MARK SMYTH: From shrapnel to fires — recalls resemble a war zone
Mark Smyth looks at the vast number of vehicle safety recall notices that are issued
Vehicle safety recalls are making headlines with the Ford Kuga fires crisis. While Ford SA has clearly mishandled the situation, manufacturers issue recall or service campaigns daily.
Due to it being the closest market to our own in that the vehicles are right-hand drive, we monitor the recall lists in the UK that are issued by the government’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency monthly. The latest is for December 2016 and it is one of the longest we have seen, with 46 safety recall notices issued for cars, commercial vehicles and motorbikes.
Being a British list, some of the alerts are rather on the polite side. The alert for the 2014-15 Renault Trafic van states: "The rear axle bolts may not have been correctly tightened which may generate a noise from inside the wheel arch or cause friction on the tyre. If the concern is not addressed it is possible for the axle to become uncoupled from the body of the vehicle." Uncoupled? The rear axle might fall off your van!
Most safety recalls are serious. Many recalls are for airbags that might not deploy in a crash. In the latest recall list, the vehicles affected by this range from the 2011-12 BMW 5 and 7 Series to the Rolls-Royce Ghost. In all these vehicles, the software has been programmed incorrectly.
Airbag failures are also part of recall notices on some versions of the Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover, Jaguar XJ, Renault Sandero and Jeep Wrangler. One of the most scary recall notices involving airbags though is for all 2005-15 Mitsubishi L200/Triton models. In the event of a crash, shrapnel could be released from within the airbag inflator that could injure the driver. We hope they have fixed that in the new model.
And how about the risk of fire, the hot topic of conversation at the moment. Well 2013-15 Jaguar XF models are being recalled due to the risk of a fuel leak and possible fire. Apparently the fuel pipe might not have been installed to correct specification and could lead to chafing and a fuel leak, but the recall notice points out that: "This will be highlighted to the driver by either a smell of fuel or pooling of fuel under the vehicle."
The Mercedes E-Class coupe and convertible are so new there are only two in SA with the model not even launched yet, but already Mercedes SA is having to act on a global recall notice. A robot appears to have forgotten to cut a hole in the panel behind the engine that could cause the panel to come into contact with the catalytic converter. If this happens and the catalytic converter is subjected to heavy driving conditions, such as full acceleration, then "there is a risk of the rear engine compartment panel igniting and a vehicle fire ensuing". Mercedes SA has confirmed it is fixing the models affected.
It is not just about cars, though. A number of KTM models are being recalled because the brakes might fail, not something you want to think about on a bike. There is the possibility of fire on the Volvo B5TL bus and the rear service brake might fail on the 2014 Mercedes Atego truck which could see the vehicle rolling backwards.
Perhaps our own government agencies can look at issuing a recall list for the South African market.
Finally and because we know you are wondering, not a single recall notice was issued for Ford vehicles in the UK in December, but Ford UK is busy with a recall issued in November on the 2008-18 Kuga because of, wait for it, a risk of fire.