Importer to recall Chinese-made car fuses

Auto parts company alerted regulators to fuses that don't blow when they should and could cause fires.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- As many as 295,000 sets of car fuses, each containing 120 fuses, are being recalled because some allow more electrical current through than they should, according to a newspaper report.

The number of fuses involved in the recall might ultimately be reduced, said Marc Friedman, General Council for Harbor Freight Tools, the company that sold them. The company is researching the actual number of fuse sets that might be involved.

The fuses were sold over a two-year period beginning in August 2005, by Harbor Freight Tools, a California-based auto supply retailer. The fuses were manufactured in China, but the name of the manufacturer has not been disclosed.

Chinese-made products have been under scrutiny recently after several high-profile recalls, including toys made with lead paint, pet food containing dangerous additives and tires that allegedly could come apart under use.

Sold under the brand name Storehouse, the sets of blade-type and mini-blade-type fuses were sold as replacement parts and were not used as original equipment in any vehicles. The item numbers are 92939 for the mini-blade-type and 92940 for the blade-type.

After determining that there were "manufacturing inconsistencies with the materials, connections or size of some of the fuses' elements, which could result in some fuses not functioning as intended," the company sent a "defect notice" letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Aug. 10.

The fuses are not marked in any way that would identify them as coming from Harbor Freight Tools. They have no serial numbers or date codes.

"The best way to determine if the seller of the product was Harbor Freight Tools would be to review the fuses in conjunction with their storage case, which is clearly marked as distributed exclusively by Harbor Freight Tools," the company said in its letter to NHTSA.

Harbor Freight Tools received four complaints of alleged property damage resulting from defective fuses, according to the defect notice. NHTSA received an additional two reports of damage directly from consumers, according to Harbor Freight's defect notice. There were no reports of deaths or injuries, according to the letter.

General Motors (Charts, Fortune 500) also contacted Harbor Freight citing concerns about the fuses, according to the defect notice.

GM is preparing a letter to send out to GM dealers asking them not to use the fuses in repairing vehicles, said Alan Adler, A GM spokesman. GM prefers that its dealers use only "Genuine GM Parts," Adler said, but dealers sometimes use parts from other sources. GM car dealers are independently-owned business.

The company plans to contact all customers who purchased the fuses directly from Harbor Freight and will refund the cost of the fuses. In addition, customers will receive a $5 gift certificate, the company said in its letter to NHTSA.

The recall will begin some time in September, according to additional information supplied by NHTSA. The company had originally said in its defect notification that the recall was to begin on Aug. 15, but the company needs more time to research how many fuse sets might be involved, said Friedman. Meanwhile, Harbor Freight has stopped selling the suspect fuses. Top of page