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Last year, a new refrigerant was at the center of controversy when Daimler raised concerns about it igniting on the hot surface of an engine.
General Motors is moving closer to a solution for the fires that occurred in Volts after crash testing earlier this year.
Fox News reported yesterday that, according to an unnamed source, fires sparking inside Chevrolet‘s lauded green car might be caused by coolant crystallizing on the car’s battery after a crash, leading to a short circuit.
Since then, Reuters reported that GM is moving towards a set of dealership-implemented fixes to ensure post-crash safety in the cars, though the solution isn’t finalized.
“To the best of my knowledge, we’re not discussing exact solutions at this point,” GM spokesman Rob Peterson said.
Despite that, rumored solutions continue to surface by unnamed sources. Among those unofficial fixes, it seems that GM might laminate the 400-pound battery pack as well as strengthen the casing around it. They may also take steps to better protect against coolant leakage after a crash.
While those possibilities aren’t certain, GM senior management expects a solution by the end of the week. Barring demand by U.S. safety regulators for a deeper-reaching solution, the fix is expected to cost less than $1 million, or roughly $1000 per car.
GM is also offering current Volt owners loaner cars to drive until their vehicle is bolstered against the potential disaster. The aggressive repair policy signals how serious GM is about making the Volt their symbol of future progress.
As far as the EV market is concerned, others are on the way, but for now the Volt’s sole competitor is the Nissan Leaf. The key difference between the two is that the Leaf runs solely on battery power, whereas the Volt has a 1.4-liter gasoline engine that extends driving range. The Leaf didn’t experience the same problems after crash tests, possibly because it doesn’t a use liquid-cooled battery.
Last week GM CEO, Dan Akerson told the Associated Press that GM plans to buy back Volts from any customers concerned about the cars catching fire. He also maintained that they are safe to drive and that owners shouldn’t worry about the issue.
“I think it behooves everyone including General Motors and all of our competition, but more importantly our customers, that we get it right,” Akerson said.
Getting it right definitely involves fixing hazardous issues, but how right is it that GM knew about the problem as early as May without making the public aware? In an earlier story, we reported that it’s possible both GM and the NHTSA knew about the problem but failed to disclose it until last November.
Temperatures are soaring, and all you can think about is getting somewhere air conditioned. If you’re steaming, just imagine how hot it must get under the hood of your car. On those days when the weather is just too hot to handle, it pays to keep an eye on the signs that tell you that your car is going to overheat.
Although an engine can overheat at anytime, blazing temps and traffic to the cottage tend to bring out the worst in your car. Be sure to watch that the dashboard’s temperature gauge isn’t making its way into the red zone, or in a worst case scenario, that steam isn’t escaping from under the hood. There are many reasons why an engine overheats: a loss of coolant due to a leaking hose or radiator; a worn or broken fan belt, a bad water pump or thermostat, or an electrical problem.
Here’s what to do if your car overheats (and to ensure that you don’t).
- Crank your heater to 10, as it can drain some heat from the engine. You can even use this trick when the temperature gauge is running high but not in the red zone.
- Drive to a safe location and turn off the engine.
- To help the engine cool faster, lift the hood. Don’t do it if steam is coming out and don’t remove a hot radiator cap. Hot, pressurized coolant and steam could erupt from the radiator, burning you. Also, you should never add cold water to an overheated engine as the sudden temperature change can damage your engine.
- Let the engine cool down, which takes about half an hour to an hour. This is a good time to call for roadside assistance.
- Check the coolant tank (it’s the translucent plastic tank located under the hood, near the radiator). It may be a leak if it’s empty. If you have coolant, add it to the coolant tank or the radiator, but only after it has cooled down. If you are all out of coolant, just pour it into the coolant tank so you can get to a repair shop. If there’s lots of coolant in the tank, the overheating may be caused by an electrical or mechanical problem.
[Source: Consumer Reports]