The 8 weirdest auto recalls

Auto recalls seem to be in the news more often these days. And they seem to become bigger and bigger, affecting millions of vehicles at the same time. This is a result of modular platforms and large-scale manufacturing. Automakers are developing more common parts to fit into multiple models, across multiple brands, which reduces costs of development and manufacturing of parts. But there is a risk involved with this trend: when a part proves to be faulty, a larger number of cars, sometimes across continents, need to be recalled to the dealer to fix the part.

In the United States, the manufacturer can be forced to recall a certain number of cars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when this government agency thinks the issues cause the cars to no longer comply with the safety standards. But besides the safety issues, some recalls are just plain weird.

Here’s a list of the 8 weirdest auto recalls ever:

Blown out the window


General Motors recalled over 67.000 stationwagons from the 1979 and 1980 model year Buick Century, Chevrolet Malibu, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Pontiac LeMans because of a failure in the innovative rear-window defogger. Instead of defogging by air blowing to the window, the system used electrical strips, which could deteriorate and react with the weather stripping, leading to shattering rear windows. Some drivers got so startled from the “explosion” that they ended up crashing their vehicles. I guess power windows is not always a positive accessory to a car.

Don’t drink and drive


In 1996 Toyota had to recall over 625.000 Corolla and Geo Prizm of the 1993 till 1995 model years when they found out the hard way that an airbag sensor was not protected to liquids that would somehow find their way into the center console. As a result, when a driver or passenger would spill a drink over the center console, there was a possibility the beverage could damage the sensor, illuminating the airbag warning light or even causing the airbag to deploy (which I think should not be possible from just 1 sensor, failed or not). Owners were asked to refrain from drinking in their vehicles and return to their dealer as soon as possible, so a protective cover could be placed over the sensor. It is not known whether they would also increase the size of the cupholder to comfort the 64 oz. (1,9 liters!) Big Gulp drink cups als well.

A smoking hot stereo


In 2004 Chrysler recalled 238.000 Chrysler Voyager, Town&Country and Dodge (Grand) Caravan of the 2001 and 2002 model years. In high temperature and high humidity circumstances, condensation from the air-conditioning ducts could trickle down into the car stereo system, potentially causing a short circuit, which would send a direct current to the rear speakers. The speakers could then catch fire. Just a bit of waterproofing tape was enough to prevent the Caravan from becoming a Barbeque.

Itsy Bitsy Spider, climbing in the fuel line


In 2011 Mazda recalled over 50.000 Mazda6 of the 2009 and 2010 model year in the US and 15.000 units in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The reason was that a specific spider, the Yellow Sac spider, nested in a ventilation line of the fuel tank. This line is supposed to let air into the fuel tank to prevent a vacuum in the tank when fuel is consumed while driving the car. Because the spiders would weave their webs in this vent line, the blockage in the line could cause the air pressure in the fuel tank to drop. As a result, the tank could crack open, which could possibly lead to fires. After 20 reported spider infested Mazda6 with the 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine, owners were asked to return to their dealer for an inspection. The eight legged creatures did not explain why they preferred to nest in the Mazda6 over the technically related Ford Fusion.

Don’t let the sky fall down on you


You just learned that a shattering rear window could cause crashes, so what about a shattering sunroof? Now that would give you a serious scare, broken glass falling all over you while driving. One would think that manufacturers make sure this doesn’t happen, but there have been multiple recalls for this problem:

  • Mitsubishi found out they may have forgotten to use the correct primer for the adhesive to attach the sunroof on the 2011 model year Outlander Sport, which is known as ASX in other parts of the world and as RVR in Japan. As a result, the sunroof could become loose and be blown from the vehicle onto the road behind. Almost 4.600 Outlander Sport models were recalled, of which 3.200 in the US and Puerto Rico and almost 400 in Australia. Also, over 9.400 ASX were recalled in China for the same problem.
  • Subaru inadequately applied the adhesive to some of the 2011 and 2012 model year Legacy and Outback, and recalled almost 70.000 of them in two separate occasions to check whether the sunroof could detach from the roof and fly into the air.
  • Hyundai recalled almost 20.000 Veloster from the 2012 model year because the optional panoramic sunroofs could shatter while driving. The roof assembly may have been damaged during installation at the factory, leading to possible breakage of the glass.
  • Audi recalled over 13.000 2012 model year Q5 crossovers because the glass sunroofs could possibly shatter in cold weather. Then recently Audi also recalled a few hundred A8 and S8 for a possible shattering sunroof. About 140 Audi A8 in the UK, 61 in Canada, and 1120 models in the US were recalled to the dealer.

Honey, did you start the car?


Another modern technical feature that must have led to some funny situations is the Remote Start function, which is found in an increasing number of vehicles. Subaru recalled over 47.000 2010-2013 Legacy and Outback, 2012 and 2013 Impreza and 2013 XV models because the remote engine starter could cause the cars to start themselves after it had been dropped. The car’s engine would be running for about 15 minutes, or in some cases keep starting and stopping until the battery in the remote starter would die. Now there’s a Stop & Start system that doesn’t save you fuel.

Spidercar 2: The Sequel


So you thought spiders had a preference for Mazda? Guess again. Just recently, recall-champion Toyota called back over 800.000 Camry, Venza and Avalon for spider infestation as well. Condensed water from the air-conditioning could leak onto the airbag control module and cause a short circuit. This could lead to an illumination of the airbag warning light, disabled airbags or inadvertently deploying airbags. Culprit of all this: spiders building a web in a drainage tube of the air-conditioning unit, blocking the tube. Just one more reason to be afraid of spiders.

A nifty rebadge job


But the award for the funniest recall goes to……. Honda! The recently recalled the 2013 Odyssey MPV because they may have accidentally put the Odyssey name badge on the passenger side of the rear liftgate instead of on the driver’s side. Though not exactly a safety recall, it could cost the owner some dollars when trading in or selling the vehicle later on, because a badge that is not in the correct position could be a result of a damage repair or paint job. According to Honda “The placement of the emblem may indicate that the vehicle has had repairs performed that are consistent with being in a crash. This could affect the resale value of the vehicle.”

This must be the cheapest badge engineering of a Honda vehicle since the Honda Accord/Triumph Acclaim failure.


Less than a week after publication of this article, GM announced it would recall its Chevy Camaro coupe for Airbag Warning stickers that might come loose from the sun visor, causing the vehicle to no longer comply to Federal Safety Standards. That would have made it 9 weirdest auto recalls ever.