NHTSA Safety Advisory: Check Your Brakes For Rust

If you live in a so-called cold weather Rust Belt state, which includes about half of the 50 states, you need to have your brake systems checked regularly for corrosion. That’s the newest safety advisory from U.S. safety regulators who’ve been investigating rust complaints in 2 million older model GM trucks and SUVs.

Instead of finding GM’s vehicles defective in that area, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is chalking the corrosion and rust issues up to all the salt used to melt snow and ice on roadways. If you don’t wash it off, salt can lead to those type of problems over time. If it’s bad enough, it can corrode brake lines to the extent of causing brake failure which could result in a crash.

In issuing the safety advisory Thursday, the NHTSA closed the GM rust investigation without recalling vehicles model years 1999 to 2003, which included Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

So what exactly do U.S. safety regulators suggest people do. Well they’re advising owners to wash their car’s undercarriage regularly throughout the winter months, plus owners should also have their brake systems inspected during cold weather if they drive in the Rust Belt. The problem is particularly an issue in models from 2007 and earlier because a zinc-aluminum alloy widely used to coat brake systems until then was more susceptible to rust than what’s used now.

According to Reuters, the average age of cars on U.S. roads is about 11 years, so that’s why millions of them are included in the advisory. But again, it’s not a recall. NHTSA investigators say they didn’t determine that the GM vehicles had a safety defect in part because other automaker’s vehicles of the same age had the same kind of brake system corrosion happening.

“While we are not issuing a defect notice, there is a safety issue here and that safety issue is the combination of time and road salt creating a corrosion problem in these older vehicles,” a NHTSA official said.

The regulator said vehicles in the these states are more prone to corrosion-related problems to brake lines and brake pipes: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

The NHTSA even has a video on the safety hazards of salt corrosion.

Photo Credit: NHTSA
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