By on February 20, 2014

cobalt TSB1
GM is recalling 778,000 units of the 2005 through 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 over an issue where the ignition cylinder inadvertently turns out of the “Run” position, there by turning the car’s main electrical systems “off”. These systems include the engine, anti-lock brakes, and airbag systems. According to USA Today, GM knew of six deaths, and twenty-two other wrecks related to the ignition failure, and was aware of the defect since 2004.

The recall was issued last week to replace the ignition cylinder on effected models, but the problem is, GM knew about this failure early in 2006 in a Technical Service Bulletin, or TSB for short. In fact, the Cobalt and G5 have had two more ignition related service bulletins in the last few years, which TTAC has obtained.

Upon examining the full text of the 2006 TSB #05-02-35-007A, which dismisses the issue as a mechanical fault almost immediately, TTAC learned that dealers are instructed to adjust customer’s habits before carrying out the apparent fix, which involves changing the shape of the key ring design on the factory key.

According to court documents sourced by USA Today, GM is being sued by the estate of Brooke Melton, who died on March 10, 2010 when her Cobalt lost electrical power and she lost control of the car. This happened despite Melton’s car being returned to her from the dealer after ignition switch repairs, according to the Melton estate’s lawyer, Lance Cooper.

Lance Cooper also added that Melton’s car was not equipped with the modified key GM used for the TSB #05-02-35-007A repair, despite having just left the dealership for ignition cylinder repair.

Full text of TSB#05-02-35-007A and a full understanding of TSBs below:

#05-02-35-007A : Information on Inadvertent Turning of Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical System and No DTCs – (Oct 25, 2006)

Subject: Information on Inadvertent Turning of Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical Systems and No DTCs [DTC stands for Diagnostic Trouble Codes]

Models:

  • 2005–2007 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2005–2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2005–2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada Only)
  • 2007 Pontiac G5
  • 2006–2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2003–2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2007 Saturn Sky

This bulletin is being revised to add a model year. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 05-02-35-007 (Section 02 — Steering).

There is potential for the driver to inadvertently turn off the ignition due to low ignition key torque/effort.

The concern is more likely to occur if the driver is short and has a large and/or heavy key chain. In these cases, this condition was documented and the driver’s knee would contact the key chain while the vehicle was turning and the steering column was adjusted all the way down. This is more likely to happen to a person who is short, as they will have the seat positioned closer to the the steering column.

In cases that fit this profile, question the customer thoroughly to determine if this may [be] the cause. The customer should be advised of this potential and should take steps to prevent it — such as removing unessential items from their key chain.

Engineering has come up with an insert for the key ring so that it goes from a “slot” design to a hole design. As a result, the key ring cannot move up and down in the slot any longer – it can only rotate on the hole. In addition, the previous key ring has been replaced with a smaller, 13 mm (0.5 in) design. This will result in the keys not hanging as low as in the past.

Part Number: 15842334
Description: Cover, Dr Lk & Ign Lk Key

This is one of many TSBs related to ignition problems with the Cobalt, among other GM models. Most of the issues were lesser related to the ignition cylinder itself, and more to do with the key being locked into the ignition cylinder when the shifter’s neutral safety switch failed, locking the key in.

But the first line in the TSB description states that there is a fault with the low amount of effort or torque needed to twist the key out of the “Run” position. The method advises by the TSB is to tell the driver to reduce the number of items on the key chain, and presumably adjust their driver position to avoid contact. It’s a fair mention, since having an excess amount of keys on a key chain can wear out the key and tumblers, which would mean it would be harder to ‘unlock’ the cylinder.

But in this case, it sounds more like the weight or size of the key chain can allow the key to back out of the “Run” position, thereby powering down all major driving systems. With the engine down, power steering is gone, and power brakes now only have a short reservoir of vacuum left — enough for one, maybe two pumps of the pedal. With the key out of the “Run” position, safety systems like the anti-lock brakes and airbags are no longer powered up.

In the worst circumstances, such as what was documented in the TSB, it’s easy to see how this would cause an accident. No matter who you are, or what kind of driver you suspect you are, the situation is very dangerous. Even with engine stalling issues for other vehicles, at least the anti-lock brakes and airbag system likely would be powered if there was an accident.

