Ford Recalls Vehicles for Brakes and Driveshaft

The Ford Motor Company has recalled 2021-2022 Bronco Sport and Escape vehicles as a result of the faulty manufacture of the rear brake linings.  The linings do not meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 135 and as a result, vehicles require longer stopping distances.  The remedy for this particular recall is currently under development and Ford was expected to begin notifying owners on January 10, 2022.  The number of vehicles involved in this recall is approximately 114,996.  Ford’s identification number for this recall is 21C31.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-866-436-7332 and referring to Ford’ recall number. 

Ford has also announced the recall of 184,698 F 150 pickup trucks, year models 2021-2022.  The problem with these trucks is that heat and noise insulating shields can loosen and make contact with the driveshaft.  Contact with the driveshaft can cause damage to the driveshaft that could also lead to a fracture type failure.  Owners should take their vehicles to a Ford dealer for a free inspection.  If repair is necessary, then the dealer will repair the vehicle free of charge.  Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on January 31, 2022.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-866-436-7332 and referencing recall number 21S56.     

More About Hyundai and Kia Engine Fires

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it is continuing its investigation of engine fires in Hyundai and Kia vehicles.  NHTSA has reportedly opened a new engineering analysis that covers in excess of 3 million vehicles.  It should be noted that some of the vehicles have already been recalled.  The vehicles in question are 2011 through 2016 Hyundai Elantra, Santa Fe and Sonata; and, Kia Optima, Rio, Sorento, and Soul.  These are the same engine problems that were reported in September of 2020 and again in January and May of 2021 on our blog.  All of the vehicles involved in the investigation are equipped with one of the following engines: Theta II GDI, Theta II MPI, Theta II MPI Hybrid, NU GDI, and Gamma GDI. For additional information, owners can visit NHTSA’s website at www.nhtsa.gov or contact their Hyundai/Kia dealer.       

Happy Holidays Everyone!

We have had a very successful year despite battling the pandemic, bad news around the country and the world, and people’s frustration with everything in general. We are also very thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Our hope is for 2022 to be an even better year than 2021.

We would like to wish everyone a HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON!

Cold Weather is Here Again!

            Once again, the weather has turned and cooler temperatures are starting to become the norm.  With the arrival of cold weather comes the use of heat producing appliances to keep our homes and businesses warm.  If you haven’t already done so, it is recommended that you engage a reputable heating and air conditioning company to service your furnace or heat pump and make sure that it is working properly before the really cold weather settles in.  For those of you that undertake that job personally, there are a few things that you should bear in mind.  When you take the service access panels off, be prepared to clean the motor and blower thoroughly.  Use a brush (a paint brush works fine) to clean inside the air openings of the motor and blower louvers.  Once you’ve dusted the air handling section, use the blower end of a shop vac (if available) to blow all of the dust out of the air handler.  If you don’t have a shop vac, use a standard vacuum cleaner and suck out as much dust as possible.  Lint and dirt buildup can burn and help to spread a fire, particularly if the furnace is started, allowed to operate, and service ignored for several seasons.  With heat pumps, air has to be able to flow freely through the inside and outside coils and therefore, has to be free of and any trash and debris that might have accumulated during the summer.  As with gas fired units, the air handler also has be cleaned and kept free of dust and lint.  Air filters should be replaced at the beginning of each heating (and cooling) season and inspected at least once per month.  Filters should be replaced when you can’t see through the media.  If you can’t see through the filter media, then air is being restricted enough to affect the heating (and cooling) capacity. 

