By on June 8, 2010

GM has announced a voluntary recall for 1.5m heated washer fluid modules due to a possible fire risk. According to the company’s press release,

Because the feature will be disabled, GM will make a voluntary payment of $100 to the owner or lessee of each vehicle.

This heated washer fluid unit was first recalled in August 2008, due to a short-circuit problem. GM became aware of another problem with the unit in June 2009, and has since become aware of five separate reports of fires caused by the unit. Hit the jump for a list of affected models.

Recalled models include the 2006-2009 model year Buick Lucerne; Cadillac DTS; Hummer H2; 2008-2009 model year Buick Enclave; Cadillac CTS; 2007-2009 model year Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe; GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL; Saturn Outlook; and 2009 model year Chevrolet Traverse.

GM’s John Boyer explains:

This was a unique technology available from only one supplier, and that supplier has stopped manufacturing, which left no opportunity to collaborate on an improved design. We want to be clear that the voluntary payment to customers is for the loss of the feature, not the recall.

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41 Comments on “GM Recalling 1.5m Heated Washer Fluid Units, Will Pay Owners $100 Each...”

  • avatar

    $100 compensation to disable a useless feature – that’s a pretty good deal for the consumer.

    This is the kind of bloat that leads to higher vehicle prices, questionable incremental sales, and now, recalls, followed by lower perceived quality.

    Naturally, GM puts all the blame on defunct Micro-Heat. The incident rate seems high enough to have been caught with testing.

    • 0 avatar

      My 2008 Sierra has this feature and I really like it. It works great on those cold mornings when the windshield is frosted over. I’m not sure that I will take GM up on the recall offer; 5 fires in 1.5 million vehicles seems like a pretty small deal. My only concern is if my insurance company would refuse to cover a fire caused by the heater if I elected not to have GM do the recall fix.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you, my ESV also has this feature and I really like it. I have no plans to let a dealer disable it despite the $100.

  • avatar

    I just used the “e-mail this article” feature and it told me that it sent the Nissan Leaf article to them, not this recall article…

  • avatar

    This seems like something that the owner or the operator of the truck can easily correct by unplugging a connector and isolating it with tape. Or perhaps pull a fuse if it’s separate. So I don’t see a big deal, but I wish they informed us about it eariler.

    • 0 avatar

      No, that sounds far too complicated for the poor consumer. What we need is to commission a blue ribbon investigation and hold Congressional hearings to tell us that the solution is to legislate the dealer network to unplug the connector and isolate it with tape.

  • avatar

    How much was this particular option, in terms of MSRP. That’s what I’d be looking for as a refund. But yea, a wiring issue should be easy enough to address.

  • avatar

    There’s a downside to outsourcing your technology and expertise.

  • avatar

    “This was a unique technology available from only one supplier, and that supplier has stopped manufacturing, which left no opportunity to collaborate on an improved design.”

    So the formidable automotive engineers at a 100 year old car company don’t have the technical prowess to make their own improved design on a washer unit?

    No contingency plans exist when a supplier is gone?

  • avatar

    i wish my car had this….but c’mon. heating up an alcohol solution, nothing can ever go wrong with that right?


  • avatar

    Anyone know why we can’t get electric defroster elements on the front window of a car? Everyone has them at the rear, and some (Volvo) have rear side windows.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan


      Maybe you’re setting me up for a joke or I’m missing a point here.

      But you CAN get cars with electric defroster element in the front windscreen. I know Ford cars in Europe have them. That’s how Volvo got hold of them…..or was it the other way around?

    • 0 avatar

      Cammy Corrigan: IMHO, no known car have this feature.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave Skinner

      Speaking as a consumer, I’d just as soon not have grid lines in my windshield sightline.

      As I recall, when it first came out the Taurus offered an electrically defrosted windshield using a transparent metallic film (eliminating grid line problems).

      The system was expensive, required a second, higher voltage alternator, and included high dollar windshield replacement costs. At the time, the metallic film reduced radar detector performance, and nowadays it would probably block GPS signals to navigation systems or cell phones with GPS.

      Whether or not you consider those significant downsides, Ford dropped the option after a few years.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Ford offered something like what Dave Skinner is describing all the way back in the 70s on Lincolns.

      My former Dodge minivans had a few defroster lines down under the front wiper blades, whose life would end when the mechanic would scrape off your annual safety inspection sticker and cut the defroster lines at the same time.

    • 0 avatar

      Dave Skinner, you beat me to it.

      These were offered on select Ford models back in the early 90s. Still see some around.

      In addition to the drawbacks Dave mentioned, it seems these windshields had a propensity to discolor over time.

      I suppose the need for a fully transparent windshield (i.e., gridlines wouldn’t be acceptable up front) made it necessary to use a costly metal membrane in the windshield sandwich. I bet such a membrane would be very costly today, given the high cost of copper or other suitable conductors.

      Plus, maybe there were drawbacks in crash performance?

      Either way, I do still see the occasional car with gridlines under the wiper blades’ parked position, and think that might be a handy feature in cold climates.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan


      Really? I’ve driven 6 Ford Focuses all with defroster elements.

