If you’ve never experienced a sudden and unexpected brake failure while out on the road, take it from someone who knows; it’s a great way to feel alive. We highly recommend it.
Still, the owners of some 1.8 million older General Motors trucks and SUVs did not appreciate the prospect of an unforgettable, invigorating near-death experiences. And so, in 2010, the NHTSA began an investigation into pickup trucks and SUVs produced on the GMT800 platform. According to Consumerist, this platform underlaid the Cadillac Escalade (2002, ’03), GMC Yukon XL (2000), Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 and 2500 (2002-’06), Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon (2000-’06), and the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Chevrolet Suburban (1999-2006).
In all of these cases, the brake failure was caused by one or more corroded brake lines, which could burst suddenly even under normal fluid pressure. That’s an issue by no means exclusive to General Motors vehicles, but the automaker had claimed that dual brake lines and a failure warning light should prevent the majority of surprise occurrences.
Five years and one month later, the NHTSA has reached the conclusion of its investigation, and has not issued a recall order to General Motors. How did the folks at the NHTSA come by this decision? After analyzing some 3,645 consumer complaints, of which some 107 involved related vehicle crashes, the NHTSA found that a disproportionate number of the reported failures occurred in vehicles driven in the “salt states.” That is, states where salt is commonly used to facilitate the melting of ice during the winter.
This makes sense, as salt accelerates the corrosion of most metals, and any protective coating applied to brake lines often wears off with age. The NHTSA has retained the right to watch the issue further, and take any additional necessary action.
For now, the best way to keep your GMT800-based truck or SUV safe on the road? Have your brake lines inspected regularly, and wash your vehicle’s underbody after the winter season to clear off excess salt buildup.