Wheel Separation in 2016 Ford Taurus-Possible Recall?

One of our recent investigations involved the separation of the left front wheel and whether it was the cause of a two vehicle accident.  The scenario was such that the driver made a right hand turn and felt the vehicle pull to the left.  The driver also stated that he lost control and hit a parked car.  Typically, in these types of impacts, the wheel is pushed into the wheel well.  But, in this case the wheel separated from the car.  Upon examination, it was determined that the threaded connection holding the strut to the frame was broken as well as the clamping part of the lower steering knuckle.  The failed parts are shown below.

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Failed strut threaded connection

DSC01042Clamping part of lower steering knuckle found broken

It should be noted that the steering arm tie rod was also bent and broken and that a stabilizing rod connected to the strut was separated from its knuckle joint.  If either of these connections is broken, then the wheel will become unstable.  Are there other instances where drivers have experienced similar situations?  Is this a condition that warrants a recall?

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Combined Heat and Power

I just completed a webinar refresher on combined heat and power systems.  If you don’t know or have never heard of a combined heat and power system just picture a jet engine that doesn’t move.  The heat coming out of the exhaust is used to make steam.  On the other end, the rotating fan is connected by shaft to a generator and produces power.  Another type of system uses a boiler to make steam.  The waste heat from the flue gas is reclaimed using a heat exchanger to make additional steam.  The primary steam is then routed to a turbine which in turn, turns a generator and makes electric power.  The secondary steam is sent to whatever process will utilize the steam, such as an absorption chiller, for air conditioning.  Most CHP systems are well suited for industrial applications where large quantities of steam and power are required. However, smaller systems are also made and suited for light commercial applications.  Advertised efficiencies run between 70 and 75% depending on manufacturer.  These machines are fairly reliable and so, in the course of my practice, I have only encountered one instance where a gas turbine (jet engine) failed to perform as required.  Two engines were installed in a university setting and used to provide steam and power to various campus buildings.  Shortly after installation, it was noted that one of the gas turbines was not performing as warranted by the manufacturer.  After review of the design of the entire system, it was determined that one of the gas turbines was not performing according to its design specifications. The claim was finally resolved when the manufacturer agreed to replace the machine with a new gas turbine.

Veteran’s Day Appreciation

veterans day desert

The above photo of a special dessert was given to me after a Veteran’s Day dinner at a local Restaurant.   While I am very appreciative of the gesture, I would also like to say thank you to those who are appreciative of those of us who have proudly served.

Lathe Chuck Injury Due to Faulty Lathe Operation

One of the more interesting cases that we have been assigned had to do with a personal injury suffered as a result of an airborne chuck.  The injury occurred after an individual purchased a chuck and spindle adapter for use with a Shop Smith lathe that was manufactured back in the late 40s or early 50s (see photos below).

 

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Chuck and pin wrench used to tighten chuck onto spindle adapter

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Antique Shop Smith Lathe

After attaching the spindle and mounting the chuck, the owner started the lathe and tested the operation.  Everything went well until the machine was turned off.  As soon as it was, the spindle shaft stopped but the chuck kept spinning and spun itself off the adapter.  The chuck went airborne, bounced off parts of the lathe and hit the owner’s hand causing severe injury.  The investigation came about as a result of the owner’s allegation of a defective product, ie, the chuck was defectively designed and had no means of stopping if it separated from the spindle adapter.  The chuck is designed to be tightened against the spindle adapter using special wrenches.  According to the owner, he claimed that he “tightened the chuck as tight as he could” before starting the lathe.  During the examination of the lathe, the lathe was started and run without the chuck attached.  When the lathe was turned off, it immediately became clear that there was something wrong when the spindle shaft did NOT coast to a stop.  It was also clear that the abrupt stop provided the torque necessary to cause the chuck to spin off the spindle adapter.  In addition, it was also noted that if the chuck was to stay attached to the spindle adapter, the torque applied during tightening had to be greater than the torque causing separation.  After working the math, it was determined that the owner could not have tightened the chuck was much as he claimed.  As a result, it was further determined that the owner unfortunately caused his own injury by ignoring the problem of abrupt stopping of the spindle shaft.  The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed.

