This week, Subaru announced a recall for more than 271,000 Ascent SUVs due to a potential fire risk. Although owners won’t be formally notified until early February, Subaru says that model year 2019–2022 Ascent SUVs should not be parked in garages or car ports or under other structures. Subaru also says owners should not leave their Ascent running unattended, and if they notice or smell smoke coming from the dash or driver’s footwell, they should immediately turn the car off and not attempt to restart it.
The problem is an improperly grounded terminal for the cars’ positive temperature coefficient heater, a heat source for the climate system that does not rely on engine heat. In January 2020, Subaru changed part of the Ascent’s assembly process, switching to air tools on the part of the production line that fastens the ground terminal.
If the bolt isn’t properly fastened and the contact area is too small, resistance can build up to the point where the ground terminal gets hot enough to melt, along with anything in close proximity. That’s obviously not something you want to happen while you’re driving a car.
Subaru was informed about a vehicle fire in September 2021 that occurred in the area around the ground terminal but at the time could not identify the cause. However, by May 2022, the company was closing in on the improperly torqued bolts as the culprit. In April 2022, it changed the production line to use air tools capable of detecting torque and rotation.
Unlike other recalls we’ve reported on recently, the fix for affected vehicles here will involve a dealer replacing the PTC heater ground bolts, as well as the wiring and connector holder if necessary.
Mechanics can expect to be busy inspecting vehicles for recalls over the coming months.
At the same time that Subaru was notifying the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration about the Ascent recall, Stellantis told NHTSA that it is issuing a recall for 1,234,657 model year 2019–2022 Ram 1500, Ram 2500, and Ram 3500 pickup trucks. In Ram’s case, the problem is tailgate strikers that might be misaligned, which could cause the tailgate to open while the truck is being driven. As with the Subaru problem, Stellantis traced the problem to tooling and has since improved the method it uses to align the components. The fix is an inspection of the tailgate striker and realignment if necessary.
Also that same day, General Motors informed NHTSA that it will recall 740,108 vehicles, including 2020–2023 Cadillac CT4s, 2020–2023 Cadillac CT5s, 2021–2023 Buick Envisions, 2022–2023 Cadillac Escalades and Escalade ESVs, 2022–2023 Chevrolet Silverados, 2022–2023 Chevrolet Suburbans, 2022–2023 Chevrolet Tahoes, 2022–2023 GMC Sierra 1500s, and 2022–2023 GMC Yukons and Yukon XLs.
These cars, trucks, and SUVs may have daylight running lights that don’t turn off when the headlights turn on, which could create too much glare for other drivers. GM’s solution here is a software patch, but the affected vehicles don’t have over-the-air update capabilities. Instead, owners will be notified in late January by their dealers as to when the fix might take place.