Not the Way to Mount Running Boards to your Truck!

Running Boards are very popular and offer to convenient way to enter and leave a truck for those who have a hard time getting in and out.  Running boards come in various styles and are usually equipped with brackets that are intended to be bolted to the truck underbody.  However, when the underbody is corroded or the condition of the metal that will hold the running board is questionable, then caution should be exercised in deciding whether and how to mount the boards.  When bolts can’t be used, welding the bracket to the underbody can be an alternative.  In doing so, care must be taken not to set the vehicle on fire!  Carpeting is usually present at the edge of the floorboard adjacent to the doors.  When welding the brackets, the heat from the weld is conducted through the metal to the carpet (and wiring if present) creating a perfect condition for a vehicle fire.  The photographs shown below illustrate how a fire originated in a 1997 Ford F 250 when one of the passenger side running board brackets was welded to the underbody.  Precautions must be taken before welding to prevent damage to the vehicle.  If bolts cannot be used because of questionable metal strength, then welding is probably not a good idea either.    

Fire origin at floorboard and damage to passenger door
View of underbody beneath area of fire origin, note bracket weld location

Ford Recalls Vehicles for Latch and Brake Issues

The Ford Motor Company has issued a recall for approximately 2.1 million vehicles with a door latch issue.  The latch issue was previously addressed under recall numbers 15S16 and 16S30.  While some of the door latches might have been replaced under one of the two recalls, not all of the latches were replaced or replaced correctly.  As a result, some of the latch pawl spring tabs are still cracking or failing under high thermal loads (combination of air temperature and solar radiation). Owners will be given the opportunity to have a dealer inspect the latch or verify the latch code themselves and validate the repair online.  The following vehicles are affected:

2011 – 2014 Ford Fiesta built at Cuautitlan plant between Jan 26, 2010 and Oct 31, 2013

2012 – 2015 Ford Focus built at Michigan plant between Oct 4, 2010 and Jan 31, 2015

2013 – 2014 Ford Fusion built at Hermosillo plant between May 11, 2012 and Oct 31, 2013

2013 – 2014 Ford Lincoln MKZ built at Hermosillo plant, between July 19, 2012 and Oct 31, 2013

2013 – 2015 Ford Escape built at Louisville plant between Dec 23, 2011 and Jan 31, 2015

2013 – 2015 Ford C-Max built at Michigan plant between Feb 2, 2012 and Jan 31, 2015

2014 Ford Fusion built at the Flat Rock assembly plant between June 18, 2013 and Oct 31, 2013

2014 – 2016 Ford Transit Connect built at Valencia Plant between August 9, 2013 and Feb 1, 2016 

2015 Ford Mustang built at Flat Rock plant between Feb 14, 2014 and April 30, 2015

2015 Lincoln MKC built at Louisville plant between Nov 18, 2013 and Jan 31, 2015

For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-800-392-3673 or visit www.corporate.ford.com. Reference recall number 20S30.

Ford has also issued a recall for 2014 – 2017 Ford F 150 vehicles equipped with the 3.5 liter Ecoboost engine, due to a problem with the master cylinder.  The master cylinder will leak brake fluid through the front wheel circuit into the brake booster.  The driver can experience a change in the feel in braking as well as a loss of braking effort in the front wheels.  The rear wheel brakes are unaffected.  The loss of braking power increases the risk of a crash.  292,311 vehicles are affected in the United States.  The affected vehicles have been identified as follows:

2015 – 2017 Ford F 150 built at the Dearborn plant between Oct 1, 2014 and Aug 1, 2016

2014 – 2017 Ford F 150 built at the Kansas City plant between Sept 1, 2014 and Aug 1, 2016

Dealers will replace the master cylinder and if necessary, replace the brake booster.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford at the telephone number or website address given above and reference recall number 20S31.

