General Motors Co. warned the owners of 1.41 million older Chevys, Pontiacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles not to park in garages or other structures indefinitely until it has a recall fix.
Friday’s announcement came days after the Detroit automaker announced it was recalling the 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix, 2000-04 Chevrolet Impala, 1998-99 Chevrolet Lumina, 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 1998-99 Oldsmobile Intrigue and 1997-2004 Buick Regal “because drops of oil may be deposited on the hot exhaust manifold through hard braking, which can cause engine compartment fires.”
The recall covers cars with 3.8-liter V-6 3800 engines. There have been four recalls for the problem since 2008. All vehicles fixed earlier will need to be repaired again once GM has a new fix.
“GM is working on a remedy,” the automaker said.
Spokesman Alan Adler said GM has received reports of 1,345 fires in vehicles repaired in earlier recalls. About 85 percent of the fires have taken place with no one in the vehicle. The problem has been linked to 19 minor injuries over the last six years.
GM said the earlier recall fixes didn’t work because “aging and wear to the valve cover and valve cover gasket can allow oil seepage.”
The warning is not unprecedented, but it is unusual.
In August 2014, GM warned the owners of 189,000 older SUVs to park outside because water could cause a short in the power window control switch on the driver side — the third recall for the issue by GM. The recall covered 2006-07 Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Ranier and Isuzu Ascender and 2005-07 Saab 97-X SUVs. They issued a similar warning in June 2013 for the same vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. in 2012 urged owners of 244,000 Escape SUVs to park outside until parts were available because brake fluid could leak onto an electrical harness and cause a fire.
In a dealer bulletin made public Friday, GM said that while it doesn’t recommend parking in a garage or other structure, the vehicles are safe to drive. GM is currently “finalizing a remedy.” Because it has deemed the cars safe to drive, the company is not providing free loaners.
The recall could be expensive, but GM hasn’t disclosed any costs.
In April, GM recalled 1,200 2004 Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala and Chevrolet Monte Carlo cars equipped with a 3.8L V-6 because engine oil may be deposited on the exhaust manifold through hard braking. GM said then that aging and wear to the valve cover gasket can allow oil to seep past the valve and onto the exhaust manifold during hard braking. If the exhaust manifold’s hot surface serves as an ignition source, a flame can develop from the seeped oil, igniting the plastic spark plug wire retainer.
GM previously recalled vehicles in 2008 and 2009 to address potential engine compartment fires in vehicles built using certain valve cover gaskets.
“During the course of investigating those recalls, it was determined that production began using a sturdier gasket material in association with the model year change from 2003 to 2004,” GM said in April.
GM launched an investigation in August 2014 to determine the cause of underhood fire complaints in 2004 cars, and “it was determined that a number of early model-year 2004 Buick Regals, Chevrolet Impalas and Chevrolet Monte Carlos were built with the earlier generation gaskets.”
Now, all of those vehicles are getting recalled again.
The first recall in March 2008 of 207,000 vehicles was prompted by an investigation by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
NHTSA said it reviewed reports of 138 fires, which it said typically were discovered 5-15 minutes after a vehicle was parked.
In 2009, GM recalled 1.5 million 1997-2003 Buick Regal, 1998-2003 Chevrolet Lumina, Monte Carlo and Impala, 1998-99 Oldsmobile Intrigue, 1997-2003 Pontiac Grand Prix vehicles equipped with a 3.8L V6 for the same engine-oil-drops issue. GM said then dealers would remove the spark plug wire retention channel and install two new spark plug wire retainers.
With a new recall by Honda Thursday of 300,000 vehicles for air-bag issues, automakers in the U.S. have now recalled more than 41 million vehicles this year — the second highest in history, with three months to go in the year. Last year, automakers recalled nearly 64 million vehicles — topping the all-time record of 30.8 million in 2004.