The recall of 1.6 million General Motors cars built between 2003-07 for ignition keys that move into the accessory or the off position while the vehicle is in operation has spawned an internal company investigation along with congressional and criminal inquiries into what and when the automaker knew about the problem and what it did to inform the public. Some reports indicate the automaker may have known as early as 2001. As the investigations move forward, there are steps that owners of the affected vehicle should take to determine if their cars are part of the recall. While GM said it's in the process of notifying all affected customers, it should be remembered that since the cars are at least 7 years old or older, many of them will not be the hands of the original buyer.
According to GM, the company is recalling these cars because the ignition switch torque performance may not meet its specifications. In other words, a key ring carrying additional weight, or the vehicle going off the road, or some other jarring event can cause the switch to inadvertently move out of the run position into either the accessory or off position, causing a loss of power steering and braking and a shut off of the electrical power to the airbags.
Be conscious of your seating position. Some reports involve the driver's knee inadvertently hitting the key and moving it out of the "on" position. Make sure that your right knee is clear of the dash and driving the vehicle over rough terrain or bumps could cause the switch to move.
Lighten the keychain load. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) "urges owners of recalled GM vehicles, to follow GM recommendations to 'use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring' and get repairs as soon as parts are available from GM." A single key is less likely move around in the ignition and cause the switch to move as a large key chain carrying a lot of weight.
If your car's ignition is moved into the accessory or off position you should do the following:
Turn the key back to the on position. This will unlock the steering column and allow you to maneuver the car. In many cases, once the electrical power is returned to the on position, the engine will likely restart, which will in turn, restore the power to the steering and brakes. If the engine doesn't restart, in a car with an automatic transmission bring the car to a stop in a safe area. Put the vehicle back in park and restart the engine. If equipped with a manual transmission, you don't necessarily have to stop the car. Instead, push in the clutch, restart the engine and release the clutch to resume driving.
The recall covers 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-07 Saturn Ion, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky models. Owners of these cars can determine if they are affected by the recall by going to GM's website and entering the make and vehicle identification number here. Replacement parts for the recall will be available as soon as April, so owners should make an appointment with their local dealer as soon as possible.
According to reports, the ignition problem is suspected in 31 crashes involving as many as 13 deaths. "Ensuring our customers' safety is our first order of business," GM North American President Alan Batey said in a statement accompanying the recall. "We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can." GM said it is going beyond required written notification and is using its customer care centers and social media teams using customer records and communication channels to notify affected customers. Second-hand owners shouldn't wait to be contacted and should determine on their own if their vehicle is affected.
Incentives, No Buybacks
In addition to fixing the problem for free, the automaker is offering $500 discounts on the purchase or lease of a new GM product to replace an affected vehicle. GM is also offering a loaner car and free tow to a dealership for the service, if a customer is concerned about driving their vehicle. "In keeping with our commitment to help customers involved in this recall, a special $500 cash allowance is available to purchase or lease a new GM vehicle," GM spokesperson Alan Adler said in a statement. "We have been very clear in our message to U.S. dealers that this allowance is not a sales tool and it is only to be used to help customers in need of assistance. Neither GM, nor its dealers will market or solicit owners using this allowance." The allowance will be offered through April 30.
Popular at KBB.com