General Motors has issued a massive recall affecting more than 686,000 SUVs registered in the U.S. According to a bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the liftgate supports on certain Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook models may fail, increasing the risk that someone is going to get walloped in the head.
In its official report, NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation explains that:
"These vehicles have a Prop Rod Recovery system intended to accomplish a controlled, slow return of the liftgate to the closed position if the liftgate’s gas struts are no longer capable of supporting the weight of the liftgate. However, in these vehicles, the liftgate’s Prop Rod Recovery system software may be unable to detect/ stop a liftgate with prematurely worn gas struts from falling too quickly after the liftgate is opened."
The report goes on to explain that a flaw in the design of the gas struts -- those pressurized gadgets that hold a liftgate in the air -- allows dirt to enter the components, causing them to wear out prematurely.
So, in sum, the gas struts can wear out more quickly than expected, and the software on the Prop Rod Recovery backup system may not be able to spot strut failures.
The good news is, these vehicles are designed to warn drivers with audio signals and flashing tail lamps when the gas struts begin to wear out.
The bad news? Some 56 injuries have been linked to the problem.
The recall affects models manufactured during specific windows of time.
- 2008-2012 Buick Enclave vehicles built between January 3, 2007 and February 29, 2012
- 2009-2012 Chevrolet Traverse vehicles built between July 6, 2008 and February 29, 2012
- 2007-2012 GMC Acadia vehicles built between September 15, 2006 and February 29, 2012
- 2007-2010 Saturn Outlook vehicles built between August 17, 2006 and March 18, 2010
GM estimates that 686,287 vehicles in the U.S. will be affected by the recall.
Once owners receive a recall notice from GM, they'll be able to take their vehicles to a dealer, who will update the software associated with the power liftgate actuator motor control unit. That should fix the flaw in the Prop Rod Recovery system. The repair will be carried out free of charge.
If you own one of these vehicles and have questions, you're encouraged to call Buick customer service at 800-521-7300, Chevrolet customer service at 800-222-1020, GMC customer service at 800-462-8782, or Saturn customer service at 800-553-6000 and ask about GM recall #15240.
You can also call NHTSA at 888-327-4236 and ask about safety campaign #15V415000.