WASHINGTON - A wary owner used an Internet site for fans of the Cadillac Allante to help him convince federal safety officials they should investigate vehicle brake malfunctions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week it accepted a petition from Allante owner Ed Arold of Rockville, Md., to investigate the brakes on 1987-92 Allantes for defects.
Arold gathered 29 complaints about the cars' brakes by using the Web site of the Allante Appreciation Group, www.allante.org.
He told Automotive News he has not had a problem with the brakes on his own 1989 Allante but was aware that other owners have had malfunctions and costly repairs. He said his purpose is to hold General Motors responsible if his brakes do go bad.
But Arold emphasized, 'I love the car.'
NHTSA said it also received 32 complaints about Allante brakes through its normal filing process. They included reports of two crashes and one injury. At least nine of the complaints duplicated ones gathered by Arold, the agency said.
Most complainants said brakes failed partially or completely at speeds ranging from 10 to 50 mph.
NHTSA did not yet have an estimate of how many of the cars are on the road.
NHTSA opened two other defect investigations because the agency, once again while conducting routine crash tests, discovered potential problems not directly related to the objectives of the tests.
In both of the new cases, fuel tanks leaked after vehicles were subjected to side-impact crashes.
The agency said a 1999 Dodge Caravan's tank spilled a fuel substitute after a safety-certification crash test. The agency will investigate the tanks on 1996-99 Chrysler Corp. minivans. There are about 2 million in service.
NHTSA also said the tank on a 1999 Chevrolet S10 pickup with an extended cab leaked after a crash conducted for the New Car Assessment Program. The agency said it will investigate the 1999 model only. It did not estimate how many are in service.
Recent examples of routine tests disclosing unexpected problems have involved several small sport-utilities tipping over and a 1997 Dodge Caravan passenger airbag damaging a small, female dummy.
In other defect investigation developments, NHTSA said it closed a series of cases after finding insufficient evidence of a problem. The cases involved complaints about the following:
Front coil spring failures in 1995 Ford Contours
Broken accelerator pedals in 1998 Honda Passports and Isuzu Rodeos
Rear trailing arm failures in 1995-96 Ford Windstars
Inertia fuel shutoff switch malfunctions in the 1998 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Mar-quis.
NHTSA also said it had closed two investigations after manufacturers decided to conduct safety recalls of the vehicles. The cases had involved complaints about the following:
Fuel sender assembly fires in 1993-95 Ford Aerostars
Fuel injector assembly leaks in 1993-95 Chrysler Concordes, LHSs and New Yorkers; Eagle Visions; and Dodge Intrepids.
Other new defect investigations opened by NHTSA are:
1998 OLDSMOBILE INTRIGUE
Problem: Rear seat belt webbing tangles, jams in retractor.
Vehicle population: 91,000.
1995 MAZDA MIATA
Problem: Airbags deploy for no reason or after minor undercarriage impacts.
Complaints: Five, including one crash and three injuries.
Vehicle population: To be determined.
1995 DODGE AVENGER, CHRYS-LER SEBRING, EXCLUDING CONVERTIBLES
Problem: Front ball joints fail, suspension collapses.
Vehicle population: 75,000.
1994-95 MERCURY VILLAGER
Problem: Hose from fuel line to injector rail leaks.
Vehicle population: 142,000.
1993 FORD TAURUS, MERCURY SABLE
Problem: Windshield wipers fail.
Vehicle population: 555,000.