Natural Gas Vehicles Subject to Large Recall

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has acknowledged a safety recall notice from General Motors that affects more than 3,000 GMC Savana and Chevy Express vans with compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel systems.

GM first alerted the NHTSA about an equipment defect last month. According to NHTSA documents, some model-year 2011-2014 Express and Savana vans – potentially a total of 3,196 units – are equipped with a CNG high-pressure regulator that had shown the potential to fail and, in turn, leak gas.

The danger, of course, is that leaking gas could find an ignition source, and a fire or explosion could occur on board the vehicle. However, no accidents have been reported.

In March, a GM fleet customer told the company that one of its CNG-powered vans required the replacement of a leaking regulator. GM and its partner, IMPCO Automotive, began investigating CNG leaks on potentially affected vehicles, ultimately determining that there was a ‘high incidence of leaking regulators’ tied to an earlier recall from May 2013. That recall involved a solenoid on Express and Savana cargo vans that governs the flow of CNG.

But this spring, as GM continued to look at potentially faulty solenoids, the company found that a number of cases of leaking regulators ‘could not be attributed to the regulator solenoid recall replacement.’ Instead, these leaks occurred because of anomalies in the machining and assembly of the regulator, as well as the manufacturing of the internal diaphragm assembly.

GM notes that if a CNG van owner suspects a leak, the customer should not start the vehicle – get the van towed to a GM dealer for inspection.

Unfortunately, if the dealer determines that a CNG leak is present, the parts that are needed in order to repair the problem are not yet available. GM has not said when those parts will be in dealers' hands.

Any fleet owners with questions can call (202) 366-5227 or send an email to kelly.schuler@dot.gov.

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