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Limited recall riles GM owners

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Limited recall riles GM owners

NHTSA monitors brake callback in 20 states and D.C. as complaints mount.

Jeff Plungis / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- General Motors Corp. last year recalled 1.35 million trucks and SUVs in 20 states and Washington, D.C., to clean brake sensors that could malfunction and cause accidents.

Despite the recalls, though, GM is struggling to move beyond questions about the anti-lock brakes on its best-selling Chevrolet Silverado pickup and seven other models.

Reports continue to pour in from states not covered under the recall -- and some from states like Michigan that are included -- of accidents and near-misses from truck owners experiencing braking problems.

GM said the issue stems from road salt in cold-weather states. Corrosion from the salt gets in between the surface of the wheel hub and the anti-lock brake sensor, pushing the sensor farther away from the bearings.

This gives the truck's computer a false reading of vehicle speed, causing the anti-lock brakes to engage at the wrong time, typically at speeds of between 4 and 10 miles per hour.

Kevin Vagt, 45, said he had two near-misses in Alexandria, Va., with his 2001 Chevy Suburban following a February vacation to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Vagt said his truck needed extra distance to stop, and he narrowly avoided two accidents dropping his children off at day care.

But because Vagt's SUV is registered in Virginia, it was not part of the recall. Vagt's neighbors in Maryland, one of the states added in December, would be eligible for a free repair or reimbursement for previous repairs. But unlike his counterparts across the Potomac River, Vagt had to pay his entire $898 repair bill.

"I'm beside myself," Vagt said. "If I was two miles away, I'd be covered. Somebody will get mowed down by this."

Far to the north, Connie Wagenaar-Henning wonders why South Dakota was not part of the cold-weather-state recall.

Wagenaar-Henning said she has had at least three close calls. "We're pretty cold here," Wagenaar-Henning said. "Normally, this time of year, it's 40 below. These trucks are all over the place, and we're all having problems. I don't understand why it can't be nationwide."

Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency that oversees vehicle defect investigations and recalls, said they would rely on customer complaints to determine if the recall needs to be expanded.

"We're still monitoring the situation closely," said NHTSA spokeswoman Karen Aldana. "We encourage people to call our hotline and make us aware of their problems. We also encourage them to call their dealers."

For those covered by the recall, Chevrolet and GMC dealers remove the anti-lock brake sensors and clean the surface of the wheel bearing casing. The casings are then treated with a zinc-based rust proofing compound.

But even as GM has enlarged the recall and is promising to take care of the problem regardless of where a vehicle is registered, some owners say they are struggling to get their trucks fixed.

Some say they have not been notified about the safety problem or have spoken with dealers unfamiliar with the issue.

A number of truck owners have taken to removing a fuse to deactivate their anti-lock brakes, preferring conventional brakes to a system that was unreliable.

GM customer Ryan Sigman of Grove City, Ohio, said he was told that there is a recall, but his vehicle identification numbers mean he will have to pay for repairs himself.

Sigman said his 2002 GMC Sierra pickup has been experiencing the brake problems described in the government notices. A phone call to NHSA did little to clarify things, he said.

"I expected the run-around at dealerships," Sigman said. "I figured GM would be more than happy to take care of a safety problem. I was very surprised."

GM spokesman Alan Adler said the automaker is committed to fixing every truck experiencing the brake problems, even if the owners are not in the 20 states affected by the recall. GM issued recalls in the states that the federal government has identified as the ones most impacted by road salt, Adler said.

"Anybody who has the problem -- in any state -- can get the service for it," Adler said. "They should bring their vehicles in. If it's the issue covered by the recall, it will be taken care of."

Adler said customers who were having problems with their dealers should call the customer service hotlines.

Safety groups in Washington, meanwhile, are challenging the notion of "regional" recalls, arguing that they are little more than a means for auto companies to save money while potentially dangerous defects go unfixed.

A former NHTSA administrator said that Congress had examined the possibility of allowing regional recalls in the 1960s, as lawmakers considered the original highway safety law. Congress rejected the idea as unworkable, said Joan Claybrook, now president of Public Citizen, a watchdog group based in Washington.

"Cars are mobile," Claybrook said. "It's a relatively ridiculous system to allow partial recalls. It's a financial issue. Recalls are expensive, and automakers don't want to do them."

Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety, another Washington consumer group, lost their case in federal District Court challenging regional recalls. They have an appeal pending in federal court in Washington.

In November, Wisconsin's attorney general wrote Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta decrying NHTSA's practice of allowing regional recalls. Wisconsin is one of seven states GM added to the recall in December.

Truck owners say the real issue is stopping distance. As the brakes are malfunctioning, it can take two or three times the normal distance to stop. That means the vehicles can drift into intersections, garage walls or off the road.

After several near misses in California, Richard Lopez Sr. became concerned about the safety of his truck. As an electrician in Fresno, Lopez drives about 30,000 miles a year.

Lopez said his brakes have failed on numerous occasions, causing several minor accidents. Lopez is confused by GM's explanation that the brake problem relates to road salt, since he lives in a hot weather climate.

"The dealers just laugh at you," Lopez said. "They treat you like a fool. At this point, I just want to give the truck back. But there's nothing I can do. I can't sell it because I have a conscience."

