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GM trucks, SUVs prone to losing power steering

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GM trucks, SUVs prone to losing power steering

GM trucks, SUVs prone to losing power steering while parking but company says it's no problem

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Several popular models of General Motors trucks and SUVs are liable to lose their power steering as drivers make slow turns in parking lots, according to testimony and company documents.

The problem has forced the nation's biggest automaker to settle lawsuits and led one state police force to briefly label the condition a hazard, but GM considers it a "normal characteristic" of the vehicles.

Some drivers complain they must struggle to parallel park and navigate into tight spots. Others say they end up occupying two parking spaces because of difficulty turning the wheel. They say they were never told about the condition before buying the vehicles.

General Motors Corp. has told its technicians the problem occurs when customers apply the brakes and turn the wheel at the same time, which easily can happen as drivers try to park.

"It's a natural condition with ... medium-duty to heavy-duty vehicles, it's been a condition since Day One that they were ever built," GM employee Ronald Klemme said in a deposition. "I'm very knowledgeable of (the) condition. I don't acknowledge, I guess, that there's a problem there."

In November, however, a Wisconsin jury awarded $120,000 to a plumber who was often unable to steer his GMC pickup truck and was denied a refund or new vehicle after he complained. GM must pay an additional $259,000 in attorney's fees by Tuesday.

Vince Megna, a Waukesha, Wis., lawyer who represented the driver, said the case exposed "unbelievable mismanagement" by GM at a time when it is receiving $13.4 billion in government loans and has said it might need more. Besides manufacturing vehicles with the condition for years, he accused the Detroit automaker of acting unethically by not disclosing it to customers.

"You can't tell people they're getting the greatest car manufactured on the face of the earth and then three months later admit it doesn't steer right," said Megna, who is looking into the possibility of a class-action lawsuit.

GM spokeswoman Geri Lama said the automaker would continue to treat the condition as normal and try to resolve customer complaints on a case-by-case basis.

An internal company bulletin shows that the Chevrolet Avalanche, Tahoe, Suburban and Silverado Classic; GMC Sierra Classic and Yukon; Cadillac Escalade; and Hummer H2 are at risk for the steering lock-ups. The problems affect various model years dating back to 1999.

GM's bulletin says the condition, which stems from a lack of pressure in the power steering system, can be aggravated by worn tires, low tire pressure and tires larger than stock size. For nondiesel engines, GM has told dealers that adding a pressure valve may help fix the problem. Vehicles that run on diesel engines cannot be fixed.

It's impossible to know how many vehicles with the condition are on the road, but Megna, who specializes in representing drivers with defective vehicles, said owners of the affected models have the problem to varying degrees, and most are either putting up with it or trading in their vehicles.

GM acknowledges that customers routinely complain about the issue, and one chat forum on the automotive Web site Edmunds.com is dedicated to complaints about it. Attempts to reach other customers for comment were unsuccessful, and Megna said he wasn't aware of any other lawsuits over the issue.

GM officials have testified the condition exists in other companies' vehicles, but GM never offered details in court, and Lama said she had no details on the other vehicles either.

The loss of power steering happens most often at low speeds, and GM denies the condition raises safety concerns. Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which can order auto recalls, said the agency has never investigated the condition. At first blush, Tyson said it may be more of a customer satisfaction issue.

"We don't see anything at this point that would elevate it to the concern of the NHTSA," he said.

The Utah Highway Patrol warned its safety inspectors in 2007 to look for the condition and reject vehicles that have it. Sgt. Joe Vasquez, the patrol's safety inspection program manager, said the patrol issued the warning after investigating a 2006 GMC Sierra Dura Max Diesel with the problem.

"We felt it was a safety hazard," said Sgt. Joe Vasquez, the patrol's safety inspection program manager.

The patrol revised its guidance last year after learning from the company the issue was normal.

"If it meets manufacturer specifications, there's nothing we can do. They are the ones certifying the vehicles," he said. "We're not engineers."

Todd Van Natta, the 46-year-old plumber from Minocqua, Wis., who won at a trial in November, has fought GM over the problem since 2005, when he purchased a new Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

He often found himself having trouble maneuvering in grocery store parking lots or when he drove to plumbing jobs at people's homes. His wife didn't have the strength to steer the truck. After four failed repair attempts, Chevrolet advised him the problem was normal and could not be fixed.

