Every year, thousands of car-owners experience minor car troubles that require them to return their vehicles to the dealership or a local mechanic for repair. Additionally, thousands of motorists are forced to take their cars into dealerships after car companies issue recalls due to safety concerns or flaws in the vehicle’s design. Here are some of the most infamous vehicle recalls in recent history.
Mazda recalled nearly 100,000 Mazda6 sedans for four years (2010-2014) because of a fire risk related to spider infestations. Yes, spiders. Apparently, the yellow sac spider is attracted to the hydrocarbons found in gasoline and can find their way into a fuel tank. If the spiders build webs in the fuel tank, the webs could obstruct airflow resulting in a cracked fuel tank, or, worst-case-scenario, a fire. To fix the issue, Mazda designed a spring that made it hard for the spiders to get into the fuel tank. However, this method is not fool-proof. Sometimes, the spiders still find a way into the tank. Mazda also designed software that alleviates pressure in the fuel tank to prevent cracking and any possible fires, which was installed during the recall.
In the early to mid-90s, millions of Honda vehicles were recalled due to defective seatbelts. This Honda recall was the most massive recall at the time, with over 3.7 million cars affected. The seatbelts installed into vehicles made by 11 Japanese and American automotive companies had faulty release buttons. Over time, the plastic would degrade and crack, making it impossible to take the seatbelt off. There were no reported deaths due to this malfunction, but the companies received numerous consumer complaints.
In 2011, General Motors recalled 4,296 Chevrolet Sonic vehicles due to an issue with the brake pads: they were missing. During assembly, the brake pads fell off of a subassembly and remained unnoticed at the bottom of containers until a rental Chevrolet Sonic came into a GM dealership for routine warranty service. The company issued a statement in which they said the missing brake pads could potentially contribute to a crash. However, they had not received any reports of any recall-related accidents or injuries. To fix the problem, GM added a clip to shipping containers.
For three years from 2009 through 2011, Toyota issued three related but separate recalls for millions of vehicles. The issue started on August 28, 2009, when an off-duty highway patrolman, Mark Saylor, drove himself and three of his family members along Highway 125 in Santee, California. Suddenly, the 2009 Lexus ES350 he was driving accelerated beyond his control and hit another car. During this time, one of the passengers called 911 to report that the car had “no brakes” and was accelerating to speeds over 100 mph. All four of the vehicle’s occupants were killed after the Lexus crashed and caught fire in an embankment. In September 2009, Toyota and local authorities announced that the car Saylor was driving might have had the wrong floormats installed, which contributed to the crash. Two weeks later, Toyota recalled 4.2 million vehicles and advised its consumers to remove the floor mats and place them in the trunk.
For the next two years, Toyota found itself embroiled in a public relations nightmare. The NHTSA publicly criticized Toyota’s response to the unintended acceleration issue, Toyota denied any defect in the drive-by-wire system. In December 2009, a Toyota Avalon crashed into a Texas lake after unintentional acceleration. However, the floormats were ruled out as a cause for the accident because they were in the trunk of the car. In January 2010, Toyota recalled over 2 million more vehicles because of defective gas pedals. Toyota said that the gas pedal recall was not related to the floor mat recall, but 1.7 million cars were affected by both issues. Eventually, Toyota was forced to halt production and sales of affected vehicles to address the dangerous problem.
The 2015 Lincoln MKC was recalled after owners kept accidentally turning their cars off while driving. The start/stop button was directly underneath the transmission select button. Since the two buttons were so close to each other, motorists found themselves killing their engines in the middle of driving. All 13,574 vehicles were recalled. As a solution, Ford put the start/stop button above the transmission select buttons instead of underneath them.
In 2014, Koenigsegg recalled all of the Ageras sold in the United States due to an issue with the Tire Pressure Monitoring Software. The TMPS indicated a missing wheel sensor, but the driver display light would not come back on if the vehicle was turned off and restarted within five minutes. The funny part? Only one Agera was affected by this recall. Koenigsegg found the owner and updated the software on the vehicle to fix the issue, thus resolving the smallest automotive recall in U.S. history.
Ferrari recalled over 3,000 of its 458 sports cars in 2014 after reports of a defective interior latch in the trunk. Most vehicles have two latches in the trunk: one interior, and one exterior. This design is intended to keep trunk lids from flying open if they are not secured before operating the vehicle. However, in the Ferrari 458, the interior latch of the trunk was defective. Ferrari claimed that the trunk could be opened enough from the inside to prevent suffocation and to call for help, but the United States requires that a person can release themselves from a trunk without anyone else’s help. Despite the tiny trunk and the unlikeliness that a human being could even fit in there, Ferrari issued a recall and modified the interior latch to fix the issue and meet American regulatory requirements.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains an up-to-date list of all vehicle recalls. Owners can check if their car requires any repairs or modifications due to recalls by checking the NHTSA website. Often, automotive companies contact owners as well.