Sometimes Things Just Happen…

Sometimes, when you take your vehicle in for service things happen that you don’t expect but, can result in serious damage.  The following are two examples of recent investigations where serious problems were caused.  The first claim involved a 2016 Toyota Tacoma that was taken to a Toyota dealership for an oil change.  Upon completion of the work, the vehicle was returned to its owner.  After arriving back at home, the owner noticed that his vehicle was leaking oil.  The owner promptly returned to the dealership.  However, unbeknownst to him, the oil drain plug fell out of the oil pan.  As a result, the engine was damaged to the extent that metal flakes were found in the oil drain pan indicating the need for an engine replacement.  Although the dealership denied any wrongdoing, a trail of oil was found and could be followed from the owner’s home to the dealership.  The photos below show the metal flakes found in the oil pan and the oil trail leading back to the dealership. 

Metal flakes found in oil pan indicating damage to engine
Oil trail leading from owner’s home to dealership

In this next claim, a lady was involved in a five vehicle accident when she couldn’t stop her 2011 Ford Escape and rear-ended a vehicle.  That impact started a chain reaction that involved four other vehicles.  Upon investigating it was learned that the vehicle’s front brakes had been replaced approximately two weeks before the accident.  It was also learned that the work had been done by a nationally recognized tire and auto service center.  The vehicle was later returned to the service center in order to perform an examination of the brakes and the work that had been done in the presence of service center personnel.  Upon removing both front wheels and inspecting the brake pads, it was noted that the pads on the interior sides of the rotors on both sides were missing.  It was clear that for whatever reason, the technician doing the work had only installed one brake pad on each wheel!  The photos below show the condition of the brakes on each wheel with one missing pad.

Missing brake pad on driver’s side front wheel
Missing brake pad on passenger’s side front wheel
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GM Recalls 3.4 Million Vehicles for Brake Problem

General Motors has announced that it has recalled approximately 3.4 million SUVs and trucks for a brake problem that can result in a crash.  The problem has been identified as a faulty mechanical vacuum pump.  The vacuum pump provides the vacuum assist for power braking.  As time passes, the pump’s ability to provide a vacuum, decreases.  As a result, braking becomes harder and stopping distances become longer.  Although brakes do not stop working, drivers must constantly be aware of the decreasing braking capability of their vehicle.  The vehicles that are involved in this recall are:

2014 – 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pick up trucks  

2014 ­- 2018 GMC Sierra pick up trucks

2015 – 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs

2015 – 2018 GMC Yukon SUVs

2015 – 2018 Chevrolet Suburban SUVs  

2015 – 2018 Cadillac Escalade SUVs

Owners should take their vehicles to their dealer for a free software update.  For additional information, owners can contact GM by calling 1-800-630-2438 for Chevrolet, 1-800-458-8006 for Cadillac, and 1-800-462-8782 for GMC.  The GM recall identification number is N192268490.  The NHTSA campaign number is 19V645.

Weather Related Damage

At this time of year when storms are prevalent, especially in the southeast, often times it seems as if lightning damage occurs automatically.  The loss of an air conditioning system, computer server or telephone service can be attributed to lighting or a power surge.  In point of fact, the damage may or may not be weather related.  In order to determine if the damage is weather related, one of the tools used by both forensic consultants and claims adjusters is a lightning strike report.  These reports are sold by companies that specialize in reporting weather related data.  Home and business owners should take note of the fact that if they feel that their claim is lightning related, it would behoove them to obtain a lightning strike report before reporting their claim.  That way when the adjuster or expert arrives to assess the damage, the owner’s report can be reviewed and used as evidence to corroborate the owner’s claim.  Currently, the attitude is if lightning strikes within five miles of the damage location, then the damage can be attributed to the lightning strike.  However, this is not a hard and fast rule.  Once lightning hits the ground, it can go anywhere.  Tracing the path is often difficult if not impossible.  As a result, if the claim cannot be disproven, the benefit of the doubt has to be given to the insured. The same arguments can be made when roof damage occurs and hail is the suspected cause.  Home and business owners can also get reports on wind velocities, rain fall and temperature changes.  The reports can be very useful in times when tornados, flooding and freezing occur.  It should also be noted that these reports can be used to disprove an insureds claim.   