Van Natta hired Megna to pursue a refund or a new truck. An arbitrator ruled in his favor.

"This arbitrator cannot find any basis upon which a defect, simply because it exists and is apparently unable to be fixed, transforms from a defect to an apparently normal 'characteristic of the vehicle,'" wrote Henry E. Koltz. "This defect significantly impacts the vehicle's use, value, and safety."

In a settlement, GM paid $71,500 in damages and attorneys fees and Van Natta agreed to give up the truck he bought for $49,500.

Van Natta said he decided to purchase a 2007 GMC Sierra Classic for $45,000 after he was assured by a salesman that the steering problem had been fixed. He said the vehicle performed well for the first 12,000 miles but then started having the same problems.

He returned to the dealer for repair four times, but company representatives told him it was a normal condition. He filed a lawsuit in 2007.

This time, GM declined to settle the case, and during a four-day trial its lawyers painted Van Natta as an impossible-to-please customer who was trying to make a buck.

It took jurors one hour to rule the steering problem was a "nonconformity" and order the company to pay damages.

Despite winning his lawsuit, Van Natta said he remains angry. He said he spent a lot of time away from home and his job pursuing the case in a courtroom several hours away.

"What made me bitter was listening to these people make me out to be the bad guy when they have a product they know is bad from the beginning. What did I do? All I did was purchase the truck," he said. "I think it's just absolutely ridiculous the amount of money they wasted."

Yet even after his troubles, Van Natta bought another GM vehicle. He said he now drives a 2008 GMC Sierra, but it's a half-ton version that does not have the steering issue.

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The power steering pump in my 2001 Silverado 2500HD failed completely while I was plowing - once.

It was replaced under warranty and I never had the problem again, nor the one described in the article - ever.

And I've been daily driving an "affected" vehicle since 2001.

I regularly drove 4 of these vehicles over that time period - none exhibited the stated problem.

Sounds like BS to me.

I may be mad at GM these days, but I see no merit in this complaint.

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Why not just own up to it and install a bigger pump or something to keep pressure up?

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Just more dirtbag lawyers looking for a payday. They should all be lured on to a cruise ship, taken out to sea and thrown overboard.

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GM admits this is a common complaint, and even admits that it has been an ongoing issue, yet does NOTHING about it and just write it off as "It's a natural condition with ... medium-duty to heavy-duty vehicles, it's been a condition since Day One that they were ever built," GM employee Ronald Klemme said in a deposition. "I'm very knowledgeable of (the) condition. I don't acknowledge, I guess, that there's a problem there."

Absolute garbage.

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And the biggest thing I take from this, besides the complete lack of handling an issue that could probably been avoided is that the plumber was awarded $120,000 after buying a truck that probably cost him MAYBE $40 grand...and the LAWYERS who were not damaged in any way are getting $259,000? Does anyone else notice a discrepancy here?

Also, the guy was NOT injured or nor was there an accident mentioned in the article...yet the guy is awarded $120,000 in damages.

This country is screwed up. At least after looking at this, people understand why a car that should cost us $20k costs us double that or more.

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The lawsuit seems like someone just scratching for money. Complete BS. Great to know our tax money which is bailing out the auto company is ending up partially in the hands of some whiny plumber who is looking for a quick buck and in the hands of a lawyer who grossly exaggerates his case in order to win. "greatest car manufactured on the face of the earth" -- ok, lol. I'm not saying they are a bad vehicle, or that there are any that are better. But that line is obviously just designed to elicit an emotional reaction from the judge or whoever decides the case. I can almost picture the lawyer with a whiny voice shedding a tear as he tries to portray his client as the 'victim'. "But it's supposed to be the best vehicle on Earth, why is there a problem with it!? This has never happened before in the history of automobiles!! A problem!! omgzorz!!!"

Edited by siegen
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Just more dirtbag lawyers looking for a payday. They should all be lured on to a cruise ship, taken out to sea and thrown overboard.

+1

(And a media eager to see Detroit to it's grave)

americans are so f*cking bitchy about everything these days. Get the hell over it! It's am minor issue (Is it really even an issue at all?) that isn't even worth getting pissed off about, much less a law suit.

