GM recalling 3,200 natural gas vans for fire risks

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — – General Motors Co. will recall about 3,200 vans powered with compressed natural gas that could leak and catch fire — the Detroit automaker's second recall for leaking natural gas since last year.

The new recall covers 3,196 2011-14 Chevrolet Express CNG and GMC Savana CNG vehicles in the U.S. and 13 in Canada.

"Some of these vehicles may have a CNG high pressure regulator that leaks natural gas into the atmosphere. This could cause an explosion or a fire if an ignition source is present," GM told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "If a leak is suspected, the customer should not start the engine or drive the vehicle. The customer should immediately have the vehicle towed, inspected and repaired."

GM spokesman Alan Adler said "parts are on order and customers will be notified by letter when they are available. GM is not aware of any fires, crashes or injuries as a result of this issue."

In March, a GM engineer was informed by a CNG fleet customer that a leaking regulator had been replaced on a CNG fleet van in January.

Between March 19 and March 27, 2014, GM and Impco Automotive (the CNG second stage manufacturer) collected regulator warranty data regarding CNG leaks on all Express and Savana CNG vehicles.

Initial analysis revealed a high incidence of leaking regulators connected with a replacement of the solenoid under recall a May 2013 recall. On April 2, the GM service procedure for the recall was revised to address the failure mode identified with solenoid replacement on the regulator.

By the end of May 2014, GM had identified 30 cases of regulator leaks. GM continued to analyze parts returned from the field and found 17 cases that could not be attributed to the regulator solenoid recall replacement. These leaks were attributed to three additional conditions related to assembly of the regulator, machining of the regulator, and manufacturing of the internal diaphragm assembly.

By July, there were still 11 cases that could not be attributed to the identified conditions. GM said Impco conducted solenoid replacements on vehicles or regulator stock at Impco in June 2013. GM dealers and fleet owners will replace the regulators.

GM has recalled a record 29.1 million vehicles built in North America in 2014 in 66 separate campaigns.