General Motors (GM) is recalling 1.4 million cars to fix oil leaks that can lead to vehicle fires, a problem two earlier, related recall campaigns failed to remedy. The 1.4 million sedans, which span the 1997 through 2004 model years, contain an oil gasket that has the tendency to degrade. During hard braking, the affected vehicles can leak oil, which drips onto the exhaust manifold and catches fire GM said. The automaker reported that it had identified fires in more than 1,300 vehicles even after dealers implemented fixes proscribed by recall campaigns launched in 2008 and 2009 related to the same issue. The current campaign includes 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Regal models, 2000-2004 Chevrolet Impalas, 1998 and 1999 Chevrolet Luminas and Oldsmobile Intrigues, and 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlos, all of which have 3.8-liter V6 engines. The majority recalled, 1.2 million of the vehicles, were sold in the U.S.
In 2008, a GM spokeswoman said 267 fires had been caused by the vehicle defect, including nearly 20 that burned buildings in which the cars were parked. According to NHTSA documents, the agency learned of the fires in 2007 and determined that the oil leaks typically lead to fires five to 15 minutes after the vehicles’ engines are shut off. The probe prompted the 2008 recall, which included only certain types of engines, and a year later, a second recall was announced, encompassing more than 1.5 million cars. In the 2009 recall, NHTSA said GM dealers would remove the spark plug wire retention channel at the front of engine and install two new spark plug wire retainers free of charge. The company does not yet have a proposed solution for the oil gasket issues in the immediate recall, but is currently finalizing a remedy, GM spokesman Alan Adler said.
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