There’s different methods in which suggested repairs are sent to a customer, there are TSB’s (GM calls them Interstate Bulletins, specifically), and there are “Campaigns,” otherwise known as voluntary recalls. When a vehicle comes into a GM dealer, they check the General Motors Vehicle Information System, or GMVIS, for Campaigns.

Now, here’s the kicker, Techincal Service Bulletins are not displayed in the GMVIS report. TSBs are not required repairs. These are not recalls, and customers are not informed of TSBs, and they are only checked for by a service tech when there is a related repair. In this case, the customer would have to bring a car in with ignition problems for a tech to find the TSB.

This is standard practice for the industry, and it works this way for almost every manufacturer. But, whether or not something of this nature should have been left to a TSB and not a Campaign is another issue.

cobalt tsb key

Poorly Photoshopped representation of the suggested 2006 key fix.

The hard solution in 2006 was to change the shape of the key ring hole in the key, from a slot to a hole. This would give the key chain less leverage on the edge of the key, reducing the key chains ability to rotate the key in the cylinder. 

Below is a photo gallery of related TSBs with the initial problem description, along with the full description of the NHTSA Campaign issued last week.. The ignition interlock issues were repaired by diagnosing and repairing the shifter assembly. It is unknown at this time what ignition cylinder issue Melton had when she brought in her Cobalt for repair.

 

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101 Comments on “GM Knew About Deadly Defect For Nearly A Decade, Dismissed It In Technical Service Bulletin...”


  • avatar
    thecarguy4all

    So, basically, people had too many keys on their keychain and it turned the car off.
    There have been warning about carrying too many keys and wearing our your ignition lock for HOW LONG now?
    The expectation that companies can endlessly protect against stupidity is not only backwards, but it will continue to drive up the price and complexity of cars.
    But oh well. God gave us endless litigation for a reason I suppose.

    • 0 avatar

      After all, there’s no such thing as”personal responsibility”. If I get sick or hurt because of my own stupidity, I should be able to sue someone.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Oh can it. If this was a Toyota you’d be howling. Fact is, many other auto manufacturers don’t have these issues and there seems to be a cover up here of a defect that it would appear killed more folks than floormatgate/pedalgate/SUAgate. My family has owned many makes of cars and not one of them had ignition switches that rose to the level of crap that the GM cars had. Yes, others wore out, but not in a manner that the key became optional.

        Anyway, I love me some personal responsibility, but GM should have fixed this. Since other makes don’t seem to have this issue in these types of numbers.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Toyota had documents showing behind the scenes high-fiving over the money savings by not recalling stuck pedal fix and unsecure floor mats.

          All incidents were off road at high speed. The “black box” records the last 30 seconds and GM didn’t warrant action sooner. I had to read a number of articles as some are looking for the smoking gun and not the root cause.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Anatomy of an evolving lie. Now it is all incidents were off road? Is this like your cars’ performance claims? Reality was 14 mpg at 37 mph, changing to 41 mpg at 73 mpg while towing a trailer over a few tellings? Here’s a clue: cars leave the road when the steering and brakes stop working at highway speeds.

            Tell me about all those nuisance recalls the NHTSA levied against the best car companies again. Buying a GM car is so stupid it can kill you. Perhaps, that’s as it should be when you consider what you’re supporting every time you settle.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Since I look out for family and friends, just for you CJ:

            http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/04/19/honda-cr-v-odyssey-acura-rdx-recall/2097979/

            Re: all incidents were off-road and high speed:

            http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/02/13/gm-recalling-780000-cobalt-g5-ignition-engine-shutdown/

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            It is your understanding that the cars were being driven off road when the failures occurred?

            http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gm-recalls-chevy-cobalt-other-vehicles-a-decade-after-finding-ignition-switch-defect/

            The cars leave the road because the ignition switches off. Duh.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Another anatomy of a lie – not all the recalls were nuisance ones (I accept some might have been). My Sienna (a vehicle that didn`t have a UA related recall) had three recalls for real issues (spare tire cage rusting out and dropping said tire, fuel system and failed transmission solenoid allowing gear stick to move from P to N).

