Chevy Impala not Recalled for Exploding Intake Manifold and Engine Fire

During the late 1990s, a problem developed with some General Motors vehicles that were recalled for engine backfire and subsequent damage to plastic intake manifolds. All of the vehicles that were involved were equipped with defective fuel pressure regulators. The defective regulators allowed combustible mixtures of air and fuel to accumulate in the intake manifold. When an engine backfired, the mixture ignited producing a pressure that caused the plastic manifold to burst. Since General Motors was aware of the problem in the late 90s, recalls were issued for 98-99 Buick Park Avenue, Buick LaSabre, Oldsmobile 88, and Pontiac Bonneville vehicles. Although various vehicle models manufactured between 1995 and 2002 were supposed to have been monitored, the Chevrolet Impala escaped notice. As a result, we recently investigated a 2001 Chevrolet Impala engine fire that was caused by the sequence of events described above. It should be noted that GM vehicles in the model year range previously stated are still on the road and could be potential fire hazards. If you feel that your vehicle might be a fire hazard, have it inspected. Remember that the sequence of events that leads to an engine fire occurs as follows: attempt to start in cold weather and then a loud popping sound followed by smoke and the appearance of flames from beneath the hood. Damage to one recently investigated instance is shown in the photographs shown below.

Cracked intake manifold cover

Cracked intake manifold cover

Damage to intake manifold and surrounding wiring

Damage to intake manifold and surrounding wiring

Advertisements

About rjhillconsulting
R.J. Hill Consulting is a forensic consulting engineering firm that specializes in performing failure investigations for attorneys and insurance companies. Mr. R.J. Hill is a registered professional (mechanical) engineer with over 37 years of experience, 33 years in private practice. Please visit www.rjhill.com to see the kinds of forensic investigations that Mr. Hill performs.

41 Responses to Chevy Impala not Recalled for Exploding Intake Manifold and Engine Fire

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a 2001 Chevy Impala and my plastic manifold exploded. It is exactly as described above! Why hasn’t this been recalled??? This is ridiculous!! “attempt to start in cold weather and then a loud popping sound followed by smoke and the appearance of flames from beneath the hood.” exactly what mine just did! I could have died today!!!

    Like

    • I’m not sure why a recall hasn’t been issued but, I agree that this situation is danagerous. I would recommend that you notify your auto insurance carrier and advise them of the situation. They will likely want to subrogate against GM. If you or they have any other questions, please feel free to email me. I will be happy to help if I can.

      Like

  2. Jessica says:

    This happened to me exactly as you described above in our 2000 Chevy Impala. Luckily, I was able to get my two children (ages 3 and 5) out of their car seats and out of the car before the fire spread. Why hasn’t something been done about this? Is there a class action law suit?

    Like

    • Jessica,

      So far, I haven’t heard about any class action lawsuits. I’m glad that you were able to save your children. I would advise you to report the incident to both GM and NHTSA. There’s not much you can do except to report the incident to your insurance carrier assuming you have comprehensive coverage. Your carrier might be interested in subrogating against GM for a defective product.

      Like

  3. Anonymous says:

    12.12.2014 Almost got my head blown off. Was jumping off the car (2000 Chev. Impala) when it exploded. I am very lucky. Also, I was very fortunate to have a fire extinguisher in the garage to put the fire out. No more American made cars for me. Have had a 2011 Mustang in the shop now for over 9 months – under warranty. Waiting on parts from China. Yes Ford now has a lot of plants in China that is providing & making parts for their cars. The parts have come in twice but have been too bad to use.

    Like

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is exactly what happened to me tonight! It had been sitting outside in the cold and snow. Brought it in the garage for a few hours to melt the snow and went to start it and a loud explosion – back fire? The engine started with a small flame and grew pretty big quickly. Called 911 and a slew of fire trucks came as we have an attached garage (below the house). Minor smoke damage to the house. We have only liability on our 2001 impala. What do you think our best bet is? From what you posted before the insurance may not care since we only have liability. Any advice is appreciated.

    Like

    • If your state allows drivers to carry liability insurance as a minimum, then you are correct. Your carrier will not do anything for you because you don’t have comprehensive coverage which would cover fire. You might want to run this by an attorney. If there is enough damage, a claim might worth pursuing. Good luck.

