NHTSA Upgrades Probe Into GM Windshield Wipers

Maintaining a clear view of the road ahead through a vehicle’s windshield is a fundamental part of road safety, and things can go downhill fast if a vehicle’s wipers crap out at an inopportune time.

Since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has paid growing attention to the wipers on two GM models: the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, both of which were recalled that year following a number of reported windshield wiper transmission failures. The recall covered the 2013 model year.

NHTSA also began looking into Equinoxes and Terrains from different models years, receiving numerous (read: hundreds) of complaints during the course of its investigation. Now, that probe has entered a new phase, signalling that a new recall might be on the way.

On December 13th, NHTSA upgraded a probe into the wiper assemblies of 2010-2014 and 2012-2014 Equinox and Terrain models.

Referring to the 2016 recall, the agency stated:

Failures were attributed to water and debris intrusion into the windshield wiper assembly ball joints, leading to excessive wear and eventual detachment of the affected ball joint with an attendant loss of windshield wiper function. The recall remedy addressed these conditions with the installation of an improved windshield wiper motor/transmission assembly and the relocation of a drain hole on the Air Inlet Panel at the base of the windshield.

Following the recall, NHTSA looked into failure rates on Equinox and Terrain CUVs from other model years. The agency’s Office of Defects Investigation “received additional consumer complaint traffic bringing its total to 602 concerning the alleged defect in the subject vehicles,” NHTSA said, adding, “In their December 20, 2018 response to ODI’s Information Request (IR) Letter, GM reported 1,303 complaints related to the alleged defect in the subject vehicles. Together, these bodies of data correspond to 1,905 unique Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN).”

While GM claimed that some of the complaints likely stemmed from publicity surrounding the earlier recall, NHTSA noted, “the subject vehicle failure rates are nevertheless elevated and that publicity alone cannot account for the continued consumer complaint traffic concerning the alleged defect in the subject vehicles.”

With this in mind, the agency has upgraded its investigation (launched in November 2018) to an engineering analysis. Some 1.7 million of GM’s compact CUVs fall under the probe’s scope. If the failure rate on these models is found to warrant a recall, NHTSA has the power to order one.

first published on TTAC

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