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            All my Hondas were recalled last year. The 10 year old Acura TSX for possibly discolored wires under the hood. The seven year old Honda Civic Si for premature tire wear. The 2012 CR-V because supposedly you can break the door lock by cycling the rocker switch and the central locking buttons simultaneously and repeatedly. A ten year old car for discolored wires? They weren’t, but I’ve replaced a vacuum hose harness and spark plug wires on a 10 year old Chevy pickup. It didn’t strike me as being premature, although I was annoyed that I had to fabricate everything. A seven year old car for premature tire wear? The tires didn’t wear prematurely, but reading the recall notice showed it would be just about impossible to prove it for the purpose of reimbursement. The CR-V we took back to the dealer and had them look to see if it was effected. Maybe that one was legit, although it was no Wrangler Inferno, or Fire Escape, or burning Cruze, or driverless Cobalt. Those things were slow-rolled or hushed, but shout from the rooftops that Honda owners are being harassed by the O***a regime with meaningless trivialities as pretenses. As I said, people that support this deserve what they get.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Mercedes has several bulletins about too many keys damaging the electronic ignition switch. I have heard about other manufacturers also having such issues. It’s not limited to GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      Cobalt owners are not unique in this segment for that sort of ownership behavior. We have decades of cars to go on that aren’t subject to turning off with key jolts.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s okay. As long as you are better connected with liberal power brokers in D.C. than Toyota was, deaths of stupid customers are of no concern to you.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Yup, all those stupid people hanging an anvil from their keychain! GM is to blame for that too.

    • 0 avatar
      Hillman

      So how many keys are too many? Serious question as I have 6 keys that I need pretty regularly. That is not counting the key ring tags that are used pretty frequently. The lack of power steering and power brakes seems to be a pretty big leap from what a normal person would expect the problem to be.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        On both my Olds Custom Cruiser and Toronado, the weight of the keys eventually caused the Olds ignition key to be able to be removed even while the ignition switch was in the ‘ON’ position.

        As I recall, I had two sets of ignition keys for two different cars on there along with a small fingernail clipper and my house key.

        And this was back in the seventies.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          On my very high cycle 22 year old Sable, the ignition key is optional!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            LOL! I had other Ford owners tell me the same thing.

            But on my 2006 F150, I never had that problem.

            On my ’88 Silverado the whole ignition was sloppy and jiggly, but it was that way since bought new.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Man you guys haven’t lived until you’ve used one Honda key to open another, start it up and take off in it.

            When I used to primarily install tires for a living every once and awhile we would get a two or three Hondas of the same year and color in the parking lot with no topper or license plate to distinguish them.

            Sure enough the other car’s key would unlock and start the wrong car.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            raph, one day a Honda Accord lost its parking pawl and started to roll away from its parking space in the Hobby Lobby parking lot.

            A lady driver from another Accord ran over to the rolling Accord and tried her key to unlock the door, and it opened the door so she could apply the brakes.

            She started the car and reparked it just as the owner came out of Hobby Lobby in a panic at which time my wife and I explained to the owner what had happened to her Accord.

            It could have ended a lot worse, like with the runaway Accord rolling into another parked car, like my wife’s Grand Cherokee.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          My 1984 Sunbird ended up doing that.

          Used it to my advantage–start car in the winter after a snowstorm, jiggle key out of ignition, lock car and let it warm up!

          Almost have a similar thing with keyless ignition systems today–get an extra key made or use the emergency key in the fob (mine is ensconced in a RemoteTote, and a PITA to take apart), and lock the car with the key in the driver door!

          Nice!

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    According GM spoke person who you did not include in the story was all of these events were off-road and at a high speed. We’ve discussed this pretty throughly on Autoblog.

    Half of the incidents involved unbelted occupants which could of eaily flown across the car in an off-road, high speed event. The other half was under the influence of alcohol unfortunately. It looks like shorter people, meaning girls, would have excess weight like pepper spray, department bar codes, keys…you name iit that could get caught and turn the ignition off by be jarred or snagged to due weight or length.

    I’m sure the event data recorder was review to come to this conclusion, we unfortunately will never know.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… and airbags are no longer powered up.”

    So why the heck am I told that I need to unbolt the battery whenever I work on an airbag equipped vehicle? Am I just wasting time?

