Flushmate Does it Again

ABC News and the Consumer Safety Products Commission have reported that Flushmate has recalled 2.3 million pressurized toilet tanks due to their explosive nature.  Back in August of 2011 we blogged about this problem and included some photographs showing how dangerous these products can be.  If you look at these photographs, you have to wonder how anyone could survive this kind of explosive force.  Imagine being hit in the back with a porcelain chard. Imagine being paralyzed because your spinal cord was severed or having a brain injury because your skull was sliced open by something that is knife sharp and flying like a bullet.  To date, 304 reports of bursting and 14 reports of impact or laceration have been received.  The recall that was reported involved the Flushmate II and Flushmate III products, series 503, manufactured between October of 1997 and February of 2008.  These are the same products that were recalled in the late 90s for the same problem!  The units were sold at Home Depot and Lowes Home Improvement stores. The original recall stated that the company would provide a free replacement.  The current recall does not state what the company intends to do.  However, it is recommended that consumers not accept a replacement Flushmate product.  Instead, request that the company replace the damaged porcelain tank along with its product with a new porcelain tank and conventional fill valve and stopper. For additional information, consumers can contact Flushmate by calling 1-800-303-5123 or visit their website at http://flushmate.com/recall/.

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Electric Power Steering

In a previous blog article, I discussed how complicated products were becoming as a result of the rapidly changing technology industry.  In another example of complex technology, electric power steering is replacing hydraulic power steering.  For the most part, this isn’t news.  Two years ago however, GM began recalling 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt vehicles because the power steering motor would fail.  Keep in mind that in a hydraulic system, pressurized fluid would assist the driver in turning the front wheels either left or right.  In an electric system, the power steering motor does this job.  But, when it fails, power steering disappears.  When power steering disappears, more effort is required from the driver in order to maintain control of the vehicle.  If the driver is unprepared for the additional strength required, then the risk of a crash increases. This is also true for a hydraulic system.  It is understood that the power steering motor depends upon input from sensor(s) in order to determine the steering wheel’s position and whether to move the front wheels right or left.  GM has stated in their recall that the power assist will return the next time that the vehicle is restarted.  This statement implies that somehow, something in the motor has a tendency to fix itself and return to normal until the next time the “something” decides to cause the motor to fail.  It should be noted that although not proven, the power steering motor might have a tendency to alternately stop operating and then start again causing the steering wheel to oscillate back and forth. Doing so, will likely cause the vehicle to move sideways, back and forth.  We are investigating a situation with just this type of movement.  Just one more thing for the driving public to have to worry about. If you have experienced a power steering problem you are urged to have it checked.  The recall for this vehicle can be seen on the NHTSA website or on the GM website.

Flushmate “Exploding” Toilets

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone who had experienced firsthand what happens when one of these products fails.  In the late 1990’s the Sloan Valve Companny recalled their Flushmate II and III products because they could develop a leak .  According to the recall information, the leak occurred in a joint connecting the upper and lower halves.  The recall went on to say that the separation of the halves was accompanied by a rapid release of the pressurized water.  It should be noted that the water in the Flushmate was pressurized by whatever the prevailing local pressure is.  In conventional toilets, the water in the tank is not under any pressure.  When the Flushmate tank cracked, the pressurized water had a tendency to fracture a porcelain toilet tank into several pieces.  Needless to  say, anyone in the vicinity of one of these bombs, has the potential for being seriously hurt if not killed.  These products are still out there and the public should know that.  Sloan’s product advisory is still on the web and can be found at http://www.flushmate.com/ProductAdvisory/productadvisory.asp?id=2  The photographs below show a cracked Flushmate and what remains after a the tank exploded.

Cracked Flushhmate tank

 

Remains of toilet tank

Examination of 2005 Gulfstream RV

Earlier this year, a preliminary examination of a 2005 Gulfstreram RV was conducted. It was determined that the engine in this vehicle was subject to recall due to a defective fuel damper retainer clip (GM recall # 06080A). Because of the potential for subrogation against the parties that were involved in the manufacture of the vehicle, each party was notified and invited to attend a joint examination of the vehicle. The examination took place on July 27, 2010 at a local dealership. The examination of  the vehicle was conducted in strict accordance with accepted practicies regarding disassembly of the vehicle. That is, nothing was removed until all parties had arrived and were available to view to the process together. In other words, everyone saw everything at the same time. More specifically, when the fuel damper retainer clip was uncovered, everyone was able to see and document the condition of the clip. The retainer clip was found to have been broken and as the recall stated, most likely allowed fuel leakage to occur. For those unfamilar with the subrogation process and generally speaking, the representatives attending the exam will  prepare their reports (if necessary).  At some point in the near future, the major parties will come together and try to work out an acceptable settlement. If there is no agreement, then the case will have to be settled in court.

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