My Charmin didn't exactly do the job as well as I had hoped earlier, so I think I'm going to contact Yahoo, then hire a bunch of lawyers and WASTE EVERYONE'S TIME.

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I had an ebrake handle on a 1994(?) beretta go on me. Later one on a 2001 Alero went the exact same way. Actually, the Alero one broke twice. I wondered at the time if it was the same weak part used in both cars. It certainly looked similar.

Fix it. 8 years should be long enough to get it right. Next time do it before the lawyers have a chance to get rich. Who knows... maybe I'd still be driving domestics!

Edited by GXT
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Every vehicle I have driven often, but intermittently, requires more effort to steer in parking lot/driveway situations because the engine is idling, it is often after a cold start, and there isn't that much power going to the power steering pump. Even my Aurora exhibits this occasionally, but not enough to be worrisome. What is worrisome, though, is that the man's wife does not have the strength to turn the non- or minimally-boosted steering wheel. She really needs to lift some 5 lb free weights because it sounds like she has some major muscle atrophy issues.

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Wow big deal. Lets go cry to the courts about it and get some free money for doing nothing. What a bunch of assholes!

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GM admits this is a common complaint, and even admits that it has been an ongoing issue, yet does NOTHING about it and just write it off as "It's a natural condition with ... medium-duty to heavy-duty vehicles, it's been a condition since Day One that they were ever built," GM employee Ronald Klemme said in a deposition. "I'm very knowledgeable of (the) condition. I don't acknowledge, I guess, that there's a problem there."

Absolute garbage.

There are some days I wonder if GM is really worth saving, after reading that statement, today is one of those days.

There is no excuse for this. Who has never used the brakes and steering wheel at the same time? I guess GM engineers don't park their cars or possibly never drive them period. Or maybe GM is just trying to find out how many people it can piss off before it declares bankruptcy?

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Fix it. 8 years should be long enough to get it right. Next time do it before the lawyers have a chance to get rich.
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There are some days I wonder if GM is really worth saving, after reading that statement, today is one of those days.

There is no excuse for this. Who has never used the brakes and steering wheel at the same time? I guess GM engineers don't park their cars or possibly never drive them period. Or maybe GM is just trying to find out how many people it can piss off before it declares bankruptcy?

It's just difficult to steer, not impossible. I am not sure If they are talking about 4x4 / AWD vehicles when they are engaged in 4x4. They do not steer nicely while parking, but that is the same with every auto manufacturer.

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It's just difficult to steer, not impossible. I am not sure If they are talking about 4x4 / AWD vehicles when they are engaged in 4x4. They do not steer nicely while parking, but that is the same with every auto manufacturer.

The 4x4s I've had have definitely been a bit heavier to steer with some kickback through the wheel and various strange noises when steering while braking at low speeds when in 4wd (lo or high). But if the power steering goes out completely, I could imagine these 5000-6000lb beasts would be pretty heavy to steer around.

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It's just difficult to steer, not impossible. I am not sure If they are talking about 4x4 / AWD vehicles when they are engaged in 4x4. They do not steer nicely while parking, but that is the same with every auto manufacturer.

General Motors did here what it has done wrong for 35 years. They did something wrong by not doing enough testing or not caring enough when developing these trucks. General Motors sells these trucks to "soft roaders" as well as contractors, etc for large amounts of money. Maybe someone working for a construction company who is only driving this thing as a company/work truck might not care, but as a private consumer if I had just spent 30, 40, 50, or 60+ thousand dollars on any automobile I would not accept "its normal" for an answer.

The article could have been written like this:

General Motors continues its industry leading position of disappointing customers with newest full sized trucks. GM says "we just build/develop/and market the thing, we don't know why it does this". According to GM the real problem is customers who need to just get over it and live with an annoyance in their brand new car. GM says "Get over it, that Tahoe was only $53,000".

If General Motors has enough money to bring me such amazing product as the Pontiac G3 and Chevrolet Aveo, they have enough money/resources/etc to design a power steering system that works in full sized 4X4 trucks.