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      To ensure no errant signals or accidental shorts trigger anything. It only takes an honest 12v signal to trigger airbags.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I thought airbags were always available, whether the ignition is on or not, particularly if the car is occupied.

      Am I wrong on this?

      • 0 avatar
        Phillip Thomas

        When you key a car to “Run,” and you see the diagnostics lights come on and test, that’s when the system is being activated. They don’t run in the background with the car in an “Acc” position (Which is intentionally just a radio circuit), and certainly not in “off.”

        Correct me if I’m wrong on a modern car, but I can say with certainty that for the Cobalt, the systems are only active when in “Run.” My roommate has an ’05 Cobalt, so I’ve hand hands with one plenty. We’ll be chronicling the recall experience, for what its worth.

        • 0 avatar
          galanwilliams

          I had an ’05 Cobalt – and discovered that even the BRAKE lights don’t work when the switch is off.. I was surprised and a bit panicked that I had no brake lights – on my other vehicles the brake light switch was always active, and the lights always lit when the brake pedal was depressed – key or no key, on or off. But not on the Cobalt – the ignition had to be “ON” for the brake lights to work.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            I’ve got to ask: why do you need brake lights when your ignition is off? Hypermiling?

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Now THAT’S a new one!! Any car I’ve seen has brake lights that light whenever the pedal is pressed–ignition on or off!

            Keyless-ignitions usually need to brake light switch-activation to enable the starter to operate, for example.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          All the vehicles I’ve ever worked with that had SRS system will still be able to deploy the airbags after the ignition is turned off if the impact is still sufficient. Most systems have a capacitance of up to 2 minutes after disconnecting the battery for crash situations where power is lost.

          • 0 avatar
            eamiller

            For spontaneous disconnects, sure. But when you turn the ignition off, there are messages sent out on the CAN bus so that modules properly shut down, including the SDM. The squibs will never fire because the microprocessor is off.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      It’s because of all these lawsuits. There are many redundant steps to try to prevent somebody from injuring themselves.

  • avatar
    Thatkat09

    “twenty-two other deaths”

    No, twenty-two other accidents. Nowhere in the USA Today article does it say 22 deaths. If you know something every other news source doesn’t, then good for mentioning it but right now it looks like bad reporting.

    Edit: you fixed it…

  • avatar
    MLS

    The CBS Evening News earlier tonight aired a follow-up story about GM’s recall, this time profiling the families of two teens who were killed in a single-vehicle, clear-weather crash of a Chevy Cobalt. The ignition was found in the accessory position, which presumably had left the vehicle without power steering, power brakes, or airbags. Unfortunately, neither girl was wearing a seat belt, which could only have exacerbated their injuries.

    In my opinion, CBS glossed over the ignition cylinder’s relation to the profiled accident and had Joan Claybrook on hand to offer an over-the-top assessment of GM’s moral degeneracy. (She likened the failure to recall before now to throwing someone out of an airplane without a parachute, among other ridiculous statements.)

    Not to excuse the apparently weaker-than-normal ignition cylinders in GM’s small cars, but I’ve never understood how people drive around with a ton of shit dangling from their car keys. The jangling and swaying would drive me nuts.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Strangely enough, they find it convenient to have all their keys together.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        Strange indeed. How many keys does the typical person truly need to carry around with him at all times? To say nothing of half a dozen decorative key chains, bottle openers, USB drives, and god knows what else.

        • 0 avatar
          Acd

          I only have the key of whatever car I’m driving on a key tag from the dealer. Now if at some point my garage door opener won’t raise the door the only way I have to get into my house is to break a window unless there’s a house key buried somewhere in my briefcase that I don’t know about.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Well, my cars use two (one for ignition one for locks), house key, office key, two file cabinet keys, computer chain key, and gym locker key.

          So put me down for 8.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            car key, keyless remote, 3 damn keys for my apartment, bike lock key. Office key goes in my lunch cooler.

            I think 5-8 keys is pretty routine. Its the added keychains, bottle openers, etc that really add up.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I’ve replaced enough broken lock cylinders because of excessive key ring weight where I now just keep the ignition key separate. It’s not really a big deal. Also, push button start systems are starting to make this a non-issue.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            This. My favorite feature of my current car is never needing to fish out keys.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I thought that the keyless ignition in my Accord was just fluff — “I’m capable of turning a key!”

