Safety experts call them potentially deadly secrets: problems with used cars that manufacturers have already determined should be fixed in a recall, but many times there are defects the salesman, and the buyer know nothing about.
These aren’t little problems we’re talking about. The wheels could fall off, or the steering might freeze while driving.
Not to mention the fire hazard a Phoenix, Arizona mother of five learned about the hard way when her Ford Expedition burst into flames. It was parked in the driveway at the time, as she and her five children were pushed back by smoke and flames. “I thought the house was going to catch fire” Katie told Action News.” We tried to come out the front door, the smoke was so heavy.”
Katie thinks she knows the cause. There was a safety recall, but she says she never received the written notice that would have sent her straight to a Ford dealership for and inspection and repairs, if needed.
The recall problem involved the speed control switch, which was located right where firefighters told her the fire began.
In Kansas City, Missouri, a Pontiac Grand Prix spontaneously caught fire inside a parking garage, in still another used vehicle where a recall issue had been identified, but not fixed.
Owner Mark Anderson remembers his experience. “The flames were just coming out and coming straight up the middle because the recall was for a leak that was coming down here,” as he pointed to the center of the car’s engine, “and landing on the manifold below and apparently catching fire.”
There’s also another fire potential in 2003 Grand Prix’s, where the fuel system and gas tank assembly were among six recall issues, which were likely responsible for the spontaneous fire in the parking garage.
The problem is widespread. Of the 10 million cars recalled each year, 2 million are on the road with potentially dangerous issues that haven’t been repaired, according to Clarence Ditlow with the Center for Auto Safety in Washington. “It’s buyer beware,” he says.
Federal law requires that all recalls on new cars be repaired before the car is sold. But, there’s no similar law requiring used car dealers to even check on recalls.”
A Cars.com ad sent us looking for a Ford Windstar at a used car lot in Redford. We asked the lot owner about the vehicle in an effort to determine just how much did he know about the vehicle’s history. Nick Zeedan admitted “not much.”
He explained after running a quick report on the vehicle, he and his staff rely on the honesty of the auction house they buy from. “Pretty much, they disclose everything that the auction knows about the car.” But this is a recalled vehicle, with a long list of problems: the rear axle could crack, the lower control arm that guides the wheel may also break and the turn signal may work intermittently. Nick says he didn’t know about the potentially dangerous issues because he hasn’t gotten the paperwork yet.
But there is no law requiring used car dealers like Nick to alert buyers of cars with open recalls. New owners must check on recall history for themselves.
Clarence Ditlow says “the last thing on a buyers mind is there’s a recall on the car you just bought.” He added “they could cause a crash or result in a fire. “Your life depends on a recall being fixed.”
But the National Automobile Dealers Association opposes requiring used car dealers to track recalls. As for Katie, she says a recall never crossed her mind when she bought her used car.
WATCH ACTION NEWS AT ELEVEN FOR COMPLETE DETAILS.
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