WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed an investigation into 2,038,504 1999-2003 GM trucks and SUVs for brake line corrosion failure in salt-belt states without ordering a recall.
But the agency issued a safety advisory to consumers in salt-belt states, urging them to get regular underside car washes to remove salt in the winter and have their brake lines inspected.
"While NHTSA can't order a recall in this case, there is a safety issue that vehicle owners should address," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a statement on Thursday. "Older-model vehicles, often driven in harsh conditions, are subject to corrosion over long periods of time, and we need owners to be vigilant about ensuring they, their passengers and others on the road are safe."
The advisory includes the 1999-2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks; 2000-'06 Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs; and 2002-'06 Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Avalanche SUVs. All were part of the federal probe.
It also includes millions of vehicles from other manufacturers built in 2007 and earlier.
The GM brake-line failure investigation lasted for nearly five years and found 2,702 consumer complaints, including reports of 88 crashes and 20 injuries.
It looked into complaints that brake line corrosion may result in rupture during brake application, resulting in reduced brake effectiveness, according to the NHTSA problem description.
The "investigation did not identify any specific defect conditions that were causing or contributing to the brake pipe failures," NHTSA said. "Nor did the analysis isolate the problem to any subject vehicle sub-populations when analyzed by vehicle type or production range."
It added: "A safety-related defect has not been identified at this time."
Edmunds says: Owners of all 2007 and older trucks, SUVs and passenger cars should be taking steps to inspect brake lines and thoroughly wash the underside of their vehicles to remove corrosive salt.