      What are you talking about?!

    • 0 avatar

      Subarus (at least the Forester) have a $400 all-weather package that adds heating elements to the base of the windshield. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

    • 0 avatar

      Land Rovers and Range Rovers have this feature. The grid lines run vertical and are much thinner then the lines typically used in rear windows.

    • 0 avatar

      Grand Marquis had this option available. I’m not sure of the year it was discontinued but I can’t recall seeing it on any Panthers newer than ’91. And I haven’t seen one in a very long time which would support an early 90’s demise of said feature.

      It was easy to spot a GM with this option because it gave the windshield a purple-ish color and you couldn’t see inside the oncoming car. It made the windshield opaque until you got right up on it.

    • 0 avatar

      Folks, Ford uses/used two different systems.

      THe one familiar in the US (described by Dave Skinner), with the gold windshield (with a silver-oxide layer between the inner and outer sheets of glass) was IIRC called “Insta-Clear”.

      The Ford Europe version (I remember this even in the mid-80’s Scorpio) was a set of vertical zig-zag elements, finer than a sewing thread … so fine, that as you focus your eyes in the distance in front of the vehicle, you don’t notice them … you have to focus your eyes on the windshield, concentrate, and have the right light conditions to actually see them.

      Reason that VCC and JLR had these in their vehicles is likely due to these companies having had access to Ford IP.

      Funny thing is that the Ford Europe versions have been around for so long now, I would have thoguth the IP protections would have expired by now…

    • 0 avatar

      my 2010 MINI Clubman has electric defrost front glass… it’s only offered in Canada tho

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve had the heated front windscreen version on my old 2001 Ford Fiesta, A Mondeo and my Mum has it on her Focus. As far as I know the only Ford Europe car it isn’t available on is the KA. I’ll admit that it’s a very nifty gadget – that is until some of the elements broke and then I ended up looking like I was driving a misted up jail cell.

    • 0 avatar


      I’m not that subtle. It was a real question.

      I park my car out of doors in a part of the world that hits freezing very early in the year and I get really, really tired of chiseling ice and frost off the front window at six in the morning, while the defroster-equipped rear un-fogs in under a minute.

      Even the banded elements, installed on the front window, would, I suspect, sell really well in Canada and the upper American states.

  • avatar

    My mom (in Texas) never uses this for frost. However, she says it works beautifully to melt dead bugs off.

    Fleet +1

  • avatar

    Instead of repairing the defective feature, they disable it. Same good old GM we were used to know.

    $100 is a pure joke!

    • 0 avatar
      Dave Skinner

      If $100 is a joke, then what’s a reasonable offer? These cars are all at least a year old, and no other manufacturers offer the option. In addition, you can’t run down to Best Buy and purchase heated washer fluid kits as an aftermarket accessory.

      If the owner paid a $2,000 premium for the feature, I’d concede your point. But I’ll bet the option was either standard, or rolled into some “convenience option”. Therefore, we have no “Street value” for comparison purposes.

      In terms of hardware costs, I’d be shocked if GM paid more than $25 for this feature compared to a standard windshield washer system. If the company is paying me four times their acquisition costs, they’re already taking it in the shorts big time.

    • 0 avatar

      I think a more reasonable offer would be to repair or replace the item in question.

  • avatar

    1.5 million? I guess this puts the “massive” Chrysler recall into perspective.

  • avatar

    My Subaru has heating elements on the lower part of the windshield. Good idea, as it thaws out stuck wiper blades very well, and clears the lowest part of the windshield where the (eventual) heat from the defroster has a hard time reaching.

    A ’94 Audi 90 I had had heated washer nozzles. Worked great – so did the heated door locks. The only two things I liked about that car.

    Heating the fluid itself, which is what I gather GM does, seems kind of like the “take a sledgehammer to crack a nut” kind of scenario compared to heated nozzles.

    • 0 avatar

      As I understood it, the goal of the VW-style heated nozzles was to prevent nozzle freeze-up more than it was to take a stream of cold liquid and heat it to melt ice and snow on the glass.

  • avatar

    Oh fer Chrissakes. How hard is it to put a hotplate under a washer fluid reservoir without it it shorting out and catching fire???

    So is the taxpayin’ working stiff on the hook now for that $100/per?

  • avatar

    GM buys your car back one piece at a time

    So whats next? How much will I get for faulty ABS sensors? $200? Brakes are silly anyway

    What are broken bolts on the exhaust manifolds going for????

    GM has just given new meaning to the often used advice “sell it for parts”

    • 0 avatar

      Too funny!

      I contributed a couple of Intermediate Steering shafts and rear pumpkins to the Government Motors stockpile when I had my Silvy and Sierra pickups. My warped disc rotars could have been used as paper plates they were so thin and warped.

  • avatar

    You can buy this system from several aftermarket companies for less than $100, BWMs have come with one that doesn’t burst into flames since at least the mid 90s.

  • avatar

    Chalk up another one for Mercedes.

    Mine has heated WW washer jets, too.

    1982 300SD W126.

    No fires after 391,000 miles either.

  • avatar

    Here is one:

    another one:

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