      Like

    • Tony says:

      Car insurance covers cars
      Home owners insurance covers the house

      The home owners insurance will cover the smoke damage to the house. But the car insurance will not be covered for the car because you didn’t have comp and collision.

      Like

  5. Amt says:

    I too just had this happen to my 2000 Impala. It was sitting for a few days in the cold. We went to start the car and thought the battery was dead. We opened the hood to charge the battery and went to start the car again. This time we heard an explosion and parts everywhere. The intake manifold exploded. Thank god no one was hurt because my friends boyfriend was outside by the engine. There was a recall on the 2000 Impala in 2004 for the fuel pressure regulator which mine was replaced. I will be going to my insurance company tomorrow but nothing started on fire so I don’t know if they will do anything.

    Like

  6. mf says:

    We are the owners of a 3.8L 98′ oldsmobile intrigue. It is about 50 degrees out today and the intake still blew up when we first tried starting the car. When we lifted the hood the cover and intake were nothing but shrapnel.( from fist size to dust.) Luckily there was no fire. We had never even seen or heard of this happening, and my husbands a mechanic and i follow car news constantly.

    Like

    • Dear Mrs. Fisher,
      I am not surprised that neither you or your husband had ever heard of this problem. I had never heard of it either until I came across it in a claims investigation. Be sure to take plenty of pictures and make note of everything that happened just prior to, during and immediately after the incident. Your insurance carrier might decide to subrogate against Chevrolet provided that there is no time limit in your state.

      Like

  7. John Nichols says:

    Have an 01 impala. It wasnt cold out, (bout 60 degrees). Had the hood up and went to crank it up it exploded. Blew the cover and the back half of the plastic intake and the oil cap off the motor. It wasn’t a little pop like what has been described, it was a like a Howitzer going off throwing parts everywhere. The scariest part was the wife and grand baby was right there 3 feet away and to the side when it went off.

    Like

  8. Anonymous says:

    Just happened to me the today… 30ish degrees..Wife’s car sat for 2 weeks. Battery was dead ,so I tried to jump start it..(There was no starting fluid used.).. Hit the key ,crank slow, hit the key again, And boooom,, intake blown to pieces, small fire, ran inside and got a fire extinguisher.. Called local GM dealer, said only recall was for leaking valve cover gaskets… What the heck happened?? Looks like I install a new intake….

    Like

    • Unfortunately, GM will not take responsibility for a problem that they have known about for several years. Of course, they are betting that you won’t try to do anything about it. The reason being your car is old enough to be worth very little. As a result, there would be little to be gained in a lawsuit and more to be lost if the suit is carried out for a long period of time. As you stated, you can install a new intake manifold and a new fuel pressure regulator. Remember, the problem originates in the fuel pressure regulator, so replace it! Personally, I buy another vehicle.

      Like

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just happened to me the today… 30ish degrees..2000 impala ..Wife’s car sat for 2 weeks. Battery was dead ,so I tried to jump start it..(There was no starting fluid used.).. Hit the key ,crank slow, hit the key again, And boooom,, intake blown to pieces, small fire, ran inside and got a fire extinguisher.. Called local GM dealer, said only recall was for leaking valve cover gaskets… What the heck happened?? Looks like I install a new intake….

    Like

  10. Pingback: Homepage

  11. Erik Tranum says:

    This happened to me today. Car was sitting for a few weeks. Didn’t start. Jumped it. Intake manifold blew to pieces and the oil cap blew off. Smoked for a couple seconds. Game over.

    Like

  12. gbogan says:

    Body Control Module went out (again) on my 2001 Impala 3.8L. Changed the box and had car towed to dealer for reprogramming. $100 quote for the programming. About 5 hours later I get a call telling me that the upper intake manifold exploded and blew across the car lot. Now they want an additional $1100. Full coverage insurance so will see if the insurance company is going to cover any of this. I find that there are more problems with the Impala, recalls, defective engineering of components, etc., that if I didn’t really like my old Impala I would get something else.

