NHTSA Investigating Steering Defect in Ford Sedans

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a preliminary investigation into safety issues related to the steering systems of Ford sedans. The issue was raised after concerns over safety issues regarding steering shafts on about 500,000 Ford vehicles.

Ford Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and Marauder sedans from model years 2004 through 2007 may be affected by these steering issues. The steering problems are related to degrading heat shields on these Fords. According to NHSTA, the heat shields may rust and impede proper steering as time passes. NHTSA was made aware of the issue after five customer complaints were submitted about steering concerns.

So far, there is no formal recall, but one may be issued if the investigation determines that this problem is a wide concern. Ford has thus far said that it will cooperate with NHTSA investigation and has declined further comment.

Rust Problems with Ford Sedans

The inciting incident for this investigation occurred in April, 2014. A 2004 Crown Victoria rolled over after the steering locked. The resulting accident in the Detroit area caused neck and lower back injuries to the driver. According to the driver, the heat shield was found underneath the car after the accident, and it had apparently rusted off. The problem was attributed to salt corrosion.

In the other complaints received by NHTSA, drivers stated that steering had become very difficult to control, to the point that “bodily force” was required to turn the steering wheel. These problems may also be attributed to rusting problems.

In the agency’s official announcement of the preliminary investigation, NHTSA voiced worries over a “separation of the lower steering column shaft from the upper steering column shaft resulting in a loss of steering control.” The investigation will look into how big of a problem this may be, and if the defect is attributable to design flaws or simple wear and tear in less than optimal conditions.

This is not the first rust-related problem reported for these vehicles. Over 300,000 Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis sedans were recalled in August 2013 in states where salt was heavily used on roads. A defect in these vehicles could corrode the lower intermediate shaft. This eventually could cause a collapse of the upper intermediate steering shaft at a serious risk to the driver. This recall was a result of another NHTSA investigation sparked by 22 customer complaints to the agency.

NHTSA is now conducting an independent engineering analysis to determine if there is a harmful defect. In several months, NHTSA should make recommendations based on the outcome of the analysis or possibly issue a recall.



The Dangers of Gas Cans

Almost every home has gas cans. We keep them in our garages and sheds to fill up lawnmowers and other devices. These red, plastic canisters are about as ubiquitous as any other home accessory. For this reason, we never really think about the dangers posed by them.

Investigation has revealed many examples of horrific accidents related to children knocking over gas cans with tricycles, fathers filling up chainsaws or lawnmowers, or people just walking by a can that explodes. Just a small spark from static electricity or a water heater’s pilot light can cause the gas can to combust.

Blitz USA Defective Gas Cans

About 95% of all gas cans sold in the United States are made of plastic. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 19 million gas cans are purchased by consumers every year. About 75% of these plastic cans bought in the United States are sold by Blitz USA. The company chose not to use flame arresters in its design of plastic gas cans, which makes their cans especially prone to explosions as time passes.

Flame arresters have been used in metal gas cans for 100 years and they have effectively prevented explosions. Blitz USA even used them on their own metal gas cans. However, they chose not to include the simple metal device in their cheaper plastic models. Many plastic bottles containing flammable liquids and gases already include flame arresters, including lighter fluid. Although including flame arresters would minimally increase the cost of manufacturing the gas cans, the tiny cost is well worth the investment in safety.

Flame arresters are standard in most industries. In fact, workplace standard 1926.155(l) on fire protection and prevention from the Occupational Safety and Health Care Administration requires that all gas cans have flame arresters. The same standards of protection should be applied to consumers who have gas cans in their homes.

While Blitz has recently gone out of business, its successors, including Kinderhook, should be held to the highest standards. Safety should be the number one concern when it comes to manufacturing products that can be so dangerous. Legislation requiring flame arresters on every gas can is a top priority for consumer advocacy groups for the upcoming legislative session.



BMW Issues 1.6 Million Car Recall of 3-Series Cars

BMW has issued an even wider recall of its most popular cars in the 3-Series. The German automaker plans to recall 1.6 million 3-Series cars that are from model years 2000 to 2006 around the globe, including 574,000 in the United States.

BMW has stated that this is only a precaution in response to problems other automakers have experienced recently with similar systems. Airbag inflators in systems made by the Takata Corporation, a supplier of seat belts, airbags, steering wheels, and other auto parts, based in Japan, have been found to rupture. When this happens, the airbags may not function properly. Broken shards also could fly out with the deployed airbag and injure passengers.

Thus far, BMW has not received any confirmed reports of problems with their airbag systems, but the company plans to issue all replacements regardless. Dealers will replace the front passenger-side airbags. The new recall does not include 42,000 BMW models recalled in May 2013 for the same problem, as it should have already been fixed.

Warm, Humid Weather Seems to Exacerbate Airbag Problem

One thing most of these recent airbag problems seem to share is that the affected cars have been in climates that expose the vehicles to hot, humid weather over an extended period of time.

In June, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating air bags made by Takata. The agency has since received six reports of air bags rupturing in Florida and Puerto Rico, but more may be reported as the investigation continues. So far, there have only been three reported injuries. Approximately 1.1 million vehicles in the United States could be affected, and this total is likely to climb during the NHTSA investigation.

This airbag problem has previously triggered millions of recalls by manufacturers including Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota. Since most of the problems have affected cars in states with hot and humid weather, the government wants to work more quickly in places with warmer weather while investigations continue. BMW will replace airbags in all vehicles equipped with potentially faulty air bag systems regardless of where they were sold. Customers living in warmer climates should still be aware that they might be more susceptible to related problems.

