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GM recalling 1.4 million vehicles for fire hazard

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors is recalling 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix a problem in which fires can be caused by a heated windshield washer fluid system.

The automaker is recalling approximately 100,000 more vehicles in other countries for the same problem.

2009 GMC Acadia

GM recalled 944,000 vehicles for this same problem in 2008, but now says the fixes it made aren't stopping new fires. Now GM dealers will simply disable the system altogether.

The system is designed to heat windshield washer fluid in order to better clear the vehicles' windshield on cold days..

In a recall action announced in August 2008, GM dealers installed a fuse to shut off the system in the event of a short circuit.

A short circuit in the circuit board that controls the system caused a grounding wire to overheat. That led to smoke and the malfunctioning of other electrical components.

There have new reports of "thermal incidents," including five fires, in vehicles that have had the repair, according to documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The problem in the current recall is unrelated to the one involved in the first recall. In the new cases, the overheating is not being stopped by the fuse, GM spokesman Alan Adler said.

"While our analysis shows the number of incidents is very small compared with the number of vehicles on the road, we want our customers to have complete peace of mind," Jeff Boyer, GM's executive director of safety, said in a statement.

There have been no reports of accidents or injuries as a result of the problem, GM said.

The company that originally supplied the system to GM, MicroHeat Inc., was forced into bankruptcy following the 2008 recall. The company reorganized under the name AlphaTherm and now sells heated washer fluid systems directly to vehicle owners.

Joe Trubak, general manager of AlphaTherm and a former MicroHeat executive, said MicroHeat engineers had tried to work with GM after 2008 recall to come up with a more robust solution to the problem. Had GM followed MicroHeat's advice, he said, this new recall would never have been needed.

"They never fully determined root cause prior to the first recall," he said.

The vehicles affected by the recall are the Buick Enclave and Lucerne; Cadillac CTS, DTS and Escalade; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe and Traverse; GMC Acadia, Sierra and Yukon; Hummer H2; and Saturn Outlook.

All the vehicles are from 2006 to 2009 model years. Owners will receive $100 from GM to compensate them for loss of the feature.

Owners who think their vehicle may be involved in this recall can call NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 or contact GM customer service for their vehicle brand. To top of page

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