Another NHTSA GM Investigation – Chevy Silverados with Rusted Brakes

Silverado rusted brakesIt looks like there is yet another problem with GM vehicles that has been left unresolved. Chevy Silverados and other GM vehicles are being investigated for brake line corrosion by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA reports 890 complaints for brake failure resulting from “brake pipe corrosion.”

Following is an excerpt from the NHTSA website regarding the investigation:

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) received Defect Petition DP10-003 on March 2, 2010, requesting the investigation of model year (MY) 2003 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4WD pickup trucks for corrosion failures of the vehicle brake lines. DP10-003 was granted and on March 30, 2010, Preliminary Evaluation PE10-010 was opened on more than six million model year 1999 through 2003 light trucks and sport utility vehicles manufactured and sold by General Motors Corporation (GM)…

…Of the 890 total complaints for brake pipe corrosion identified, 761 were located in Salt Belt states (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin). The complaint rate per 100,000 vehicles sold is significantly higher in the Salt Belt, 43.0, compared with 3.0 for the remaining states. In approximately 25 percent of the complaints, the brake pipe failure has allegedly occurred suddenly, with no warning to the driver (i.e., no brake warning light), and resulted in extended stopping distances. In 26 of these incidents, the increase in stopping distance that resulted was alleged as a factor in a crash and in 10 others the vehicle was intentionally steered off the road or into another lane of travel in order to avoid a crash.

It would seem NHTSA and GM have again dragged their feet on this latest defect. An original investigation was opened on March 30, 2010 and closed on January 5, 2011. The investigation was reopened that same day and remains open. A NHTSA report from January of 2011 lists 26 crashes and 3 injuries as a result of the brake failures.

The more than 6 million vehicles affected are:




GMC SIERRA 1999-2003

GMC TAHOE 1999-2003

GMC YUKON 1999-2003

Once again, evidence can be found widespread on the web with frustrated owners of GM vehicles expressing their concerns with the dangerous defect. Following is one of the many posts regarding the brake problem:

GM refuses to recognize problem of catastrophic brake failure without warning on 1999 to 2004 Silverados. The brake lines rupture. The lines are of poor metal quality and bundled beneath drivers door. The fuel line also ruptures. Checking the internet shows it is a common problem. I contacted GM, NHSTA, Public Citizen, Consumer Reports, NY Times to no avail. People keep their trucks a long time. Experiencing brake failure with no warning is a horrific experience. How GM can keep this a secret is beyond me. How do these people sleep at night.

New GM was less than cooperative with recalling the defective vehicles up to this point and defended their decision with the following, which is listed on NHTSA’s investigation summary:

GM stated that: (1) the brake system of the subject vehicles is split front/rear and should a brake pipe suddenly fail for any reason, the affected vehicle would be capable of stopping with the pressure supplied by the remaining circuit; (2) the subject vehicles were designed to meet the hydraulic circuit partial failure requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 105 and 135, Light Vehicle Brake Systems; and (3) should a brake fluid leak occur for any reason, the brake system malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) would illuminate and warn the driver before the brake fluid level was low enough to cause a loss of line pressure

So, let’s be clear, millions of GM vehicles have a dangerous defect whereby brake lines are rusting to the point where brakes fail. They have done nothing about the problem for the four years they have known about it. When will it be time for GM’s new regime to finally be held accountable for its many failures to protect motorists?

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.