GM Recalls 1.5 Million Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevys, GMC, HUMMERs, Saturns For Fire Hazard

June 10, 2010
2009 Cadillac Escalade

2009 Cadillac Escalade

General Motors has issued a recall for over 1.5 million  cars, trucks, and SUVs from across seven GM brands and four model years. According to notices from the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the vehicles in question feature a heated water fuel system (HWFS), which can ignite in certain circumstances.

The recall affects the following models (grab some coffee, the list is kind of long):

Buick Enclave 2008-2009
Buick Lucerne 2006-2009
Cadillac CTS 2008-2009
Cadillac DTS 2006-2009
Cadillac Escalade 2007-2009
Cadillac Escalade ESV 2007-2009
Cadillac Escalade EXT 2007-2009
Chevrolet Avalance 2007-2009
Chevrolet Silverado 3500  2007-2009
Chevrolet Suburban 2007-2009
Chevrolet Tahoe 2007-2009
Chevrolet Traverse 2009
GMC Acadia  2007-2009
GMC Sierra  2007-2009
GMC Yukon 2007-2009
GMC Yukon XL  2007-2009
HUMMER H2  2006-2009
Saturn Outlook  2007-2009

In total, the recall affects 1,528,185 vehicles worldwide, with the majority --  1,365,070 -- located in the U.S. According to GM, the flaw has resulted in no known injuries or crashes and only five fires, but of course, that's about five too many.

GM is being especially diligent with this particular problem because the automaker already issued a recall for the exact same HWFS two years ago. In 2008, GM installed a fix for the device's potentially overheatable ground wire by installing a fuse. But according to a release from the NHTSA, "THERE HAVE BEEN NEW REPORTS OF THERMAL INCIDENTS ON HWFS MODULES AFTER THIS IMPROVEMENT WAS INSTALLED. THESE INCIDENTS RESULTED FROM A NEW FAILURE MODE ATTRIBUTED TO THE DEVICE'S THERMAL PROTECTION FEATURE. THE SIGNIFICANCE VARIES FROM MINOR DISTORTION TO CONSIDERABLE MELTING OF THE PLASTIC AROUND THE HWFS FLUID CHAMBER." (Sorry for the caps. That's how the NHTSA rolls.)

The recall is expected to begin by tomorrow at the latest. Because GM's supplier, Micro-Heat, has stopped manufacturing the HWFS (i.e. gone bankrupt), there's no workaround for the problem. If you own one of the affected vehicles, your dealer will remove the HWFS altogether and reroute the relevant hoses. You'll also receive $100, which is, as GM plainly states in its press release, compensation for loss of the feature. It is not any sort of hush money.

Curious types can settle in to GM's full press release, posted below. For additional information, vehicle owners can call Buick at 1-866-608-8080, Cadillac at 1-866-982-2339, Chevrolet at 1-800-630-2438, Saturn at 1-800-972-8876, GMC at 1-866-996-9463, and HUMMER at 1-800-732-5493. Alternately, you can check into the online owner center at

* * * * *

GM Will Deactivate Heated Washer Fluid Systems

Customers Will Receive $100 Voluntary Payment

DETROIT – General Motors Co. is recalling 1.5 million 2007-2009 model cars, trucks and crossovers to disable a heated washer fluid system module that could pose a fire risk. Because the feature will be disabled, GM will make a voluntary payment of $100 to the owner or lessee of each vehicle.

There are no known injuries or crashes related to the condition.

“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. “We always want to make sure customers can count on the safety and quality of their GM vehicle.”

Dealership service personnel will remove the heated washer fluid module and reroute washer fluid hoses.  Customers will begin receiving recall letters this month, but they can contact their dealer at any time to make an appointment to have the heated washer system removed.

“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.” 

Models included in the recall are the 2006-2009 model year Buick Lucerne; Cadillac DTS; Hummer H2; 2008-2009 model year Buick Enclave; Cadillac CTS; 2007-2009 model year Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe; GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL; Saturn Outlook; and 2009 model year Chevrolet Traverse.

Most of the vehicles, 1,365,070, are in the United States; there are 98,794 affected vehicles in Canada; 26,228 in Mexico, and 38,093 exports.

The heated washer fluid system was recalled in August 2008 because a short circuit on the printed circuit board could overheat the control-circuit ground wire. Dealers at the time installed an in-line fuse in the heated washer module wiring.

The government closed its initial investigation after the 2008 recall. GM continued to monitor the performance of the heated washer fluid module in the field and continued communications with NHTSA.  In June 2009, a new and second failure mode was identified by GM with the first confirmed report consisting of smoke only. Since then, GM has been made aware of five fires.   


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