            After using it for a year, you appreciate having it. I could go back to having a key if absolutely necessary, but it would take a little adjustment!

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          You need more females in your life. Many/most people with two X chromosomes carry LOTS of stuff on their key chains: keys, store bar codes, jewelry, more keys, lights, mace, electronic fobs…

          This isn’t a new phenomena, and GM should have taken it into account when designing any ignition system. To most guys carrying that much stuff on a key chain is ridiculous, but then we don’t carry purses either.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Much of that has been solved by the FOB that most new cars come with.

        But I think the main complaint was that GM knew about this inherent deficiency with keyed ignitions but hid it from the public.

        My own experience during the seventies was that the ignition lock cylinder on my Olds Custom Cruiser and Toronado wore to the point where the key could be removed even in the ‘ON’ position.

        • 0 avatar
          98mystique2

          As with my 99 dodge ram and my buddies 90’s corolla

          clearly they didn’t hide it, it was in a tsb back in 2006.

          also “The concern is more likely to occur if the driver is short and has a large and/or heavy key chain. In these cases, this condition was documented and the driver’s knee would contact the key chain while the vehicle was turning and the steering column was adjusted all the way down. This is more likely to happen to a person who is short, as they will have the seat positioned closer to the the steering column.”

          yeah that happens in my miata in a stock seat ALL THE WAY BACK because i’m tall. whoopdy do

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            This, issuing a TSB that dealers can see sure isn’t “hiding it”. Everyone involved in aftersales at an OEM knows once something is published that dealers can see, it’s now public. The only question here is whether GM could/should have better recognized the magnitude of the problem then and issued a full on recall then.

          • 0 avatar
            Phillip Thomas

            Danio,

            It’s not hiding, but it does nothing to inform /anyone/.

            Say you bring a Cobalt in for service, and they run their normal GMVIS VIN check, you won’t find this TSB listed in the GMVIS report, which only shows technical information specific to the car (engine, trans, options)and current GM Campaigns. TSB’s are left in the database, and are only found when searching for info on a related repair.

            TSBs are not public info in that the general public always has access to the information. Not all of them are shared online, and it’s typically only found by enthusiast communities. Even then, the full text of the TSB may not be around.

            But a typical mechanic isn’t going to surf though TSBs relating to the ignition switch when repairing a broken power window, for instance.

            You can Google this TSB # and see how limited the information is, even with the actual TSB #. Now, look at it from a typical consumer’s point of view, and they’ll never see this.

            And that’s really my point here. Was a TSB enough, or would this issue have been better sorted by a Campaign?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Yes, I am aware of that. TSBs are only to be used by the dealer when a customer makes a complaint regarding that issue. The TSB contains specific instructions to address that problem.

            TSBs are typically issued when the concern is not considered to pose a safety threat, but is a significant issue that there are likely to be a significant population of vehicles affected by the same problem.

            So you are correct that the concern here is whether GM had knowledge at the time that this was a significant saftey risk, and whether or not they did enough to mitigate that risk.

            There is a lot of talk here about GM “hiding the problem”. There is no evidence they “hid” the issue. If they hid it, there would be no TSB. TSBs go though a significant reivew process before being published, which includes general counsel. If they wanted to hide it, they wouldn’t have published it at all.

          • 0 avatar
            Phillip Thomas

            >Not a safety threat

            A vehicle that easy shuts off is a safety threat. I just /tried/ to do it in my Legacy, which has a similar key. I had to grab my key chain, and pull with a few pounds of force perpendicular to the key to rotate it. I could shake and jerk the key chain around all day and never switch it off.

            The “hiding” aspect comes from the missing ‘black box’ in the USAToaday article.

          • 0 avatar
            Thatkat09

            @Phillip Thomas

            What missing black box?

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      I have one of those handy little leather “wallets”, a folding thingy with three key rings along the inside top, for my house and bicycle and other keys… Everything BUT the car key, because a big fat modern car key just won’t fit in there.

      Fortunately, the blade folds into the key-fob, so the car key also becomes a pretty slick self-contained unit without sharp edges to tear up your pockets. Two sets of keys, where the car-key set is a single-element set. Really not that much trouble to keep track of, and would apparently save my life if I drove a GM car… Definitely worth it.

      Recommended.

  • avatar
    98mystique2

    boo hoo hoo everyone looking for a handout

    I’m not suing mazda because I’m 6′ tall and don’t fit in my stock miata seat and when I do I knock the key into off. I also don’t wreck my car when it get’s knocked into off either.

    I’m also not suing dodge because I can take they key out when my van is on…

    get a damn job

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Ugh – I realize this is 2-1/2 EICs ago but I thought Jack said the penance for writing such a piece is to report every recall and analyze for that month.

    Floor mats anyone? Nah – operator error. Oh wait, GM claimed operator error. Malo!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Jack and I discussed this when it came across our desks. We thought that given the fact that GM apparently knew about a fatal defect and kept quiet for a decade, it warranted reporting.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Issuing a TSB isn’t “keeping it quiet”. Manufacturers are very very careful about what gets published outside the company, so if a TSB was issued that the dealers could see, GM wanted them to know about it. The concern here is did GM go far enough to mitigate potential safety risks with the information they had at the time.

        • 0 avatar
          Truckducken

          Danio: If you were a customer, would you consider doing nothing more than issuance of a TSB “keeping it quiet” or not? Because as a customer, you’d have had NO idea the TSB existed, unless you were one of the lucky ones for whom (1) the ignition failed without killing you, and (2) the dealer fix worked, unlike poor Ms. Melton, for instance.
          If this wasn’t “keeping it quiet”, I don’t know what it would take to meet your standard.

          • 0 avatar
            Thatkat09

            I think its more of General Motors not realizing the severity of the situation until it was to late. If you read some of the quotes from GM, it looks like the data they were using to analyze this problem showed it as low risk and not worthy of a recall. I’d say its more Incompetence on their part and not them maliciously hiding the problem to save face/money.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My Sedona had a TSB for the throttle position sensor, which needed to be replaced (along with the throttle body), and the ECU reflashed. The fault mode is that the car will go to idle and then run rough.

    This occurred with mine (the fault), but being out of warranty, I paid an independent shop $800 in parts and labor to fix it (only because I don’t have the reflash capability, and didn’t want to pay dealer prices).

    I believe this should have been a recall, since having the engine go to idle at 70 mph (like mine did) is a real safety issue.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Don’t ask me how I know this. When I turn off my 2011 Fiesta and even remove the key while moving, my electric power steering still works. Yet the headlights go out. I’m not going to see if the airbags work!

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This is by design. Your airbag system will also have a capacitance of a few minutes after ignition power has been turned off for the same reason. In case power is suddenly lost, you still have the benefit of the feature.

  • avatar
    segfault

    So, if a Cobalt owner has an aftermarket key made, and the person making the key uses the generic GM design with the larger slot, it could result in a fatal crash? Sounds like something most drivers wouldn’t have reason to think about.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The key is probably coded to the car. So a special key from the dealership, these cars were never stolen and parted out like Civics not joy rided like Neons, and a mating procedure to the car for the new key. This would limit Home Depot cutting keys.

      • 0 avatar
        eamiller

        These cars use Passlock (not Passkey) where the “resistor” is part of the ignition lock, not the key. Most good anti-theft systems use coded transponder keys, but in typical GM fashion they have the cheapest possible system to check the box. There’s a hall effect sensor attached to the ignition switch and a magnet passes over the sensor when the key is turned. It’s designed such that if the lock cylinder is forced to turn (by a thief) it will destroy the sensor and keep the car from starting.

        Normal transponder keys use an inductive pickup and a passive RFID chip embedded in the key. Since there are no moving parts, these type of systems rarely fail. Unlike Passlock, which has a nearly 100% failure rate.