Power Steering Recall

Roughly two years ago, Chrysler recalled approximately 442 Dodge Ram pick up trucks for a problem with the electric power steering (EPS) module.  The recall applied specifically to 2015 -2016 Ram 1500 trucks manufactured between January 22, 2015 and September 13, 2015.  The problem had to do with short circuiting of the EPS circuit board that would cause the loss of power steering and increase the risk of a crash.  Since that recall was put in effect, reports have been received that indicate that the short circuit is not enough to cause the 100 amp fuse, that is supposed to protect the module, to open.  As a result, the short circuits are causing wiring to overheat and ignite resulting in vehicular fires.  It should be noted that overheating of the wiring has not been addressed and is not part of the original recall.  The original recall is identified as NHTSA campaign # 16V16700 and Chrysler recall # S19.  A copy of the recall is attached below.  The second page shows a wiring diagram and the connection between the EPS module and battery through the 100 amp fuse that is in question.  Also shown is the connection between the battery and the power center.  If a fire occurs, the origin appears to be in the area of the battery and power center, both of which are located on the driver’s side of the engine compartment above the left front wheel well.  Complaints regarding vehicular fires related to this recall should be reported to NHTSA through their website at www.nhtsa.gov.

Recall & wiring diagram0001

Recall & wiring diagram0002

Long Hydraulic Hoses Cause Trencher Fire

Heavy equipment used on construction sites are subject to all kinds of conditions.  Those conditions include, bad weather, rocky terrain, and remote locations.  All of these factors can play a part in determining whether a vehicle will ignite and burn.  We were recently asked to examine a trenching machine that was destroyed by fire.  The machine that was examined is shown below.

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One of the most common causes of heavy equipment fires is hydraulic fluid leaks.  It is well known that hydraulic fluid is flammable and will ignite with the correct mixture of air and an ignition source.  Such sources can include engines and transmissions as well as electrical devices.  Although these are some of the more common factors, sometimes unusual circumstances can also lead to a piece of equipment being destroyed.  In the case of the fire damaged trencher, one of the findings included hydraulic hoses being long enough to reach the ground.  As a result, while the trencher was in operation, dirt was actually burying the hoses.  At the same time, the movement of the machine, as the trench was dug, was pulling the hoses through the dirt and causing the hoses to tear.  Hydraulic fluid leakage was not only inevitable but, so was the possibility of fire.  When hydraulic hoses have to be replaced, the lengths of the hoses are a maintenance issue.  It is extremely important that hoses of correct length are installed,  If the hose is short and fits tight between connections, the stress imposed by forcing the hose to stretch coupled with the stress of pressurization, can cause premature failure.  Likewise, a hose that is longer than necessary will move around and possibly make contact with solid objects that can wear or cut the hose jacket, weakening the wall.  As in this case, the dirt and rocks contributed to the weakening of the hoses found beneath the conveyor section, on the ground, and the subsequent release of hydraulic fluid that ultimately ignited and destroyed the trencher.  The hoses that were found are also shown below.

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Toyota Recalls Hybrids

Toyota Motor Corporation has announced the recall of approximately 2.4 million vehicles.  It is estimated that 830,000 vehicles were sold in North America.  These vehicles are gasoline engine hybrids that can stall as a result of a problem with the “failsafe” switch over driving mode.  When the vehicles fail to switch driving modes, a loss of power can occur resulting in a stalled condition.  Although Toyota is not aware of any crashes, an unexpected stall could cause the driver to lose control and crash.  The affected vehicles apply to Prius and Auris models manufactured between October 2008 and November 2014.  For additional information, consumers can contact Toyota by calling 1-800-331-4331.

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