The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it is upgrading an ongoing investigation into 1.7 million General Motors vehicles over defective windshield wipers.
The agency opened the probe in November 2018 to determine if GM will be required to expand a recall of 2013 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs that was previously announced in 2016. The NHTSA is trying to see if more vehicles need to be covered.
The investigation currently covers Equinox and Terrain vehicles from the 2010-2012 and 2014-2016 model years. Once NHTSA completes its probe, it can demand a recall from the automaker.
So far, the agency has reportedly reviewed 1,900 complaints and reports related to the issue involving a total of 1.7 million vehicles.
According to NHTSA, it has seen elevated failure rates in the 1.7 million vehicles despite GM claiming that the recalled vehicles have “double the warranty rate and five times the complaint rate.”
Regarding NHTSA’s recent announcement, GM said it will “fully cooperate to support their investigation. We do not believe these windshield washer systems are defective.”
The problematic wipers prompted the initial recall after a brand quality manager from GM Canada reported a potential safety issue through the automaker’s “Speak Up For Safety Program” in late 2015.
Based on data acquired at the time, there was a significantly high number of windshield wiper failures in Canada, leading to a June 2016 recall. Over the next two months, an even higher number was reported in the United States, which then also prompted a recall.
GM recalled a total of 15,611 vehicles in Canada from the 2010 to 2017 model years, while 367,808 units were affected in the U.S.
According to recall documents filed in Canada, the problem is caused by water and debris intrusion into the windshield wiper assembly ball joints. The intrusion was blamed for excessive wear and eventual detachment of the ball joint from its corresponding socket. This could then limit the driver’s visibility and increase the risk of a crash, injury, or damage to property.
GM, however, clarified that the company is installing an improved windshield wiper motor and transmission assembly as well as relocating a drain hole at the base of the windshield.