Nissan Recalls Altimas for Second Time

Nissan USA has issued a recall for their 2013 – 2018 Altima sedans for a problem with the hood latch.  Corrosion has been found to attack the primary hood latch and when it fails, it can prevent the secondary hood latch from engaging.  Failure to engage the latch can result in the hood flying open while the vehicle is moving, obstructing the driver’s view and resulting in a crash.  Driver’s can determine if the hood is about to open by watching whether it is fluttering or making noise as the vehicle is moving.  This recall is an extension of the original recall which was applied to 2013 – 2015 year models.  The current recall has included 2016 – 2018 Altimas.  All together the recall affects approximately 1.8 million vehicles.  It should be noted that if a vehicle has been previously repaired, it will have to be repaired again.  Nissan expects to begin notifying owners on August 1st.  For additional information owners can contact Nissan by calling 1-800-647-7261.  Owners can also contact their dealer for recall assistance.

Hyundai Recalls Sonata and Santa FE Sport Vehicles for Fuel Leaks

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 2013-2014 Hyundai Sonata vehicles due to a fuel leak that can occur in a low pressure fuel hose.  The hose in question connects the low pressure fuel pump to the direct injection fuel pump.  As a result of engine heat, the hose can crack over time resulting in fuel leakage that can become a fire hazard.  The recall affects approximately 206,896 vehicles.  Dealers will inspect the hose and replace it as necessary.  If no damage or leakage is found, dealers will wrap the hose in heat protective tape.  Repairs will be performed at no cost to the owner.  For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai customer service by calling 1-855-371-9460 and referencing recall number 189.  The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 20V121000.

Hyundai Motor America is also recalling 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata as well as 2013-2014 Santa Fe Sport Vehicles.  These vehicles were previously repaired under recall numbers 15V-568 and 17V-226 and affect approximately 150,730 vehicles.  During the repairs to these vehicles, the high pressure fuel pipe that attaches to the outlet of the fuel pump could have been improperly installed.  That is, the pipe could have been damaged, misaligned, or improperly torqued, resulting in fuel leakage from the pipe.  This is an outstanding recall that was begun March 1, 2019.  For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai customer service by calling 1-855-371-9460 and referencing recall number 180.  The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 18V934000.  

Coronavirus Protections

            While the world in general, and our country in particular, is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, the world of insurance claims investigations is also trying to keep working.  R.J. Hill Consulting is following the recommended social distancing guideline of maintaining at least six feet from another person.  If appropriate, statements can be obtained by phone thereby preventing unnecessary personal contact.  N95 masks are also worn when contact with another person might occur.  Lastly, while latex gloves are not worn in every instance, gloves are available and will be worn as a precautionary measure in certain cases.        

What a Way to Blow up a Blower!

Most residential and commercial HVAC equipment use centrifugal blowers to move air through duct systems.  The rate at which blower wheels turn is usually between 1000 and 1500 rev/min, depending on the application.  The point to be made is that blower wheels turn at a fairly slow speed.  Blower wheels that are attached directly to the motors that drive them turn at the rotational speed of the motor.  But, when the blower wheel is belt driven, the speed of the blower can vary depending on the size of the pulley attached to the shaft that drives the blower wheel.  If the size of the pulley attached to the blower shaft is twice as large as the pulley attached to the motor, the speed of the blower will be half of the speed of the motor.  If however, the blower pulley is the same size as the motor pulley, the blower will turn at approximately the same speed as the motor.  If the blower wheel is not designed for such speed, the centrifugal forces created by the rotational motion will cause the blower wheel to fail in a spectacular way.  The photos attached below illustrate the results.   

