By on October 27, 2015

2003-05_Chevrolet_Impala_Taxi

General Motors announced Tuesday that the automaker would recall 1.3 million cars for an oil leak that could ignite, Reuters reported.

According to the report, 1,345 fires have been reported in cars that were repaired for similar issues under two previous recalls. In six years, 19 minor injuries were reportedly caused by leaking oil.

According to the automaker, the following models with 3.8-liter V-6 3800 engines are affected by the recall:

• 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix
• 2000-2004 Chevrolet Impala
• 1998-1999 Chevrolet Lumina
• 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
• 1998-1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue
• 1997-2004 Buick Regal

According to The Detroit News, this would be the fourth time the automaker has recalled the cars for the issue. In 2008 and 2009, GM recalled the cars for the fire risk.

In those instances, owners were told not to park their vehicles in garages because of the increased fire risk. GM spokesman Alan Adler told the Detroit News that owners may be told the same thing this time.

Earlier recall repair work focused on valve cover gaskets and spark plug retainers. It’s unclear how GM will fix those cars under the current recall.

(Our own Sajeev Mehta has fielded questions about the oil leak before.)

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36 Comments on “General Motors Recalling 1.4 Million Cars for Increased Fire Risk...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This is clearly blasphemy and an effort to discredit the Church.

  • avatar
    TimeFlies

    Ah, the venerable 3800 V6. Hailing from the Flint area, I was raised to believe it was the Engine of engines. Good ol’ Flint North plant. I think the pre plastic intake manifold variants were probably the best in terms of reliability. You still can find early 90s Buicks and Pontiacs rolling around SE Michigan, with only the drivetrain left, everything else having rotted away or vibrated off. I still miss my ’89 Bonneville….actually I don’t. But still, much love.

  • avatar

    TOASTY!!!

  • avatar

    Oh crap, that’s my Lemons car! I better get it to the dealer ASAP!

  • avatar
    Lack Thereof

    So if what I read on the internet is correct, the fire issue is valve cover gasket leaks, which drip onto the exhaust manifold, which cause an oil fire there.

    The oil fire is self-extinguishing in normal operation, but there are plastic spark plug wire retaining looms nearby which can catch on fire and spread the fire.

    GM’s last recall on this issue replaced the wire looms with non-flammable ones.

    Maybe this recall will actually fix the valve cover oil leak itself, instead of trying in vain to make the rest of the engine compartment less flammable.

    • 0 avatar
      WhiskeyRiver

      The biggest issue with these engines is a lower intake manifold oil leak that drips onto the converter. Very common. They also have valve cover gasket problems but the intake problem is more prevalent. It’s a poor design that’s made a lot of money for independent repair shops for many years. The most risk is to cars with engines out of tune – common for the age. Too lean and the exhaust manifolds can actually glow orange under load. Too rich and the catalytic converter overheats, Either condition can lead to a fire with an oil leak.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Zachman’s gonna go ape when he sees this.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wonder what the difference is between the ’04 and ’05 Grand Prix and Impala with the 3.8L V6.

    Both use the Gen III engine, and although I never tore into the engine of my ’05 Grand Prix, I’m 99% sure that the parts between 04-09 on the 3.8L V6 were basically completely interchangeable.

    I also believe the Dexcool monster was already solved, and wouldn’t be causing this issue in the first place given the location of the leak.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      My understanding was the Series III was supposed to be ready for the MY04 Grand Prix but it was late and the MY04 carries Series II. Later MYs carry Series III, which has minor changes from Series II, the one that stands out is powdered metal connecting rods and emissions went SULEV. Wikipedia seems to conflict with this however a friend had an early MY04 GT and it did indeed carry the Series II.

      According to this guy, there were actually several Series II to III changes inc PCM:

      http://www.fiero.nl/forum/Archives/Archive-000001/HTML/20031229-2-040918.html

      To my recollection 3800 was not affected by the Orange Death(tm) it was the 60V6 and some of the I4s which had the most trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Every 2004 Grand Prix I have ever seen has a series III 3800. All 2004 3800 blocks were series III but every other application for 2004 used the old series II intake and non drive by wire throttle. The 2005 Lacrosse also used the series III engine and in 2006 the Lucerne got this engine. The older cars like the LeSabre, Park Ave, Regal etc carried the series II motor with cable throttle right until 2005 because it would have been expensive to convert those defunct models over to drive by wire that the series III had.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Ok so the problem seems to arise from something in the Series II intake or throttle for only MY04 Grand Prix to be included but not MY05. Good stuff Ponchoman.

  • avatar
    pdl2dmtl

    As a former owner of an Oldsmobile Intrigue with the 3800 series ll engine, I am not surprised to see ghosts to come back and haunt the owners of this kind of cars. Intake manifold gasket replaced (no warranty), labor intensive repairs due to poor design, complete lack of child seat anchoring, utter waste of internal space due to poor packaging – a Honda Accord of the same age had more interior space, light bulb sockets in the headlamps melting, rust all over the place, door panels that breathe when you lower or raise the windows, etc…..
    A car like this can make someone turn against a brand forever. No more GM for me, thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      “A car like this can make someone turn against a brand forever. No more GM for me, thank you.”

