General Motors to Recall More than 550,000 Trucks Over Potential Seat-Belt-Related Fire Risk

Recalls ordered by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration typically involve safety concerns that make a lot of sense.  These often include things like faulty airbags or roll-away risk or electrical problems.  However, a new US NHTSA recall order warns that approximately 560,000 General Motors trucks might have seat belts that could cause a fire.  

It is an odd situation, to be certain, but the agency says that certain Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 truck models in the 2019 and 2020 model years are on this list.  On top of that, 2020 Silverado and Sierra 2500 and 3500 models are also on the list.  The recall notes that it has been estimated that only 1 percent of the 556,399 trucks included in the recall could have the defect. 

Now, this defect is, specifically, an issue with the seat-belt pretensioners.  Apparently, it has been found that these mechanisms—which tighten seatbelts to keep you secure—could engage during an accident and start a fire near the B-pillar.  This is only relevant in trucks that have carpet.  

The recall document specifically explains, “There is a small opening in the pretensioner bracket that can allow gasses expelled from a pretensioner during deployment to come into contact with cotton material in the carpet floor.  This opening was intended as a locator hole for assembly but was never utilized. It was not a part of the pretensioner system performance design.”  

More importantly, the recall notice continues, “Following a crash that causes the seatbelt pretensioners to deploy, smoke or a burning odor from the area at the base of the B-pillar may be noticeable before a fire propagates sufficiently to be visible.”

In addition, the recall document says that GM had originally been notified about the fire risk in July and that GM did, in fact, open a product investigation to determine any potential link. Fortunately, there have been no reports of injury related to this issue.

Finally, the recall documents note that GM will close off the opening located within the pretensioner bracket so exhaust gasses get diverted from the carpet. This will circumvent the combustion potential and eliminate the risk.