WASHINGTON-The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is stepping up its investigations of alleged antilock brake system failure in Chrysler Corp. minivans and alleged engine compartment fires in Chevrolet/GMC trucks. In July, the safety agency ordered engineering analyses of these problems, the next phase of a NHTSA investigation after a preliminary evaluation.
NHTSA knows of 837 complaints of ABS failure in 1991-93 Plymouth Voyager and Grand Voyager minivans, Dodge Caravan, Grand Caravan and Caravan C/V minivans, and in Chrysler Town and Country minivans. These failures have resulted in 26 accidents and three injuries.
This investigation is complicated by several factors, according to NHTSA:. The minivans have four different ABS systems; there have been two recalls already; and many of the complaints involve intermittent problems which the dealers cannot find.
The agency's Office of Defects Investigation, meanwhile, has 18 complaints on file involving engine compartment fires in 1989-93 Chevy/GMC trucks. These fires allegedly began in the alternator and spread through the engine.
General Motors has 198 additional complaints on alternator fires, as well as 216 reports of unexplained engine fires.
The best known current tire-related NHTSA investigation involves the preliminary evaluation of alleged premature rear tire wear in the Acura NSX sports car. The car's original equipment tires have a unidirectional, asymmetric tread pattern, with different-sized front and rear wheels, necessitating a different tire for each wheel position.
The probe, which was opened last Jan. 28, has not been upgraded by the agency.