    Like

  13. Anonymous says:

    mine just blowup unreal !! It was so loud smokey and a big fire my wife came out of the house with fire extinguisher. By the time I got over the KA BOOM !!!! The towel I tried to smoother the fire with caught fire, after the extinguisher smoke cleared the damage is see-able. Maybe the car is old 2001, but how new must a car be to be a good reliable form of transportation? To drive 25 miles a day on smooth hwy’s. Had to believe Chevrolet does nothing.

    Like

  14. Dan Rosnett says:

    This exact same thing happened to our 2001 Impala last Monday. Same sequence of events. Scary! Obviously there is a problem with these cars. Too bad GM will not take responsibility.

    Like

    • Dan Rosnett says:

      As a follow-up, we reported this explosion to GM and to NHTSA, as recommended above. GM had me send pictures and then paid to have it towed to a local dealership where it was inspected. (It is important that the car is not messed with prior to this.) They determined it was a defect and offered us $1300 for the car. Since we still had comprehensive insurance on it, the insurance company paid us $2200 and we retained the car. We ended up scrapping it for $250. Be sure to follow up with GM if this happens to you.

      Like

      • Mr. Rosnett,

        Thank you for your comments. Perhaps your experience will have a positive outcome for others. Would you mind providing the contact information for the person you dealt with at GM?

        Thank you again.

        R.j.

        Like

        • Dan Rosnett says:

          I would be happy to share the contact info for others to use. I first went to GM.com and click on “contact us” link. An email box popped up so I explained what had happened to our car and then sent the email request. A few days later, Dale Kohler, a Product Assistance Claims Specialist, answered me back. He was very helpful and really stayed on the case until we were satisfied. I was very pleased with the response we got from GM. dale.kohler@gm.com Phone 866-446-6963. Ext. 5913673

          Like

  15. md says:

    My 01 Impala manifold exploded today. Same thing described in the several posts above- about 40 degrees out took some pics but really not sure what to do next… Had to get a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire.

    Like

    • Here are a few thoughts: if you had your car insured for fire, you need to report it. But, since the vehicle is an 01 model, it probably isn’t worth very much. In fact, it might be more expensive to repair than to total. If the vehicle wasn’t insured for comprehensive coverage, you might want to consider selling for parts or selling to a junk yard. If you are lucky and can find replacement parts at a fair price, you might try to repair the vehicle yourself. You don’t have many options and there is no guarantee that once repaired, it won’t happen again. Good luck.

      R.j.

      Like

  16. Caroline Nichols says:

    Happened to our 2001 Pontiac Bonneville also on Sunday, November 13, 2016. It was sitting over the weekend and my husband attempted to start it. There was a very loud boom, and naturally it didn’t start. He lifted the hood and it smelled hot like an explosion, but thankfully there was no fire. The manifold had a hole blown in it and the oil cap was blown off, It has been sitting in our driveway while we decided what to do. State Farm says comprehensive will not cover it unless we can show that it was defective. GM has shown little interest. We had it towed to a repair shop today, but are still unsure about whether we should invest in repairs or sell it for salvage and purchase something else. Any advice?

    Like

    • Dear Ms. Nichols,

      Although your event occurred over one month ago, your post got my attention because of the way your insurance carrier has treated you. If you have comprehensive coverage, State Farm should have covered you for the explosive event regardless of defect. Carriers typically don’t have any problem covering losses if they can recover for a defective product. But, when a covered loss occurs and subrogation is not possible, carriers are obligated to pay their insured clients. Based on your description of the situation, it sounds as if you might have a claim for “bad faith” against the carrier. “Bad faith” is not just a catch all phrase, but a recognized description of how parties to a claim can describe bad behavior. I would recommend that you contact the department in your state that governs the conduct of insurance carriers and file a complaint describing the way your claim has been handled. Your insurance agent should be able to help you, particularly since that person is supposed to be working for you. As far as the car is concerned, GM has known about the problem for quite some time, since the late 90s. Late 90s model Bonnevilles were recalled and later models were supposed to have been “monitored”. But, the problem still exists and NHTSA hasn’t made GM take responsibility for it’s products. Please note that since the car is over 10 years old, it might be worth more to salvage than to repair.

