The Truth About Cars » Fire Safety http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Fire Safety http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com French Court Allows Sale of R134a Equipped Mercedes Benzes, Daimler to Move to Carbon Dioxide Refrigerant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/french-court-allows-sale-of-r134a-equipped-mercedes-benzes-daimler-to-move-to-carbon-dioxide-refrigerant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/french-court-allows-sale-of-r134a-equipped-mercedes-benzes-daimler-to-move-to-carbon-dioxide-refrigerant/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 16:37:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501633 000

In the continuing saga of Daimler, the EU and banned refrigerants, the German automaker won a provisional ruling from France’s highest administrative judicial body to overturn the suspension of the sale of Mercedes-Benz models equipped with R134a refrigerant in those cars’ air conditioning systems. European Union regulators have banned R134a but Daimler claims that the replacement, R1234yf, can create fire and toxicity safety issues. The French Council of State said that authorities in that country must resume registrations of those Mercedes-Benz models while the case goes on.

According to Bloomberg, the court in Paris ruled that there is “serious doubt” about the immediate environmental threat upon which the French government was basing the sales ban. The French Ministry of Ecology, Development and Energy had blocked new registrations of the models in July, citing EU environmental rules, while Daimler insisted that since the models were type-approved by the German Federal Motor Vehicle Office, or KBA, they can be registered anywhere in the EU.

The models affected are the SL roadster, the CLA four doors, and A-class and B-class compacts and French sales of those vehicles make up about 2% of Daimler’s global revenue. ”We expect the French authorities to start registering our vehicles within the next 48 hours,” Daimler said in a statement.

Eventually, a Daimler spokesman said the company will be switching all of its air conditioning systems to the use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant by 2017, which it says is ”the most climate-friendly and safest solution.”

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NHTSA Opens Preliminary Investigation Into Jeep Grand Cherokee Headliner Fires http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nhtsa-opens-preliminary-investigation-into-jeep-grand-cherokee-headliner-fires/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nhtsa-opens-preliminary-investigation-into-jeep-grand-cherokee-headliner-fires/#comments Fri, 23 Aug 2013 20:50:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500632 i2274785

Issues about fire safety continue to affect the Jeep brand as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it is opening an investigation into 146,000 2012 model year Grand Cherokees, after receiving reports from three consumers who say that the headliners of their cars caught fire near the passenger side sun visor.

“The customers reported a burning odor and visible smoke coming from the headliner while the vehicle was being driven. This was followed by flames from the headliner itself. Customers lowered the windows in an effort to clear the smoke but this increased the fire’s intensity. All three vehicles had to be extinguished with a fire extinguisher or by the fire department as they continued to burn after the vehicle was turned off . The fire also caused the sunroof to shatter in one incident, and in another, the fire spread to the passenger seat when the burning sun visor fell onto the seat. In each case, the incident resulted in the vehicle being inoperable requiring it to be towed to the dealership.”

A Chrysler spokesman said that the company is conducting its own investigation and that it is cooperating with NHTSA:

“Customer safety is paramount at Chrysler Group. Accordingly, our engineers are investigating this concern while also fully supporting the Preliminary Evaluation opened by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is among the safest vehicles on the road today. It also is the most awarded SUV ever.”

The investigation into burning headliners follows a voluntary recall of over 1.5 million 1992-98 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys to address possible fires caused by leaking fuel tanks in the event of a collision, even though those vehicles met all applicable standards at time of manufacture. NHTSA has still not determined if it will crash test Jeep vehicles that have been recalled and retrofitted with a trailer hitch intended to protect the gas tank.

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Fisker Karma Fire Investigation Continues, EV Expert Blames Engine Packaging & Heat – Not Batteries http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/fisker-karma-fire-investigation-continues-ev-expert-blames-engine-packaging-heat-not-batteries/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/fisker-karma-fire-investigation-continues-ev-expert-blames-engine-packaging-heat-not-batteries/#comments Fri, 11 May 2012 19:34:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443884 Fisker Karma - Fisker Motors Photo

The investigation into a Texas house fire that apparently started in a 2 month old Fisker Karma continues, with an EV expert weighing in with his opinion that the packaging of the combustion engine that drives the Fisker’s generator was likely the cause of the fire, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration saying it is looking into the incident, and the car’s owner and his attorneys firing back after Fisker initially implied there might be fraud or foul play.

Automotive News asked Jon Bereisa, CEO of Auto Lectrification, an EV consulting firm, for his opinion. Bereisa is perhaps singularly qualified to discuss electric vehicles, having been both the chief engineer of General Motors’ EV1 project and also the systems architect for the Chevy Volt. Bereisa told AN that based on a test drive and his examination of the Karma’s layout, he thinks the cramped engine compartment and excess heat most likely caused the fire, not the car’s battery pack.

“That engine is shoehorned into that bay, because they had to use a larger engine, because it was too heavy a car. As a result, there’s no room for exhaust routing and heat shielding to route the heat away… [the Karma is] using the hell out of that motor-generator.”

Bereisa also noted how tightly packed the exhaust system is. In those circumstances, a fuel, oil or even coolant (glycol is flammable) leak could ignite from heat or a hot surface. The consultant also pointed to the burned Karma’s owner’s remarks. Jeremy Gutierrez, the owner of the burned Fisker Karma, and CEO of iEnergy, an electrical power marketer, said that he smelled burning rubber just before the fire broke out.

Bereisa pointed out that, “You don’t smell rubber with batteries, but you will if it’s something on the engine.” Bereisa also said that since the car had just been driven on errands, the battery pack was likely drained and no longer contained enough energy or waste heat hot enough to ignite. “If the [battery] pack were to burn down the car, you would see where it started and reached the [battery] case… There’s more odds that it’s a conventional, heat-related problem in packaging and heat-related leaks.”

Fisker is agreeing that the battery pack, which uses cells manufactured by A123, wasn’t the cause of the fire, though it has sent a team of engineers to pore over the charred Karma’s hulk. That team is beginning to annoy Gutierrez, already a bit miffed that Fisker cast aspersions on his character, raising the possibility of “fraud or malicious intent”.

Gutierrez is so annoyed that he’s gotten his attorneys involved:

Mr. Guitterez fully accommodated the precise and somewhat peculiar demands of Fisker Automotive, who sent their self-proclaimed SWAT Team of engineers and inspectors (that included their own forensic cause and origin investigator) to the Guitterez home within 24 hours of the fire. They descended upon the Guitterez home in alarming numbers and immediately demanded a 24-hour lockdown of his home, including the remains of the Fisker Karma vehicle. They also cordoned off portions of the Guitterez home with non-transparent tarps to block the view from the public. Fisker even had access to eyewitnesses, who were interviewed by Fisker investigators and those investigators were shown video footage of the Fisker vehicle on fire before any other part of the garage.

Guitterez’s lawyers have demanded that Fisker to end its probe “immediately.”

For its part, Fisker still considers the cause of the fire as “yet to be ascertained.” A company spokesman said,

“There are myriad combustible materials that could be in the garage, in the wheel arch, or picked up on the roadside. They think the source is around the Karma, but they have not determined any cause yet. We have investigative teams, three insurance companies and the local fire chief all with their opinions. There are some question marks.”

When asked about Bereisa’s theories, the spokesman said, “The Karma has been through all regulatory and certification checks.”

Meanwhile, though Robert Baker, the chief fire inspector for Fort Bend County, Texas, continues to say that the Karma started the fire, his investigation is still incomplete, and NHTSA is started to show some interest.

“Yes, the Karma was the origin of the fire,” Baker said. “But what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that it “is aware of the incident and in contact with local authorities. The agency will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action as warranted,” though no formal NHTSA probe has been launched.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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Does BMW Have a Fire Safety Problem With All of Its Brands’ Turbos? 2,916 More Non-Chevy-Volts Recalled For Fire Hazard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/does-bmw-have-a-fire-safety-problem-with-all-of-its-brands-turbos-2916-more-non-chevy-volts-recalled-for-fire-hazard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/does-bmw-have-a-fire-safety-problem-with-all-of-its-brands-turbos-2916-more-non-chevy-volts-recalled-for-fire-hazard/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2012 18:07:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440363

It hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the handful of early production Tata Nanos that caught fire, or the Ferrari 458 recall, also for fire safety issues, or the newly expanded investigation into Jeep Wranglers burning, and certainly not nearly the attention given the near non-event with that one crash tested Chevy Volt, but BMW appears to have a corporate wide fire problem with turbocharged models that has now resulted in recalls of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles. Earlier this year BMW recalled turbocharged Mini Cooper models because the circuit board controlling the auxiliary water pump used to cool down the turbocharger after the engine is shut off could develop an electrical fault due to copper migrating between circuit traces, creating a fire hazard. Now comes word that BMW is expanding a previous recall (PDF) of some 2010 BMW and Rolls-Royce models to include 2011 and 2012 models. It’s not clear if it’s the exact problem as with the Minis, though it does involve the same component, the electronic controller for the auxiliary water pump. To their credit, BMW discovered the latest problem in internal testing and there is no word on any real-world fires with consumers’ cars. The Mini recall was prompted by reports of a dozen fires, eight of them while the vehicles were parked. The latest recall (PDF) affects 2011 BMW 5 Series, and 2012 6 Series, 7 Series and X5 and X6 vehicles. Also affected are 2010-2011 Rolls-Royce Ghosts, which are built with a BMW platform and share components with the parent brand. BMW says the problem exists with 100% of the turbocharged V8 and V12 powered models in those lines. A total of about 35,000 BMW made vehicles are affected by the original and expanded BMW and Rolls-Royce recalls.

In the initial voluntary recall last October, BMW attributed the problem to an unspecified malfunction in the electronic controller. It’s possible that it’s the same problem as with the Minis.

Under certain conditions, the pump’s electronic circuit board can malfunction. The malfunction can occur as a result of certain design features in combination with high operating temperatures. Under these conditions, this can lead to a failure of the water pump. In some cases, the circuit board can overheat. In an extreme case, overheating of the circuit board can lead to smolder of the water pump. If smoldering occurs, it cannot be excluded that this may also lead to an engine compartment or vehicle fire.

In the subsequent expanded recall, BMW attributed a problem with later production vehicles to improperly made turbocharger housings, resulting in leaking coolant.

It was discovered that for the additional production, there was a manufacturing process deviation at the supplier for this limited production run of pumps, this deviation could result in cracks in the pump housing. If this were to occur, then coolant could enter and contact the pump’s circuit board.

Whether or not it’s the same exact defect affecting Minis, BMWs and Rolls-Royces, it’s clear that BMW has quality and fire safety problems involving its turbochargers’ water pumps. The recall notice sent to NHTSA from BMW identifies the faulty component supplier as Pierburg Pump Technologies GmbH.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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