Feds find no defect in '92-'96 Suburban brakes

WASHINGTON - Federal safety officials say they found no safety defect in the antilock brakes on General Motors' large sport-utilities despite investigating for more than six years and receiving more than 5,500 consumer complaints.

The investigation of the 1992-96 Chevrolet and GMC Suburbans was the longest active defect case at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Had a defect been proved, GM would have had to recall about 500,000 trucks for repairs.

In response to the closing, GM chose not to be a sore winner. "We always work with NHTSA. Some of these things take a while to get resolved," said GM spokesman Mike Morrissey.

GM gives repair tips

The 5,500 complaints about the brakes, collected by NHTSA and GM, included more than 1,500 reported crashes with nearly 400 injuries and one death. Drivers complained most often that the vehicles did not stop as fast as they should or that the brake pedal traveled too far.

Agency officials said the Suburban brakes do have a different feel from those on other vehicles, but tests found no stopping distance problem nor any defective part.

NHTSA records show the investigation was suspended in 1999 after GM promised to make changes in the brakes so the Suburbans' owners would be more satisfied with their performance.

The agency said it had "numerous conversations and meetings with GM" to get the changes launched.

In June 2001 GM advised dealers to install thicker brake pads on the vehicles and to replace a brake booster output push rod on those with too much pedal travel.

Steering woes 'pervasive'

NHTSA, in its monthly report on defect investigations, also said it closed a case involving steering problems on cars built by Chrysler Corp. in the 1994-96 model years.

The agency said that, after two years of investigating, it did not find sufficient evidence of a defect in the LH-series cars. They are the Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision and Chrysler LHS and Concorde. More than 850,000 are in service.

NHTSA and the automaker together collected nearly 2,400 complaints about loose or broken bushings or bolts in steering parts. Some were in tie rod connections to the steering gear and some were in the attachments of the gear to the vehicle. The complaints included reports of four crashes with four injuries.

The agency said it also found nearly 58,000 possibly related warranty claims.

NHTSA concluded that the cars had "pervasive" steering problems but that they did not constitute "a clear safety-related trend."

Investigators noted that the

problems often manifested themselves as changes in steering feel

and response, and most drivers sought service before crashes occurred.

NHTSA also reported opening three new defect investigations. They are as follows:

2002-01 CHEVROLET BLAZER, GMC JIMMY, OLDSMOBILE BRAVADA

Problem: Brake lamps stop working.

Complaints: Six.

Vehicle population: To be determined.

1997-98 FORD F-150

Problem: Steering column intermediate shaft disconnects from steering gear input shaft; driver loses steering control.

Complaints: Seven, with one crash.

Vehicle population: To be determined.

2001 DODGE RAM

Problem: Fire breaks out in engine compartment.

Complaints: Two.

Vehicle population: To be determined.

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