General Motors has announced a recall of approximately 1.9 million model year 1995-97 Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire and 1996-97 Buick Skylark, Pontiac Grand Am, and Oldsmobile Achieva passenger cars. These vehicles will be serviced to prevent high electrical current flow through the ignition switch that may cause a fire in the steering column. There are no reports of a fire caused by this condition while these vehicles are being driven. Most of the incidents occurred within minutes of an unsuccessful attempt to start the car, and there have been some claims of smoke inhalation. Some of the incidents occurred after the car had been unattended for a longer time.
“The ignition switch may deteriorate if the engine fails to crank and the driver holds the key in the ‘start’ position for an extended period. High current flows through the ignition switch and sometimes produces enough heat to melt internal switch parts,” said Lori Queen, GM small car vehicle line executive. If the switch is damaged, the plastic internal components may heat up, melt, and eventually ignite. This could occur even with the engine off and the key removed. “If the operator is experiencing a “click-no-crank” condition, he or she should refrain from holding the key in the start position for an extended period of time,” Queen said. She added that vehicle owners should have their vehicles checked and serviced if they are experiencing starting problems. GM has notified owners about this recall and the precautions they should take until their vehicles are repaired. The letters will also tell customers when they should contact their dealers for repairs. When they bring in their vehicles, Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac dealers will install a low current relay into the ignition circuit. Additionally, they will test the ignition switch and replace it if necessary. These repairs will be performed at no cost to the customers.