      As soon as the next true, deep business cycle downturn appears, and GM isn’t buoyed by burgeoning sales of highly profitable SUVs and Pickup Trucks (whereas they lose money on most other categories of vehicles they produce)…

      …GM Deathwatch II is back on like Donkey Kong.

      This time with MORE ACTION, GRIT & T!TTY SHOTS!

      • 0 avatar
        Loki

        Signs are pointing to another automotive downturn in another two years, but GM should be high as a kite on SUV, Truck, and China sales by then. I’m not so sure there will be another GM Deathwatch in the next decade, the products they are making now aren’t as unapologetically horrendous as these 3800 cars are. I don’t understand what people see in GM products though, it seems they churned out nothing but shit for forty years straight.

    • 0 avatar
      beken

      ” Intake manifold gasket replaced (no warranty), labor intensive repairs due to poor design, complete lack of child seat anchoring, utter waste of internal space due to poor packaging … light bulb sockets in the headlamps melting, rust all over the place, door panels that breathe when you lower or raise the windows, etc…..”

      Exactly. None of that stuff was covered under warranty either. GM charged me $50 each just for the lightbulb sockets that I had to replace myself. When GM told me the estimate was $2000 to replace the leaking head gaskets, I couldn’t get rid of the car fast enough. Maintaining my current BMW 5 series was way less expensive than my last GM car. Recalling the cars now is sort of stupid.

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    APaGttH:

    Completely different manifold.

    The Series III debuted in the 2004 Grand Prix and then across the board as an available engine to all GM divisions in 2005.

    The series II engines are the ones at risk for a fire.

  • avatar
    musicalmcs8706

    I have a 2005 Impala LS with the 3800 Series II. But mine isn’t covered here… I think I read at some point that the 2005 Impalas have some of the series III parts. Is that correct?

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    So what is the difference between the 3800 Series II engine as used in the recalled cars and the same engine used in other GM cars of the same era, such as the H-body Buicks (Lesabre/Park Avenue) and Pontiac Bonneville?

    Inquiring minds want to know. I used to own a 1988 Buick with the 3800, and now own a 2001 Lesabre with one.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The 3800 was radically chanced for MY96 which was dubbed “Series II”. Your 1988 I believe sports an LN3 3800, not the Series II, but your MY01 Lesabre *does* sport Series II 3800.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buick_V6_engine

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Seems to be how the spark plug wire raceways are installed right next to the hot exhaust manifold. The valve cover leaks oil and it pools up in this raceway and eventually runs off on the hot manifold potentially causing a fire just like Fords leaky power steering units or many manufacturers leaky valve cover gaskets did back in the 70’s and 80’s.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        But that’s been true on every 3800 since the 1980s – with the plastic channels routing the spark plug wires horizontally right along the lower edge of the valve cover. My 1988 Buick had oil in the front wire channel (mostly from me spilling it when I added oil).

        Is is really that much closer to the exahust on the W-body cars?

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Gotta love TTAC. Lots to say about this recall, but nothing about the worldwide recall of flaming Toyota power window switches.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Or the recent Chrysler fire recall either. You can always count on TTAC to get each and every recall on GM’s front page but virtually nothing on Toyota/Honda etc!

  • avatar

    On of those was my parents neighbors, they lost their house. My childhood friend lost his car in a parking lot. Both on this list.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      One cloudy Friday afternoon (when I happened to be off from work), a colleague of mine ran into one of the manager’s offices in my department, stating that there was a lot of activity in the parking lot across the street — it appeared someone’s car was on fire!

      On the way over to the window, the colleague asked if he parks over there. Yes.

      Of course, it WAS the manager’s Grand Prix that was burning to a crisp! (Oddly, the fire personnel were just about to break in to the car to attempt to find documentation to figure out whose it was, and the car’s owner, without thinking, hit the unlock button on the fob as he arrived on the scene, and the damn car responded and unlocked the doors, despite the battery having melted by that time!)

      He had received a recall notice, the first one, THREE DAYS BEFORE!

      (I believe his insurance company was able to subrogate to get their payout back from The General.)

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The only leaks we ever noted on these engines were valve cover/intake related. The plastic coolant elbow is also susceptible to fracturing requiring replacement. A metal upgrade is available and every 3800 series II that leaves our dealership gets one. But come on some of these cars are approaching 20 years of age on this list so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the valve covers need replacing by now. After replacing these two items we have never seen or heard of any fires from any cars we sold so I suspect this is Barra being overly cautious just like with the ignition switch thing recalling my Impala even though those cars didn’t really have this issue. The question is what are they replacing this time exactly and why are only the W-body cars affected?

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      My question precisely – what is different between the H-body and the W-body on the engine itself? Maybe it’s the tighter engine compartment that concentrates the heat more? I know the engine compartment on my 2001 Lesabre is spacious by modern standards.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Our designated driver-ed and UPull hauler Regal Series II Supercharged is actually eligible for a recall? I don’t think it has an original seal on the engine – head gasket excepted. (Thinking to himself…) No, the timing cover has never been off. I didn’t respect this car when new, and that was very near-sighted of me. While the radio and various switches go dark regularly, this car starts in -30 or plus 120, goes like stink (relatively) and has a good driving position and visibility. I have no doubt it will still be insured when my grandchildren need lessons. Recall? We don’t need no stinking recall…….

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