General Motors has announced that it is recalling more than 3.4 million SUVs and trucks in the United States due to a brake issue. The company says it has 113 reports of crashes and 13 injuries related to the brake problem.
The recall includes several models of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Yukon, GMC Sierra, Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban and Tahoe from various years between 2014 and 2018. The manufacturer stated that as the brake system ages, the pump in the power-assist brakes can put out less vacuum power than needed, increasing stopping distance as well as the risk of a crash. In order to fix this problem, GM is recalling 3.46 million affected vehicles in the U.S.; it recalled another 310,000 in Canada in June.
The National Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating the issue in November of 2018. The agency had received 111 complaints of poor brake performance.
According to GM, the issues are rare and occur mainly at lower speeds, such as driving through a parking lot. The vacuum pump is lubricated with engine oil that flows through a filter screen. In some vehicles, oil sludge or other debris can clog the screen, reducing oil flow and causing the pump's vacuum output to drop. The trucks have a secondary power brake assist system which works when there are problems with the main system, but it is limited at lower speeds. According to GM spokesperson Dan Flores, even with the problem the brakes "continue to function and exceed the requirements of the appropriate federal motor vehicle safety standard."
Owners of the recalled vehicles will be instructed to take the vehicle into a dealership, where dealers will recalibrate the electronic brake control module at no cost to customers. Owners of the recalled vehicles were to be notified starting September 6. The reprogramming will activate the secondary brake system faster.
Representatives for GM may be attempting to frame the brake issue as minor, but many aren't pleased with how the automaker has handled the recall. Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, discussed the recall with Consumer Reports. He stated that the timing of the recall raised concerns, especially given the fact that a recall was issued in June for Canadian owners of the affected vehicles. “The question isn't whether nine months was fast enough to get from opening the investigation to this recall; the question is why did GM's Canadian consumers get the recall notice three months ago? How long did GM know about this problem before NHTSA opened the investigation last November?”