            Aside from standard heating units, there are those that use kerosene or propane gas heaters.  In addition to a through cleaning, care must be taken to remember that small, fuel burning, space heaters and some gas log appliances are NOT VENTED.  As a result, they will produce CARBON MONOXIDE, a deadly, toxic gas.  Since these appliances are not vented, carbon monoxide is released into the space being heated.  DO NOT go to sleep with one of these types of appliances in operation.  Death from asphyxiation is a likely result.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, and vomiting.  Victims of carbon monoxide poisoning should be evacuated to the outdoors as quickly as possible while awaiting ambulance service.  Moreover, if you have to use a portable generator because of a power outage, remember, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is still present if the generator is operating inside the home or garage.  If using a small electric heater, a through cleaning is also required.  The main thing to remember when using space heaters, whether fuel burning or electric, is to keep them far enough away from combustible materials.  The heaters usually come with operating instructions that discuss how far from combustible material the heater can be placed.  However, the operating instructions are usually misplaced, discarded, or lost.  If you can’t remember how far away to place a heater, generally, a three foot distance is usually far enough away to keep most combustible material cool enough to keep it from igniting.  However, if the material feels too warm at a three foot distance, then move the heater back to increase the distance until the material feels cool.  USE COMMON SENSE! 

Water Pipe Damage Due to Arcing

Several years ago, it was permissible to “ground” an electrical system by attaching a wire from the grounding strip or terminal inside the fuse or breaker panel to a metallic pipe.  In many older homes and commercial buildings, this is still the case.  The intended purpose of doing so is to channel stray current directly to earth ground in order to prevent injury and damage to people and property.  Stray current can come from electrical problems with appliances, power surge and lightning.  In a recent investigation, a situation was discovered where electric utility wiring was faulty and caused their side of the power supply to a residence to energize the “ground” or neutral side of the supply.  The end result was the creation of several arcs between the ground wire strap and a copper water pipe.  The arcing that occurred was intense enough to burn holes in the piping.  Since the pipe was part of the hot water supply to the home, the home was flooded.  The damage to the pipe is shown in the photo below.   

Water Inside Your Crawlspace?

Recently, Tennessee and many parts of the southeast have been experiencing a large amount of rain.  Not everyone has been flooded but, what about homes that have been inundated with water in a crawlspace.  When you stop to think about it, water entering a space where it shouldn’t be is the result of groundwater where the water table level is higher than the ground inside the crawlspace.  If not acted upon to remove, the water will cause floor joists and subflooring to mold and rot.  The moisture will also ruin air duct insulation and given enough time, will cause cinder block and brick walls to crack.  The photo below shows an extreme case where water has accumulated inside a crawl space and the process of decay has already begun. 

Although a remedy should have been in place long ago, drainage and foundation companies will usually recommend installing their “patented drainage systems”.  These systems usually include a sump, sump pump, and drainage piping, all for a few thousand dollars.  While these systems will work in most cases, most people don’t realize that the system is actually treating a symptom.  Water will continue to enter the crawl space as long as the water table level is above ground level in the crawl space.  The solution to this problem is to lower the water table level to a few feet below the foundation level so that when it rains any water that seeps into the ground is pumped away before it can enter the crawl space.  Unfortunately, many municipalities and states have strict laws governing drilling wells and pumping water out of the ground, and it can be expensive.  But if you’re lucky enough to be able to use an auger and drill to a depth beneath the level of the foundation, about three to four feet, you might be able to use a submersible or pedestal pump to remove the water.  It will take some time but, each time the pump is energized, a certain amount of water is removed and creates a void in the space where the pump is located.  The tendency will be for the water to fill the void and in the process, the water level has to go down.  Just some food for thought…          

