Drivers urged to wash cars after brake-line rust probe - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Drivers urged to wash cars after brake-line rust probe

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Drivers who live in Iowa and other places where salt is used to clear roads of snow and ice are being urged to wash the undersides of their vehicles based on a years-long federal investigation into rusting pipes that carry brake fluid in millions of older model cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spent five years probing the corroding pipes in about five million Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC pickups and SUVs and found the problem was caused by road salt and lack of cleaning, not a manufacturing or design defect. No recall was ever issued in connection with the safety regulator's investigation.

On Wednesday, the agency announced the completion of its investigation and urged people in 20 cold-weather states, including Iowa, to get their cars and truck undercarriages washed several times during and after the winter. Drivers were also told to get their brake lines inspected for rust and replace them if necessary. The warning underscores the importance of washing highly corrosive salt from beneath a car because over time, it can cause suspension parts, the frame, or other components to corrode and fail.

NHTSA's finding that the GM trucks weren't defective came even though it received 3,645 complaints of brake pipe rust in the General Motors vehicles from the 1999 to 2007 model years, including 107 crash reports and 40 reports of injuries. Seventy-five percent of the complaints came from trucks in the first four model years covered by the investigation, 1999-2003, the agency said.

The investigation started after NHTSA received a complaint from a Middletown, Ohio, man in March of 2010, who said the pipes that carry brake fluid on his 2003 Chevy Silverado rusted and leaked, causing a sudden reduction in braking power.

Yet it took until Wednesday for the agency to resolve the matter. The agency acknowledged that the probe took too long and said its Office of Defects Investigation is understaffed. Additional staffing and funding are in the Obama administration's proposed budget, NHTSA said. The agency said that in recent years it also has concentrated on more serious recall issues that involved multiple crash deaths.

NHTSA's car-wash advisory applies mainly to owners of vehicles from the 2007 model year or older in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

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