Someone in your family may be driving a car that's a fire risk right now, and should not be parked in a garage that is inside your home. Austin Weichold is one of them. He was driving his 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix a when he started smelling smoke.
"I parked the car, and I noticed smoke coming out from underneath the hood. So I popped the hood and saw the engine was on fire," he said.
Fortunately, he was just a block from the fire department. He decided to risk it and keep driving.
"I was able to drive it up to the fire department, and they were able to put it out for me," Weichold said.
But the damage had been done. "I noticed some burned wires underneath the hood, some sensors had some damage to them, so I started replacing those parts," he said.
Now it turns out his car is part of a massive recall, of 1.4 million GM cars from model years 1997 to 2004 for the risk of engine fires:
- Pontiac Grad Prix
- Chevrolet Impala
- Chevrolet Lumina
- Chevrolet Monte Carlo
- Oldsmobile Intrigue
This expands an earlier recall for the same issue. V-6 models can start leaking oil onto a hot exhaust manifold. More than 1,000 fires, some causing property damage, are blamed on these leaks.
Weichold says he called GM upon hearing the news and asked for reimbursement of $500 for his repairs. But he learned that attempting to fix the damage himself may have not been the best idea. "They said that since I had worked on the vehicle, my claim was denied, and there was nothing else I could do about it."
While the original recall told owners not to park in their garages, the new recall does not say anything about that. But Weichold says, based on his experience, it might be a good idea to keep yours on the driveway.
"Park it in the driveway, away from anything that you value," he said.
Meantime, you'll need to wait to get your free recall repair, because most dealers do not yet have parts in stock, and, as Wiechold learned, trying to make repairs yourself may not be the best idea.
Owners will receive a notice in the mail. However, if you bought the car from a private seller and are not sure if GM has your name and address, you can check with a dealer.
That way you can be sure you get on the list for a recall notice, and you don't waste your money.