Water Damage and Attic Installed Air Handlers

Most people are aware that air conditioning units can come as a package, everything in one box; or as a combination of two pieces of equipment, an outdoor condensing unit and an indoor air handler.  Remote, or split systems as they are often called, are specifically designed so that the air handling unit has to be located in an interior area where it can be safely operated and maintained.  One of the areas commonly used for air handler installation is the attic space of a building or residential structure.  Regardless of the location, provision must be made during the installation to catch water should the unit begin to leak.  It should be noted that water is a product of the cooling process.  That is, as air passes over the cooling coil, water can condense out of the air.  A drain line is typically connected to the cooling coil housing and routed away from the unit to the outside.  But, if for some reason the water does not drain correctly, it can begin to accumulate inside the air handler and will find a way to escape.  In order to capture the leakage and prevent structural damage, drain pans are commonly placed beneath the unit for this purpose.  It is the responsibility of the installing contractor to make sure that the drain pan is sufficiently large to catch whatever water leakage might occur wherever it happens to flow out of the equipment.  The photograph below shows a typical installation.  The problem that occurred here was that the drain pipe filled with debris and caused the drain water to back-up into the cooling coil and plenum.  When the water exited the unit, it missed the drain pan entirely and damaged the ceilings over the dining room and garage.  In this case, the drain pan was not large enough to fit under the air handler and plenum and was therefore useless.  Because of the damage that occurred, the installing contractor was held responsible. 

Applications of Investigative Mechanical Engineering

Although we have been practicing forensic engineering for over 30 years, it has come to our attention that many adjusters in the commercial and personal property lines markets may not know the extent of our services.  So, a list of services has been attached below.  Most of the applications are self explanatory.  However, every once in a while, someone will ask if the loss they are handling is within the scope of our expertise.  While it would be impossible for an adjuster to recognize every scenario, we welcome questions about our services as they pertain to the loss.  Recently, we were asked if a water loss involving a skid steer was something we could evaluate.  The loss involved determining whether engine damage was part of the loss and should have been covered.  This application was definitely within our experience and service capability.  In general, if the loss involves something mechanical or electro-mechanical, we can usually accept the assignment.  Please feel free to make contact by calling the office or emailing directly,  Our contact information can be found on the “About” page of our website located at www.rjhill.com.

Supco Surge Protector Warning

A warning has been discovered that was issued by Sealed Unit Parts Company (Supco) that alerts consumers to a potentially defective lightning surge protector.  The warning identifies two surge protectors, SCM 60 and SCM 150 that are intended for use with HVAC equipment.  The surge protectors can fail and cause a fire which can spread to a home.  The units are wired into the HVAC unit’s disconnect box and is supposed to shunt lightning away from the HVAC unit through its ground connection.  The disconnect box is that box located adjacent to the unit that controls power going to the unit. Supco recommends that the units be replaced or removed.  Supco has also identified the manufacturer of the surge protectors as Sycom Surge Inc. and could be out of business.  The company website lists a toll free telephone number that appears to be assigned to another party.  However, it is unknown if the address is still current.  Furthermore, Sycom managed to obtain Underwriter Laboratories (UL) seal of approval.  However, UL, has also issued a warning saying the surge protectors do meet UL safety standards.  It should be noted that the surge protectors have NOT been recalled.  The warnings are contained in the attachments shown below along with photos of the surge protectors. 

Watch Where You Park!

Watch Where You Park!

Recently, we were asked to determine the cause of a fire in a 2002 GMC Sierra.  Since the vehicle was more than 10 years old, it was apparent that subrogation against the manufacturer, General Motors, was not going to be an option.  It was also learned that the vehicle had not been recently repaired so, subrogation against a third party was also not an option.  Upon arriving at the vehicle, it was noted that it was situated in an open area.  From the surroundings, it was clear that the land had been used as a dumping ground for wood chippers.  Wood chip debris was everywhere and the spot where the vehicle had initially ignited was clearly evident from the burn mark present on the ground.  Upon examination of the vehicle and verifying that combustion had taken place beneath the vehicle, it was clear that the wood chip debris had come in contact with the engine or engine exhaust pipe and ignited.  The vehicle and the ground that it was on are shown in the photographs below.  Whenever it becomes necessary to drive onto unpaved ground, it is prudent to make sure that your vehicle is not parked over dry wood or wood debris, dry grass, brush, or hay; dry corn stalks or husks, and anything else that might ignite and destroy your vehicle.               

Wood chip debris scattered on ground, blackened area where fire initially occurred
Casualty of wood chip debris fire
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