GM recall: SUVs can catch fire even when parked

GM recalls nearly 200,000 midsize SUVs in the US because a power window and door module can melt or even catch fire. The GM recall is an extension of a previous safety notice.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters/File
A line of GMC Envoy SUV's sit for sale at a car lot in Troy, Mich., in 2006. The Envoy is one of seven midsize SUVs involved in a GM recall for a power window and door lock module that can overheat and even catch fire in some instances.

General Motors is recalling nearly 200,000 midsize SUVs in the United States for a problem that has plagued several automakers: a driver's door module that can corrode, if it attracts excess moisture.

The issue can cause power door locks and windows to fail and the module's circuit board to melt, smoke, or even catch fire in some instances. It can happen even when the car is not operating, prompting GM to suggest that owners affected by the recall keep their vehicles parked outside.

The models involved in the GM recall are: Chevy TrailBlazer (2006-07 models) and Trailblazer EXT (2006); GMC Envoy (2006-07) and Envoy XL (2006); Buick Rainer (2006-07); Saab 9-7x (2005-07); and Isuzu Ascender (2006-07). In all, more than 193,000 vehicles are being tagged with the potential problem. The recall also includes some 38,000 of these GM vehicles sold in Canada and elsewhere around the world. 

For GM owners, however, this latest recall might seem like deja vu. The current safety notice is an extension of a GM recall involving nearly 250,000 SUVs nearly a year ago. That recall was limited to 20 cold-weather states where road salt was most likely to cause the damage. In January 2013, the automaker also alerted owners outside those states with a special coverage letter, urging them to get the item fixed at a GM dealer. The fix is free in either case.

Earlier this month, officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration met with GM officials about the issue, and the automaker decided to upgrade its special coverage notice with a full recall. 

That means that the affected owners – those in the 30 warm-weather states – will get a second notice about the problem in the form of a recall letter, urging them to visit a GM dealer to get the problem fixed. 

"These vehicles that have been added to the [recall] population are six times less likely to have the issue than the vehicles in the 20 road-salt states," says Alan Adler, a GM spokesman, in a telephone interview. 

The two procedures – special coverage and safety recall – operate much the same way, but the special coverage letter offers the courtesy fix for a limited period, he adds. In this case, the fix was offered for 10 years or 120,000 miles. Under a recall, there are no limits on when the fix can be performed.

The recall is expected to begin July 24, 2013. For more information, Buick owners can contact the Buick owner center toll-free (800-521-7300); Chevrolet owners (866-694-6546); GMC owners (866-996-9463; Isuzu owners (800-255-6727); and Saab owners (855-880-0808).

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