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General Motors did here what it has done wrong for 35 years. They did something wrong by not doing enough testing or not caring enough when developing these trucks. General Motors sells these trucks to "soft roaders" as well as contractors, etc for large amounts of money. Maybe someone working for a construction company who is only driving this thing as a company/work truck might not care, but as a private consumer if I had just spent 30, 40, 50, or 60+ thousand dollars on any automobile I would not accept "its normal" for an answer.

The article could have been written like this:

General Motors continues its industry leading position of disappointing customers with newest full sized trucks. GM says "we just build/develop/and market the thing, we don't know why it does this". According to GM the real problem is customers who need to just get over it and live with an annoyance in their brand new car. GM says "Get over it, that Tahoe was only $53,000".

If General Motors has enough money to bring me such amazing product as the Pontiac G3 and Chevrolet Aveo, they have enough money/resources/etc to design a power steering system that works in full sized 4X4 trucks.

They do have a system that works well that way, Autotrac 4wd which is class exclusive. I have that on my 4x4 now and works great in "Auto". Lock it into 4x4 and you hop/jump with heavy steering in tight turns. I am not saying that this is the problem but it may be an issue with people not knowing how the product works. The differential in trucks and many truck based suvs are quite archaic because they send the same torque to the front wheels as they do to the rear.

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I think the issue discussed is the trucks w/ hydroboost power brakes having a (usually very small) drop in P/S assist when cranking the wheel fast and braking at the same time. GM's response is a rather weak and somewhat ignorant sounding retort but I think unless this guy somehow had two trucks in a row w/ bad P/S pumps he is just being very picky.

In the hydroboost equipped P/U's and Astros I've driven this I barely notice such behavior and I normally drive a VUE with it's grossly overboosted at parking lot speed Electric P/S.

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GM should have had a clause in the lawsuit where this jackass can't buy another GM vehicle again! lol! People complain about so much little crap that its ridiculous. If you don't like GM's vehicles then shut the hell up and buy something else. Im sure he would like a Tundra alot better with its weak timing belt, snapped cam shaft and horrible gas mileage. I could see being refunded for his money he spent on the truck, but this crap of hundreds of thousands of dollars is BS!

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GM should have had a clause in the lawsuit where this jackass can't buy another GM vehicle again! lol! People complain about so much little crap that its ridiculous. If you don't like GM's vehicles then shut the hell up and buy something else. Im sure he would like a Tundra alot better with its weak timing belt, snapped cam shaft and horrible gas mileage. I could see being refunded for his money he spent on the truck, but this crap of hundreds of thousands of dollars is BS!

Yes he could buy something else, which is what millions have been doing for years, and is why Ford, GM, and Chrysler are in the mess they are in now. The economic meltdown was just icing on the cake, so to speak.

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IDK all I know is Ive wanted a GM vehicle since I was younger and from 16 on Ive had four of them now and I can honestly say Ive never had a major problem with them. I mean yea theres the usual fixing things from regular wear and tear, but besides that every General Motors vehicle ive had has been a dependable vehicle. Im am very loyal to GM and just because I would have a problem with a vehicle doesn't mean I have to sue I would just trade it in on another GM vehicle or fix it. Just because one was a dud doesnt make them all junk. People get one bad car and then they bash the hell out of the automaker for it. Alot of the problems Ive seen with some of the GM cars me and my GF had are caused by some moron trying to fix it or not at all and screwing it up it had nothing to do with General Motors. The American auto makers make mistakes yea, but that doesn't give the public and media the right to bash their balls and call them junk and act like Toyota is the greatest thing ever built.

Edited by Daryl 83
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On the other hand, unless he's a money-grubbing scumbag - going thru all this and buying TWO MORE GM trucks after that sure speaks well for GM truck appeal !! :wink:

'04 Silverado 2500HD here, 79K miles, no steering issues ever. Yes- there's definately a difference in 4WD while making sharp turns, but its completely, utterly managable and not even annoying. I sure hope this wasn't the condition he complained under !

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The moron likely had the truck in 4WD on dry pavement- that is a no-no with any 4x4.

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Ruh-roh! My Aurora lost a bit of boost last night parallel parking outside my apartment...and I survived! Seriously, it didn't even require a feat of strength. Dude's wife needs serious medical attention.

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