May 8, 2013
Article by Justin Pritchard
Every carmaker is caught in a fine balancing act between cost and quality. They want happy, loyal customers that experience minimal problems and come back to buy another car after sharing a positive ownership experience with their friends and family.
At the same time, carmakers are corporations. That means they exist to make money.
Cars are machines. Machines break down and need to be fixed, some more often than others. Building a car that never broke or consumed parts would likely be impossible, let alone prohibitively expensive.
Get things wrong as a carmaker, and you may become involved in a recall. This happens when a manufacturer is required by safety authorities to correct a problem or issue missed in the development process.
Virtually every carmaker has been subjected to recalls of one form or another. Certain recalls deal with fairly simple problems, like an improperly tightened bolt or a misrouted wiring harness. Some recalls simply require installation or replacement of a warning sticker somewhere in or upon the model in question. Other recalls are more severe – or even potentially catastrophic.
And, in today’s increasingly global market, one recall can often set off a chain, as multiple automakers use the same suppliers for certain parts.
Ask your dealership or check online to see if your vehicle has been subjected to a recall. If it has, work is performed free of charge at the dealership. Skip the recall-related repairs, and you may find yourself in a situation like one of the ones below.
Remember: recalls are serious business and shouldn’t be considered a laughing matter – at least until they’re fixed, and when they’re as odd as these, well, we just have to laugh at repairs or defects this bizarre.
Weird and Wacky Recalls. Click image to enlarge
Car: 2003-2004 Jaguar S-Type
Recall: Ever wondered if a push-button electronic parking brake was really a good idea? Certain Jaguar S-Types were recalled when it was discovered that the electronic control system could have an ‘oopsie’ and spontaneously set the parking brake while driving. Neither the taillights, nor the parking brake light in the cluster would illuminate.
Translation: One minute you’re cruising down the highway chugging back a Slurpee in your Jag, and the next, your rear tires are howling as the car’s rear end flails all over the road. Hopefully, there’s no traffic nearby.
Note: If this happens to you, keep both hands on the wheel and don’t attempt to steer until your vehicle is nearly stopped. If it stops in the middle of the road, you should be able to overpower the parking brake with the throttle to force the car onto the shoulder.
Car: 2002-2003 Subaru Forester
Recall: A faulty mechanism within the transmission could prevent ‘Park’ from being fully engaged when drivers leave their vehicle, even if it’s indicated on the shifter console. This isn’t a Subaru-specific problem, and it’s present on several other makes and models, too.
Translation: You park your trusty ute’ outside Taco Bell while you run in to secure a Burrito Supreme. Once back outside, you find your rig down a hill in the middle of an intersection surrounded by damaged cars, glass, and angry motorists. Looks like dinner’s on the house!
Note: That funny lever doohickey behind the shifter is called the hand-brake. Pull it once you park to prevent situations like the above.
Car: 1999-2000 BMW 3 Series
Recall: Lateral and head airbags could deploy in a non-crash related impact or vibration, like hitting a big pothole or driving near a jackhammer.
Translation: You’re driving down the highway and you whack a pothole. Milliseconds later, your side airbag goes off. You pull over, brush the airbag dust out of your hair, and wonder what just happened. A built in crash-safety feature will prevent your vehicle from re-starting after you pull over, so you’ll need to call a tow-truck, too.