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SAFETY

GM recall to check steering assembly

Ford also will call back some of its 2000-01 Focus cars on concerns about suspension bolts and engine fires.

November 27, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

General Motors Corp. is recalling about 1.5 million 1996-'98 minivans and mid-size and small cars in the U.S. and Canada to repair a bearing in the power steering gear assembly, and Ford Motor Co. said this month that it would recall 572,795 of its compact Focus cars from the 2000 and 2001 model years because of potential safety problems such as engine fires.

GM's problems stem from a potentially faulty bearing in the power steering gear assembly on 1996-'98 Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire cars and Chevrolet Lumina and Venture, Oldsmobile Silhouette and Pontiac Transport minivans, and 1997-'98 Pontiac Grand Prix cars.

If the bearing fails, it can cause loss of power assist during left turns and, in some cases, unintended steering input to the right following a left turn. GM said 15 crashes and three injuries have been reported that may be related to the bearing.

The company said it would begin notifying owners in January, requesting that they bring recalled vehicles to a local dealer for installation of a new bearing or, if necessary, replacement of the steering gear assembly.

Ford said its Focus recall involves two separate problems.

One involves a front suspension bolt that can become loose and cause noise and vibration or lead to separation of the ball joint. The other involves vehicles with Zetec engines in which the placement of a battery cable could result in smoke, melting wire or under-hood fires.

A company spokesman said there had been no reports of injuries stemming from either of the potential defects in the recalled vehicles, but two accidents are alleged to have been caused by loose or missing front suspension bolts.

Ford also said it was extending a service program on 2000-2001 Focus vehicles in North America because of concerns about a rear-wheel-bearing seal.

An earlier service program because of the problem involved vehicle owners in 21 states. But Ford said North American customers outside those original areas, including owners in Canada, now will be encouraged to bring their cars into dealerships to have the seal replaced.

In yet another November recall, Subaru of America Inc. said it was recalling 163,243 vehicles because a transmission flaw can cause them to slip out of park.

The recall includes some 2001 Legacy models; some 2003 Baja models; and all 2002 and some 2003 Legacy, Outback, Forester and Impreza vehicles. All have automatic transmissions. No injuries or accidents have been reported as a result of the problem, Subaru said.

The firm said it believed that only about 1% of the vehicles in the recall were affected. Customers will be sent letters explaining the problem, and repair parts are expected to be available by January, the company said. Meanwhile, setting the parking brake can prevent the vehicles from rolling if there is a defect.

Focus on engines

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday that it had elevated a preliminary investigation into the Focus engine problem to an "engineering analysis," a step that often precedes a recall.

NHTSA said Ford had received 3,274 complaints about the Focus engine problem and added that the stalling allegedly had caused 16 crashes and three injuries.

"The data analysis conducted during the PE [preliminary evaluation] indicates the Focus will stall at all speeds without notice," the federal agency said.

The problem was originally thought to involve about 573,585 Focuses from the 2000 and 2001 model years, but NHTSA said it was broadening the scope of its investigation because of complaints about 2002 models.

NHTSA said it also had upgraded an investigation into thousands of complaints about engines stalling without warning on Ford's Escape compact SUV and the Tribute SUV sold by Ford's Mazda subsidiary.

The complaints involve vehicles from the 2001 and 2002 model years, NHTSA said.

Adding to the litany of vehicle safety and quality issues at Ford, NHTSA said it also had opened an engineering analysis into complaints of engine compartment fires stemming from alleged defects in a speed control deactivation switch on several full-size Ford sedans.

About 1.8 million Town Car, Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis sedans from the 1992-97 model years were the target of that investigation, NHTSA said.

Federal recall reminder

The federal highway safety agency issued its monthly recall reminder list to provide a second notice to vehicle owners who might have missed initial announcements about recalls that would affect them. The reminders cover recalls originally issued in September.

Daewoo Motor: The South Korean automaker is recalling 38,181 Nubira cars from the 2000 to 2002 model years for replacement of potentially faulty front brake hoses that can crack and rupture, resulting in loss of braking power.

General Motors: Nearly 559,000 Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon and Denali SUVs sold as 2000 to 2002 models and built from September 1999 to February 2002 have been recalled because of complaints of finger injuries to drivers and passengers while folding down the second-row seats. Dealers are to install protective covers over pinch points.

Nissan North America: The company is recalling 18,300 of its 2003 Infiniti G35 models built from January to July to inspect and properly reattach a potentially loose fuel pump hose.

Volkswagen of America: 10,450 Passat sedans sold as 1996 models and built from August to December 1995 are being recalled because of a potentially faulty connection that can cause headlights and windshield wipers to fail. Dealers will replace the electrical part of the ignition switch assembly.

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