  • avatar
    Atum

    My neighbor got a rare LTZ model for her 16th birthday in Fall 2006. I think it’s been pretty reliable, but she’s been gone at college most of the time for five years, so I can’t really ask. I just hope she isn’t having any problems, associated with this recall or in general.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Assuming the information being reported in the Reuters article is correct, and was proven per the 51% preponderance of the evidence standard as utilized in civil judicial trials (rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard utilized in criminal proceedings) I’d HAMMER General Motors in terms of both economic AND punitive damages if I were a juror charged with returning a verdict in a case where an individual was seriously injured or killed as a result of this defect, which was apparently never adequately and timely addressed by GM.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      I don’t have any GM vehicles handy, or I’d take a look myself, but I seem to recall owner’s manuals including warnings not to hang anything from the ignition. Not that anyone RTFM, anyway. Either way, I don’t know that I’d be so quick to hammer GM, at least not with punitive damages.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    I had no idea GM sold so many of these cars. 778,000 in three years is pretty good. I never saw that many out in the wild where I live.

    • 0 avatar
      Thatkat09

      One of GM’s many fleet queens of the mid 2000s. I rented quite a few of these on my trips to Florida. Probably inflated the number by a decent amount(Also, a surprising amount of Tuscons). I’d also hazard a guess that quite of few of the rental Cobalts ended up on used car lots and were abused by second owners meaning a large amount of the 778,000 are already off the roads. Just a theory though.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    It would be nice to see some sort of evaluation of how commonly car manufacturers “keep quite” about safety defects. They must have to make a difficult choice between the cost of a recall and the eventual cost to their brand when the public learns of the problem.

    For instance, I’ve become aware that some Ford electric power steering systems, without warning, stop providing boost to the steering rack. The repair is expensive as it requires replacement of the whole steering column. There is no TSB for this, but Ford is aware of it and has some sort of internal information on it.

    How many safety hazards resulting from design defects is the public unaware of?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      This only partially responsive to your question, as the question is impossible to answer with any sort of precision, but Congress passed legislation a long, long time ago, whereby it can not be mentioned st trial or introduced into evidence that a manufacturer made changes or improvements to any component as a result of injuries or deaths resulting from a component that caused or contributed to such prior deaths or injuries, and this is now a procedural rule of evidence in all 50 state courts & the District of Colombia, as well as in federal courts.

      The purported reason for this is to encourage manufacturers to address & remedy dangerous designs and/or components, without fear that doing so can be used against them in future lawsuits as evidence of their liability.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Bring back Saab ! You could be the gatekeeper at Fort Knox and your keychain wouldn’t affect their center mounted ignitions. Maybe the Swedes are really all secret bondage fetishists and discovered this problem years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I was thinking about Saab’s center console ignition too. It could take dust and dirt that the consoles normally collect without failures. But shifting my 5-speed manul I have caught it and shut the car off on accident. Plus the 70 lbs Lab mix was jumping between seats and shut it off once too. But since my Saab’s 40+ mpg with 1990’s tech were taken away by black helicopters to Area 51 I didn’t want to stir it up. :)

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    This is primarly a female issue. In the case of our 2012 Mazda, the key fob is very large with a flip out key. Put that on the keyring with my Ford Ranger key, home key, Honda key, Honda Fob, and a bottle opener and the damn thing won’t fit in my pocket. So instead I have to keep the Mazda key separate.

    But most women have a purse the size of a small backpack and have no issues carrying all matter of crap on their keyring. Also, they don’t know any better but to carry a large keyring.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    What ever happened to manufacturers putting the little key release button/lever behind the tumbler on the column? Alternatively, my Cherokee required you to push the key in as you turned it off to remove the key. I don’t know of any new cars with something like this.

    Then again, I can’t remember if that was a stop to prevent you from rotating to On to Acc or Acc to Off.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      I remember those, and for manual trans GM stuff a ‘push button’ release is on the lock cylinder to cycle the key to “off”, if I remember right. It’s there on my ’96 Formula, and an ’02 5-speed Silverado work truck I use, but its now one natural motion to remove the key, so I don’t remember the exact function, and neither are with me right now.

      Those become really finicky with age. The Silverado will turn past the “off” position and into “acc” and release the key if you’re not careful.. and run the battery down.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      That’s just to lock the column and remove the key. Are the vehicles in this article susceptible to THAT, or to the switch going to “off” WITHOUT locking the column? (For most folks, I would think that the sudden loss of assist would cause the most grief, to say nothing if the steering locked!)