      Like

      • Caroline Nichols says:

        Update: We decided to risk it and had the Bonneville repaired, as it’s probably worth more to us than anyone else. The fuel pressure regulator, MAP sensor, intake manifold, and the oil cap were all replaced. We saved all damaged/defective parts, followed up with State Farm again, and submitted all of our documentation. They covered everything except the fuel pressure regulator! 😊

        Like

        • Anonymous says:

          Dear Ms. Nichols,

          Congratulations on getting your carrier to cover most of the repair. And thanks for posting as your comments serve to illustrate that it is possible to recover some of the costs as opposed to recovering nothing and having to bear the entire cost of repair.

          Like

        • Art Kane says:

          Caroline,

          What exactly did you do to have the fuel pressure regulator proven to be the cause of the problem? I know someone in the exact same position, and I am trying to help them out. Do you know if the FPR was damaged in the fire, or was it still intact. We are not sure how to prove that it was the cause, although from everything we have read it seems like the most likely culprit. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

          Like

  17. Frank Ortiz Jr says:

    This happened today with my now destroyed 2001 chevy impala ls. I had not used my car since Friday 12/30/2016 when I arrived home from work that day at 6pm. Today around 4pm I went to my car as I was on my way to retrieve my laundry from a local laundromat. I unlocked my car , sat in my seat for a few seconds thinking “I’m going to clean my car today afterwards” and proceeded to put my key into the ignition. Seconds after turning the ignition I heard a loud BOOM underneath my hood and smoke began to seep out. I thought to myself aw man its probably the transmission but a nearby neighbor yelled “THERE’S FIRE UNDER YOUR CAR!” I then took out my keys from the ignition and ran out for safety. 911 was called and they put out the fire before my car could explode as the flames were extremely high. Who can I talk to in regards to seeing if my vehicle was one accounted for under the recall list of 2001? Would kindly like a response as soon as possible thank you.

    Like

    • Dear Mr. Ortiz,

      Your situation describes exactly what has been going on with early 2000s Chevy Impalas. These vehicles were supposed to have been watched but, GM did not do anything about the problem and NHTSA did not force a recall. So, you’re stuck with a dangerous vehicle. The only things you can do are file a complaint with NHTSA ( http://www.nhtsa.gov ) and file a claim with your insurance company (hopefully you have comprehensive coverage). If you are covered, your carrier will most likely total your car and sell it for salvage. The car is old enough that it isn’t worth much and the repairs will likely exceed the salvage value. With regard to an insurance claim, in a recent post, another person said that their carrier would not cover the damage unless the car was proven to be defective. That is HOGWASH! If you are covered for fire, the carrier has a responsibility to pay for the damage regardless of the subrogation potential. If your carrier refuses, file a complaint with your state against the carrier for “Bad Faith”. Bad faith is a recognized description of unfair treatment by insurance carriers of their insured customers.

      If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Good luck.

      Like

  18. Anonymous says:

    same here 2001 monte carlo ss sat for 2 days and boom just had it painted too what the fire didnt ruin the fire department did only have pip and liabilty on it and its junk

    Like

  19. gerald says:

    this am cranked my buick reagal 2001 and boom, fire and smoke. Had to rush in house and thank God my fire extinguisher in kitchen worked to put it out. I only have liability insurance. Now I guess im out of luck on getting it fixed. Its the only car I had.

    Like

  20. David O'connor jr says:

    Just recently I tried stsrting my 2000 monte carlo ss and heard a sound that sounded like a M80 firework going off and smoke stsrted pour from under the hood. After opening rhe hood I found a small fire which I had to extinguish. Does anyone know of s recall on this?

    Like

    • Mr. O’Connor,

      Thank you for your comment. In answer to your question, GM never recalled any of it’s vehicles for this particular problem. If you review some of the comments made by others on my blog, you will see that they have had some fairly frustrating experiences. Although one commenter had some good luck (see comment made by Dan Rosnett).

      Like

      • David O'connor jr says:

        After doing alittle more research I found that recall # 04v090000 which is a faulty fuel pressure regulator, which if not done can cause fuel to leak into the intake manifold and sit so when the vehicle is started can backfire cauaing an explosion. The car was my fathers and he nevwr received notification about the recall so im not even sure Chevrolet will do anything for me.

        Like

  21. Cecil says:

    Just happen to me. Today went to start hear a pop car was on fire. Neighbor help put out fire.l will called gm. This could kill someone one day. Thank god was not injured.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: