Sound familiar? It should. GM recalled nearly one million vehicles about two years ago for the same problem, a faulty windshield washer fluid heater system that was causing engine compartment fires. Now, even the recalled vehicles are being affected and GM is back at square one.
It all began with a faulty circuit board, one of dozens or even hundreds that can be found on any new vehicle. This one had a penchant for short-circuiting and overloading the ground wire, causing the wire's insulation to melt and expose the bare wire, which could then ignite any flammable material nearby. Engine compartment fires eventually led to the recall of 31 GM models, most of them SUVs.
GM's solution to this crisis? Install a new wiring harness for the "HotShot" heated windshield washer fluid system that contained an in-line fuse that would, ideally, blow in the event of a short-circuit and prevent the ground wire from overloading and causing a fire. Unfortunately, that didn't address the root problem of the faulty circuit board, nor did it prove a faultless repair.
"While our analysis shows the number of incidents is very small compared with the number of vehicles on the road, we want our customers to have complete peace of mind," said Jeff Boyer, executive director of safety for GM. "We always want to make sure customers can count on the safety and quality of their GM vehicle."
You see, GM has now learned of five new engine compartment fires on vehicles that had been recalled and repaired. Thankfully, no crashes or injuries related to the fires have been reported, but the recurring issue is enough of a thorn in the company's side that GM has decided to literally pull the plug. This time, when a vehicle is brought in under the new recall, the windshield washer fluid heating system will be disabled and the customer will be paid $100 for the inconvenience. The supplier of the faulty component, Microheat, paid for the original recall but has since gone out of business, preventing GM from releasing an updated circuit board.
"This was a unique technology available from only one supplier, and that supplier has stopped manufacturing, which left no opportunity to collaborate on an improved design," Boyer said. "We want to be clear that the voluntary payment to customers is for the loss of the feature, not the recall."
As before, the recall covers every vehicle that left the factory with the heated windshield washer fluid option. In total, the recall will cover roughly 1.5 million vehicles, with 1.36 million of those being in the U.S. and another 165,000 or so sold in Canada, Mexico and other foreign markets. Customers will begin receiving recall notices in the mail later this month but can make appointments with their local dealer sooner. Dealers will reroute the washer fluid hoses and remove the faulty module. Concerned customers can contact Buick at (866) 608-8080, Cadillac at (866) 982-2339, Chevrolet at (800) 630-2438, GMC at (866) 996-9463, Hummer at (800) 732-5493 and Saturn at (800) 972-8876.
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