a dangerous situation because of the failure, but GM fixed the problem by either replacing the part or adding a supplemental engine restraint.
The claustrophobic out there will likely find this next one frightening: In 1995, Honda discovered its seat belt release buttons were prone to cracking and disintegration. The trouble resulted in owners being trapped in their vehicle, unable to exit. That may be kind of funny at the grocery store, but it's absolutely terrifying if the vehicle is on fire. The company recalled 3.7 million cars, including Civics, Accords, Preludes, Acura Legends, Integras and NSXs.
If these tales of terror have your pulse racing, don’t fret. NHTSA keeps consumers posted on all the latest recalls, and a searchable database allows you to find out if the car in your driveway needs a little attention from the dealer. You can find out more here.
(Logo courtesy of NHTSA.)
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