GM dealers awaiting recall instructions

More ignition problems resulted in another 8.2 million vehicles being recalled by General Motors this week, bringing the total number of cars recalled by the company so far this year to 29 million.

That’s 7 million more recalls issued by all U.S. car manufacturers in 2013, according to a recent Associated Press report.

GM describes the problem as unintended ignition key rotation, which may allow the key to suddenly slip out of “run” into “accessory” mode, shutting the engine off. When that occurs the car’s power steering, power brakes and airbag deployment also shut down, and drivers can lose control of their vehicle.

“It’s not likely we’ll have to replace the ignition switch because the main problem is when there’s too much weight on the ignition key,” said Dennis Hart, service advisor with Pioneer Chevrolet Cadillac in Marietta.

He explained that drivers often put additional keys or other items on the same ring with the ignition key, and if there’s an impact that jars the vehicle, the extra weight may pull the ignition key out of the “run” mode on the ignition cylinder.

“The key is made with an elongated slot that enables it to be connected to a key ring, and when there’s extra weight on the ring the key may be pulled into the accessory position,” Hart said, noting that the most likely fix for the problem would be re-designing the ignition key with a small hole instead of a slot for the key ring.

But he said owners of the recalled vehicles may have to wait until the new keys can be designed and ordered. In the meantime GM recommends that the vehicle owners put only the ignition key on the key ring and keep the remote locking device and other items on a separate key ring.

GM is aware of three deaths, eight injuries and seven crashes involving their recalled vehicles, but there is no evidence that the ignition switches caused those incidents.

Monday’s recall announcement extends GM recalls that began in February with similar ignition key problems for the company’s smaller cars.

Although the key problem is a relatively easy fix that doesn’t require work on the ignition cylinder itself, other recalls announced Monday may take longer, as parts may have to be ordered before the repairs can be made.

Among those recalls are a possible electrical short in the driver’s side door that could disable door lock and window switches on some vehicles, and on some trucks the potential for an auxiliary battery overload that could result in a fusible link meltdown causing damage to a circuit cover or adjacent wiring.

Hart said Pioneer has always provided recall services for GM vehicles, which can add to the dealership’s regular maintenance services.

“We already work on 40 to 50 cars a day in this shop,” he said.

Vehicle owners will be notified if their cars are among the recalls, said Scott Summers, co-operator with brother Jeff, of Summers Buick GMC in Marietta.

“Recalls are really nothing new for any car manufacturer,” he said. “The owners will get a letter from GM, notifying them of the recall, then they can call a GM dealership to order the parts for repair.”

Both Hart and Summers noted they had only learned of the most recent recall through a news release by GM Monday.

“We haven’t even received information about how this recall will be handled yet,” Hart said Tuesday. “It’s in the news media before we hear about it from GM. And we’ve already received some phone calls from vehicle owners.”

He said owners can find out if their vehicle is part of the recall by going online at gm.com and entering the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) on the recall page.

“Or they can call any GM dealership and give the VIN and the dealer can look it up,” Hart added.

Owners are just beginning to learn of the most recent recall.

Roger Truax of Marietta drives a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu that’s among the vehicles listed in this week’s recall.

“I’ve had no problem with this car, but if something is wrong the company should issue a recall and fix it,” he said. “I had a Chevy Citation several years ago that was part of a recall. I got a notice in the mail to take it to the dealer to have it fixed. But I don’t remember what the problem was.”

Truax said he tries to keep his ignition key and remote on a ring separate from other keys.

His brother, Melvin Truax, of St. Marys, W.Va., said the ignition issue could create a dangerous situation.

“Especially if there are kids in the car with you,” Melvin said. “These car companies should make it right if there’s a problem.”

Cambridge resident Bob Watson drives a 2013 Buick Encore, and has been a Buick owner since the 1970s.

“I buy a new one about every three years and have never had a recall until now. I’ve already had two recalls on this one-one for an air bag and another for a seatbelt problem,” he said. “They sent me a letter and the dealer replaced both, but that’s the first time I’ve ever had a recall.”

GM officials have admitted that the company has known about ignition problems on its smaller cars for a decade, but did not issue recalls until this year.

In spite of the recalls, GM vehicles are still selling well locally, according to Pioneer sales associate Kim Hodge. He said the company’s new Cadillac line has been especially popular.