The NHTSA has issued a statement stating that they support “efforts by automakers to address the immediate risk in areas that have consistently hot, humid conditions over extended periods of time,” but that the data is still limited. There may be fewer problems than originally predicted. Still, it is important for all owners of affected models go to their dealers to get the potential problem taken care of as quickly as possible.

http://www.suntimes.com/business/28692290-420/bmw-recalls-16m-3-series-cars-for-air-bag-problem.html – .U8_vIUiaTLh

Documents Prove the GM Did Not Speak Up Over Fatal Crashes

Federal regulators have recently expressed interest in the car crash that killed Gene Erickson, asking why the man’s Saturn Ion veered off the road into a tree along a rural road in Texas. The air bags did not deploy, and when questioned about the vehicle, General Motors did not have an answer.

An internal evaluation conducted by a GM engineer concluded that the Ion most likely lost power, which subsequently disabled the vehicle’s airbags. However, GM’s response to this speculation, as well as its replies to concerns regarding other car accidents, casts doubt on whether the auto maker was forthcoming with regulators over the faulty ignition switch. GM has linked the defect to at least 13 fatalities in the last 10 years.

Details are surfacing for the first time in a criminal investigation launched by the U.S. Justice Department. According to reports, GM is facing concerns that it knowingly withheld information about the defect in its interaction with safety regulators.

The New York Times asserts that GM repeatedly avoided the simple question of what caused the car accidents. In at least three fatal crashes, including that of Mr. Erickson, the automaker claimed that it had not yet determined the cause of the incident. In another case, GM cited attorney-client privilege that prevented it from answering questions. Still, in other instances, GM simply stated that it “opts not to respond.”

These responses are found in “death inquiries,” documents that are obtainable to the public through the Freedom of Information Act. In the documents, regulators request that car manufacturers explain the causes of accidents to help determine whether specific vehicles were built with faulty or defective parts.

On July 17, 2014, the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, and other GM executives faced Congress to testify regarding the alleged cover-up of the automaker’s ignition-switch defect. The New York Times issued a report on July 16, 2014 on internal documents related to the fatal car accidents that were believed to have been caused by faulty ignition switches.

In 2004, Candice Anderson was driving the Saturn Ion in which Mr. Erickson was a front-seat passenger. The car suddenly swerved off the road, sparing Ms. Anderson but killing Mr. Erickson. It was not until recently that Ms. Anderson learned that she was not to blame. She had reportedly had a trace of Xanax in her system, which is believed to have been the cause for her guilty plea of criminally negligent homicide following the accident.

Despite GM’s engineer concluding that the engine shutting off was most likely the cause for the accident, the automaker reported that there might not have been enough information to accurately determine the reason for the crash. At the time, the company was facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Erickson’s surviving family, and GM claimed that it could not make disclosures due to attorney-client privilege.

The documents indicate that GM officials knew that the fatalities related to failed airbag deployment were due to a loss of power within the vehicle, but the manufacturer allegedly kept quiet. A fatal December 2009 crash in Tennessee took the life of another individual, and again, GM stated that any privileged material pertaining to the reason for the accident would not be publicly shared.



Tattoo Ink and Needles Recalled

As tattoos become increasingly common in the United States, their safety demands thorough attention and review. In addition to an illness as is suspected in one case involving California-based White & Blue Lion, Inc., tattoos performed with defective or dangerous needles or inks can potentially lead to scarring, infection, allergies, MRI complications, and granulomas. While there is always a risk of contracting a disease or suffering from side effects while undergoing a tattoo procedure at either a home or licensed tattoo business, experiencing complications following a “tattoo party” at an individual’s residence is often more common.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on July 14, 2014 that multiple lots of tattoo needles and inks sold by a company over the Internet have been pulled from the market due to potential bacterial contamination. White & Blue Lion issued the voluntary recall for all of the company’s tattoo kits, inks, and needles. The products are sold separately by White & Blue Lion and 8Decades through Amazon.com.

FDA officials warned that the recalled inks and needles may cause a bacterial infection that can ultimately lead to sepsis, a life-threatening complication of an infection. Laboratory testing conducted by the FDA determined that microbial bacterial contamination was present in both the needles and the inks, according to agency officials. This data suggests that Mycobacterium can be ruled out as one of the contaminants. There has been at least one confirmed illness connected with the products as of July 11, 2014.

In Dayton, Ohio at Cloak and Dagger Tattoo Studio, tattoo artist Jeremy McGrady said that White & Blue Lion is not a major supplier of tattoo needles and ink to the industry. McGrady also stated that he had never heard of the company, acknowledging that he is familiar with most of the larger manufacturers. McGrady suspects that the only people who would be impacted by the voluntary recall are those who are making the decision to perform or receive tattoos from homes rather than licensed tattoo parlors.

Similarly, River City Tattoo Company in Iowa was questioned about the recall and stated that it does not use tools or products manufactured by White & Blue Lion, asserting that the needles and inks in the shop are always highly certified. According to Keegan Rocha, the shop manager, the business takes pride in its work and considers itself professional.

The products involved in the July 2014 recall by White & Blue Lion include a multi-colored Chinese Dragon Image tattoo kit with black and white lettering with Lot No. OR20036, Batch #8, in a 5-milliliter bottle. The tattoo needles affected by the recall are sold in packages of five and they bear the label “CE0197 Pre-made tattoo needle.”

As an added precaution, the company is also pulling its ink cups and tubes from the market. The full recall is being made with FDA knowledge. Consumers are urged to contact White & Blue Lion for more information, according to FDA officials.