Link: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artic.../602120372/1148

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Kevin Vagt, 45, said he had two near-misses in Alexandria, Va., with his 2001 Chevy Suburban following a February vacation to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Vagt said his truck needed extra distance to stop, and he narrowly avoided two accidents dropping his children off at day care.

Cue mellow dramatic music.

A number of truck owners have taken to removing a fuse to deactivate their anti-lock brakes, preferring conventional brakes to a system that was unreliable.

OBVIOUS pun intended.

"The dealers just laugh at you," Lopez said. "They treat you like a fool. At this point, I just want to give the truck back. But there's nothing I can do. I can't sell it because I have a conscience."

Give me a break....

***As usual, DETROIT NEWS is working overtime to kick GM while it's down. And what a surprise, this heart breaking piece hails from import infested/anti-Detroit, Washington.***

I'm sure it'll be or is front page news.

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To pass off the brake problems on these trucks is rediculous...I remember our Suburban had horrible brakes. I hear these complaints all over. It is common knowledge the brakes on these trucks blow...My friends who drive them have the same problems...It was and always has been a major issue for the longest time and it seems not much has been done to fix it.

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Well, coming from personal experience, the brakes on the '99 and up GMT-800 models are SO, SO bad, it really would be a nightmare if there was any kind of a failure in the system.

Our '02 Avalanche, which was completely in spec, used to scare the everliving crap out of me, even when puttering around town at very low speeds, because the brake pedal was so mushy and had so much excess travel, you'd always wonder when and if you were actually going to stop.

That said, the pedal feel is massively improved on our '04 Suburban with the Hydroboost feature (really an odd stopgap, of sorts, instead of a real fix), but still have a bit of mush. Not nearly as much as the Avalanche, but not what they should be still.

Apparently this is a fixed issue on the new '07s, but still...don't discount the so called "melodramatic" words of some owners.

As for this issue itself, it doesn't sound all that hard to fix, but the odd spread of who's eligible and who isn't is quite odd.

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Well, coming from personal experience, the brakes on the '99 and up GMT-800 models are SO, SO bad, it really would be a nightmare if there was any kind of a failure in the system.

Our '02 Avalanche, which was completely in spec, used to scare the everliving crap out of me, even when puttering around town at very low speeds, because the brake pedal was so mushy and had so much excess travel, you'd always wonder when and if you were actually going to stop.

That said, the pedal feel is massively improved on our '04 Suburban with the Hydroboost feature (really an odd stopgap, of sorts, instead of a real fix), but still have a bit of mush.  Not nearly as much as the Avalanche, but not what they should be still.

Apparently this is a fixed issue on the new '07s, but still...don't discount the so called "melodramatic" words of some owners.

As for this issue itself, it doesn't sound all that hard to fix, but the odd spread of who's eligible and who isn't is quite odd.

Apparently the new Lucerne's has excess travel, too.

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Actually, Lopez in Fresno is telling no joke.... Michael and Hedreck's Chevrolet service departments are VERY arrogant and would do something like this.... have had experiences with both and were similar.

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Same goes for Courtesy Chevrolet out here...Their service department is horrible...Hell, the entire place is horrible...wanted to go look at some cars, a couple of salesmen were just standing around talking...I was asking them about Silverado SS's and Camaros and Vettes and they wouldn't give me the time of day...stupid pricks...

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Apparently the new Lucerne's has excess travel, too.

Well, if so, I can't imagine it is ANYWHERE near as bad as most GM trucks at least used to be. There was no "feel" whatsoever, more like you were stepping on a partially deflated beach ball and then, eventually, by some act of god, the brakes began to apply some pressure. The reason for this was actually explained in one or two professional mag reviews of the new '07 Tahoe a month or so ago, and said what all was changed to alleviate it, so it definately was a known and ungoing problem...but one that never should have been there from day one if GM engineering had done their job properly.

Actually, I always wondered how a GM tech guy, for instance, could drive one during testing and think it was even close to being alright...because I drove older gen trucks from the 90's that had brakes that felt so much stronger, it just baffled me.

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My 88 Chevy's brakes are horrible! You basically have to push them to the floor to stop the damn thing. Im thinking about spending the $1000 to convert the back brakes to disc they are so bad. It's even worse when you put something heavy in the back like my 400lb Fourwheeler it basically frys the brakes so bad that they stink!

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This must be a 1500 series problem- I have never had it happen in the 2500 and 3500 trucks I have driven often (2001-2005 model years).

I did have an '88 1500 shortbed with awful breaks ( mushy pedal, long stopping distances). But my 1990 3500 had no troubles.

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Link please.

"Braking feel is less satisfying. The pedal is downright squishy as you wait, motionless, for the light to change. And each stop requires a push through an initial slack zone before braking gets serious."

- C/D, March 2006

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Well for GM's sake I hope they are working on a fix for ALL the dissatisfied owners. If not, the upcoming Toyota Tundra and Sequoia might look like a mighty attractive alternative. Loyalty is a two way street after all. The last thing GM needs right now is bad publicity.

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Well for GM's sake I hope they are working on a fix for ALL the dissatisfied owners. If not, the upcoming Toyota Tundra and Sequoia might look  like a mighty attractive alternative.  Loyalty is a two way street after all. The last thing GM needs right now is bad publicity.

got a Tundra 2500 or 3500 ? available with 8.1 ? just a Toy for yuppies

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