Blower louvers peeled away from blower ring
Blower louvers peeled away from blower ring
View of damage to blower louvers

Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator Vehicles Recalled

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced that it has recalled 2018 – 2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator vehicles equipped with manual transmissions.  These vehicles contain a clutch plate within the transmission that can overheat and fracture, posing a fire hazard.  If the fractured pieces crack the transmission casing and come in contact with combustible material, a fire can result.  Approximately 33,237 vehicles are involved in this recall.  Owners should be aware of signs indicating a problem: the sudden loss of power, burned clutch smell, and extra pedal travel when shifting gears.  At present, Fiat Chrysler is working on a repair but expects to begin recalling vehicles on April 22nd of this year.  Owners of affected vehicles will receive notices of the recall by mail.  For additional information, owners can contact Chrysler customer service by calling 1-800-853-1403 and referencing Chrysler recall # W12. 

Hyundai Recalls Elantra and Elantra Touring Vehicles

Hyundai Motor America has announced that it is recalling 429, 686 Elantra vehicles for a problem with the ABS (antilock braking system) module that can cause an engine fire.  The vehicles involved in this recall are: 2006 through 2011 Hyundai Elantra manufactured between August 26, 2005 and November 23, 2010; and 2007 through 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring vehicles manufactured between June 21, 2007 and December 6, 2010.  It should be noted that the recalled vehicles are no longer in production.  The problem with the ABS module is that moisture can enter the module and cause the circuit board to short circuit.  The short circuit CAN occur even if the vehicle is turned off.  Hyundai Motor America plans to notify owners and request that they return their vehicles to their dealers for repair.  The repair will consist of the installation of a relay in the main junction box.  The intent is to deenergize the ABS module when the vehicle is turned off.  This repair will be performed at no cost to the vehicle owner – Hyundai plans to reimburse owners for out-of-pocket expenses.  It is recommended that owners communicate with their dealers and make sure they understand what allowable charges are and what will be reimbursed.  Notification of owners and dealers will begin in April 2020.  For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai by calling 800-633-5151 and referencing manufacturer recall number 188. 

Toyota Recalls Vehicles for Electronic Defect

NBC News is reporting that Toyota is recalling 3.4 million vehicles worldwide for an electronic defect that results in the failure of air bags to deploy.  2.9 million of the recalled vehicles have been identified as sold in the United States.  The recall applies to 2011 – 2019 Corolla, 2011 – 2013 Matrix, 2012 – 2018 Avalon, and 2013 – 2018 Avalon Hybrid.  The problem with the electronic circuit is that it is not adequately protected against electrical noise.  Electrical noise can occur during a crash and can result in incomplete or non-deployment of the air bags.  NBC is also reporting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expanded a probe last April which included approximately 12 million vehicles for this air bag problem.  That probe also included the vehicles that Toyota is recalling.  In addition, the probe involved vehicles manufactured between 2010 and 2019 and sold by Fiat, Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, as well as Toyota.  Owners of any of these vehicles should check with their local dealers to see if their vehicle has been recalled for this particular problem.  Toyota owners can also visit Toyota’s website at www.toyota.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Safety Recalls”, then enter their vehicle identification number to determine if their has been recalled.

Toyota Recalls Vehicles for Faulty Fuel Pumps

Several news outlets including ABC News and CBS News are reporting that Toyota is recalling nearly 700,000 vehicles for a faulty fuel pump.  The fuel pumps can stop pumping fuel without warning and cause the vehicle’s engine to stop.  A sudden loss of engine power can result in loss of control and increases the risk of a crash.  The following vehicles are affected:  2018 and 2019 Lexus LS 500, LC 500, RC 350, RC 300, GS 350, IS 300, ES 350, LX 570, GX 460, and RX 350 models; and 2019 Lexus NX 300, RX 350L, and GS 300.  In addition, 2018 and 2019 Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, and Tundra vehicles are recalled.  Furthermore, 2019 Avalon and Corolla are also included in this recall.  Other than the Lexus models, only certain models of the other vehicles are affected.  For additional information, owners should go to Toyota’s website, www.toyota.com,  and enter their vehicle identification numbers in the recall page to see if their vehicles are part of the recall.  Support is also available by calling 1-800-331-4331.

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