- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

Product recalls rarely get much attention from the media, yet they happen all the time. Perhaps it's because there are so many, no newspaper has room to list them all.

Under federal law, safety problems must be remedied without cost to consumers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that about 72 percent of those who own vehicles with safety problems get them fixed. Once a recall is agreed upon by the manufacturer, it must mail a recall notice to all purchasers, owners and dealers, informing them that a safety defect or noncompliance with federal safety standards has been discovered. Not all vehicles of a particular make and model are necessarily subject to a recall, so it's best to wait for a postcard in the mail.

The mention here of any manufacturer does not impugn the integrity of that company or its products. Quite the opposite: It means the company has found a fault and would like to fix it. No car company could stay in business in the fiercely competitive American car market if it did not constantly seek to improve its products.

What follows are examples of U.S. government-listed recalls for a single month, July 2002. Depending on how you look at it, these recalls either represent tax dollars well spent for commendable oversight, or they are a waste of valuable resources. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

1. About 375 Honda Insights and Acura Integras (2001 model) need the passenger air bag modules rewelded. Otherwise, the seat occupant may not be properly protected in the event of a collision.

2. About 265 BMW F650CS (2003) motorcycles apparently have problems with the rear wheel. NHTSA says: "It is possible that the wheel could develop a crack. Over time, the crack could worsen to the point that the wheel could fail and the drive belt derail." There is also a hex nut problem that could strip the gears.

3. The BMW X5 (2000-2001 models) appears to have had a problem with its brakes. On these passenger vehicles, the brake pedal arm pivot shaft could loosen from its support bracket. Eventually, the brake pedal arm could detach from the bracket, rendering braking ineffective.

4. BMW's new Mini Cooper, a very hot item these days, has a transmission shift cable that can detach, meaning you will be locked in the last gear you used. There are 3,531 new Minis with this problem.

5. On some 1996-1997 Chrysler Sebring convertibles equipped with 2.5L V-6 engines, the throttle control cable can fray, causing the throttle to bind or stick.

6. Some of GM's 2000 Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and Silverado, and GMC Yukon and Sierra models have an air-bag sensing diagnostic module that could result in air bags failing to deploy during frontal crashes.

7. 1998 Kia Sephias with 36,000 miles or less can develop an electrical contact problem that can result in inoperative hazard lights and/or inoperative turn signals.

Remedies for most recalls can be handled at no cost to consumers through a local dealer.

There are literally scores of these recalls listed monthly. Interestingly, most such recalls are initiated by the manufacturers themselves, who point out problems to the NHTSA and determine the best solution.

You can get up-to-the-minute information on safety recall campaigns or information on the recall history of your car, truck, motorcycle or child safety seat by calling the NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline at 888/327-4236, or by accessing NHTSA on the Internet at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/recalllinks.cfm. The hot line also can be used to report safety problems.

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