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GM Implements Another Recall—SUVs May Catch Fire from Power Switch Short

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You may have believed that if you owned a General Motors (GM) SUV, you escaped the many recalls the company has implemented this year. Most of the recalls have affected Chevy and Saturn cars. That’s no longer the case.

On August 5, 2014, the company informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that they were recalling about 185,000 SUVs due to issues with the power window devices and controls. The number of recalls announced this year now reaches 60, involving nearly 30 million vehicles—the most of any auto maker in a single year.

Recall Due to Potential Water Leakage

GM is recalling the following SUVs:
The problem has to do with the power window switch inside the door panel. GM states that fluid may enter the driver’s door master power window switch module. Over time, it could cause corrosion and eventually

• 2005-2007 SAAB 9-7x
• 2006 Chevy Trailblazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL
• 2006-2007 Chevy Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier and Isuzu Ascender
result in a short in the circuit board.

This type of short can affect both power lock and power window switches. Owners may find that the switches operate correctly only some of the time, or stop working altogether. In a worst-case scenario, the short could cause overheating, melting components and producing a bad smell, smoke, or even a fire.

GM Slow to Act with Repairs

At least 28 fires thought to be connected to the switch problems have been reported to GM and the NHTSA. According to CBS News, GM has recommended drivers leave their vehicles outside (rather than parking them in the garage), as parts to fix the problem won’t be available until October, at the earliest. The company has also notified car dealers of the issue, and told them to stop selling the used vehicles until they are fixed.

Complaints about SUV fires started coming into the NHTSA in 2012. As was the case with GM’s ignition switch defect, the company was slow to react when it came to addressing repair needs. Instead of implementing a recall then, they tried a service campaign instead, offering extended warranty repairs to those vehicles having problems. Letters were also sent to owners of the vehicles explaining the problem, though the campaign was limited to only 20 states.

Rather than replace the defective switchboards, dealers were told to fix the issue by putting a protective coating around the window switch circuit boards—apparently to prevent water from leaking inside. Only later, when reports revealed that the “fix” wasn’t working (switches were still malfunctioning) did the company decide to implement a full recall.

In one of the incidences reported to the NHTSA, an SUV owner stated that the alarm sounded on her 2006 Trailblazer while it was parked in her driveway. When she went to check on it, it was already ablaze. She had to call firefighters to put the flames out. Their investigation showed that the fire started in the driver’s side door.