Boiler Refresher

R.J. Hill just completed a boiler refresher webinar class presented by Clever Brooks .  The presentation was focused on maintenance, while discussing specific tasks that should be done on  daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly time intervals.  Interest in this type of presentation is not for the sake of performing maintenance as much it is on what has to be done to prevent catastrophic failures.  For example maintaining a daily log of recorded temperatures, pressures, and flows is can be indicative of the boiler’s operating condition.  On the other hand, removal of the tube bundle each year and inspecting the tubes, helps determine when tubes and seals have to be replaced.  A boiler that is not properly maintained can become a potentially huge liability for the insurance carrier as well as the owner.  Catastrophic boiler failures can result in expenditures reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions.    

Why Does the Inside of Cars Get so Hot?

We’ve all heard the warnings: don’t leave your children or pets in your car (or truck) during this time of year.  The temperatures inside the passenger compartment can reach over 100 degrees easily and quickly causing heat stroke and death.  This sounds like common sense but, every year, during the summer, reports of a death of a child or animal left in a hot car, are not uncommon.  The reason that passenger compartments get so hot is because of the way heat is transferred into and out of the compartment.  First, in order for heat to flow, there has to be a temperature difference.  As long as the inside is cooler than the outside ambient temperature, heat will flow from outside to inside.  More specifically, heat transfer will occur by convection from the ambient air to the outer surfaces of the passenger compartment, including glass.  Heat will then be transferred by conduction through the roof, insulation and headliner.  Heat transfer by conduction will also occur through windows.  There is also a radiation component that serves to heat the interior.  The sun’s rays will heat the solid parts of the interior such as dashboards and steering wheels.  The heat absorbed by these objects is then radiated to the air inside the passenger compartment.  The real clincher to this process is that the heat entering the vehicle enters at a rate faster than it is dissipated.  As a result, the temperature inside the passenger compartment can only increase.  It is not until the rate of heat transfer entering the vehicle is reduced below the rate of heat transfer out of the vehicle that the temperature in the passenger compartment is reduced.  This point usually starts to occur at dusk. 

Remember, we still have approximately one and a half months of summer left.  Please be mindful of your young passengers and pets and don’t leave them locked in a death trap!

The photos below illustrate how hot a passenger compartment can get. The photographs were taken inside a Chevrolet extended cab pick up truck.

Temperature in cab after 7 minutes with windshield shaded
Temperature after 30 minutes, windshield uncovered

Temperature after 1 hour
Temperature after 2 hours

Mazda Recalls SUVs for Engine Stalling

Mazda Motor Company has announced that it is recalling 262,000 sport utility vehicles as a result of a problem that causes the engine to stall.  The vehicles that are involved in the recall are 2018 – 2019 Mazda 6 midsize sedans and CX-5 SUVs; and 2019 Mazda 3.  The problem has been identified as a software error. Dealers will reprogram the computers at no cost to the affected owners.  The recall is expected to begin on August 26.  For additional information, consumers can contact Mazda by calling 1-800-222-5500 or visiting their website at https://www.mazdausa.com.  The website will refer owners to their recall site which will prompt owners for their vehicle identification number (VIN).  The VIN will let owners know if their vehicle is part of the recall.

Condenser Water Piping Seminar

Two of the insurance industry’s biggest risk groups are builder’s risk and professional liability for architects and engineers.  Both of these groups are involved in the design and installation of HVAC as well as process cooling equipment.  We recently attended a seminar on the design and installation of condenser water piping.  The condensers that are referred to are large pieces of equipment that are used in conjunction with cooling towers and large tonnage refrigeration machines.  A number of problems can arise if the piping is not considered correctly.  For example, the life of a water circulating pump can be reduced dramatically if the friction loss through the piping exceeds the capability of the pump.  In addition, it is possible to introduce air into the suction line of the pump if the tower bypass is not done properly.  The net result will be flow instability.  Freeze protection can be another problem if not considered carefully.  In some applications, water is drained from the tower when subfreezing temperatures are expected.  But, if for some reason, water stays in a part of the piping and then freezes, the result will be a burst water pipe.  If the failure is not detected prior to start-up, then a large amount of water will escape from the system and clean-up can be become very costly, in addition to the piping repair.  These are the kinds of problems for which claims are filed and lawsuits can result. 

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