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I had forgotten about pushing-and-twisting the key to remove it feature…has been so long. Was my 92 Toyota Tercel the one with this feature?

  • avatar
    NN

    My brother’s former 1998 Olds Intrigue did the same thing a few times to him…just straight cutoff on him while driving, a couple times on the highway, even. Exact same key design as seen above (in fact, my 2010 Malibu has the same key design, too–with the wide opening). The dealer installed some huge red button on the dash that was a recording device of sorts that he was supposed to press the next time he was barreling down the highway at 75mph and everything cut off. I don’t recall whether he ever successfully recorded the event, and certainly don’t blame him. He was scared to drive the car and dumped it. Knowing him, he wouldn’t have had an abnormal amount of junk on the keychain. This sounds to me like the issue isn’t limited to the models/years GM has designated.

  • avatar
    86er

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    Inexcusable.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Important story, I’m usually up on all known GM defects and I was not aware of this one. My mother occasionally drives an 07 Ion…

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m not too sympathetic to GM here. From people’s description of a TSB, it’s a “hide in plain sight” kind of document. It is foreseeable that people will load their keychains up with other keys, USB drives, whistles and other crap. The key cylinder should certainly be designed such that the torque on the key imposed by this weight is not sufficient to switch off the ignition.

    That said, somewhere I read a long time ago to separate your car key(s) from your house key(s). The theory being if someone was trying to hijack your car in a parking lot, you just toss out the car key and go . . . and the bad guy doesn’t have your house key. Never put that into practice, so I don’t know how well it works.

    Because men carry their keys in their pockets, I would think they are less likely to have over-stuffed keychains than women, who carry them in the purse. As for me, since my car key has a separate little radio transmitter than locks/unlocks the car, that’s quite enough for me. Like most folks, we have multiple cars in the house. The car keys for each car are separate and go on a hook near the back door when the car is not in use. When somebody leaves the house to drive somewhere, they just grab the appropriate car’s key and go; when they return, the key goes back on the hook.

    Unlike folks here who have gotten 40 mpg out of their 4 sec. to 60 Saab turbos, no one in my household has mastered the trick of driving two cars at the same time. So, one key (or set of keys) for each car is enough. The spares are in a drawer somewhere.

  • avatar
    wsn

    It’s amazing so many here defended GM and blamed the use of multiple keys.

    To me, it can’t be more crystal clear: no matter what is done to the key (within reasonable human force), as long as the car is moving, the key should remain in place and not shutting off the car. Or else I would just call the car flimsy.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      What does “within reasonable human force” mean? That carmakers should return to the interlocks that required holding in the key (or depressing a button) before turning? Because humans, even inadvertently, can apply quite a bit of torque.

  • avatar
    MLS

    Upon reading further, I’ve learned that of the six deaths, three involved alcohol and at least two more unbelted occupants.

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/02/13/gm-recalling-780000-cobalt-g5-ignition-engine-shutdown/

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      GM has a right to argue “contributory negligence” in motions and as a matter of evidence dealing with the issue of damages, at trial.

      Thus, to the extent that any particular plaintiffs’ injuries or deaths were caused or contributed to by alcohol consumption, GM can attempt to establish to what degree or % this was so (in some jurisdictions, if such contributory negligence by a plaintiff was a factor contributing to death or injury by 51% or more, recovery is barred; in other jurisdictions, the % of contributory negligence reduces the amount of any award per verdict in proportionate %).

      As to lack of seat belt use, most jurisdictions now have rules of civil procedure that automatically reduce the amount of damages awarded in a tort suit by a specific % (usually 10%) for such an omission by any deceased or injured plaintiff.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Today’s recall expansion, link to press release:
    http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2014/Feb/0225-ion.html

    “Ensuring our customers’ safety is our first order of business,” said GM North America President Alan Batey. “We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can.”

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      At least they are drivable:

      “…customers should use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring. As always, customers should drive responsibly and use their safety belts.”

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      “Ensuring our customers’ safety is our first order of business,” said GM North America President Alan Batey. “We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can.” Now that we’ve expended our legal alternatives and tested the media’s ability to cover up our willingness to kill our customers.


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