If there's one constant message to take from recent brake-based vehicle recalls, it's that every component of automotive systems is susceptible to failure. Furthermore, due to the fact that no vehicle can be considered safe without brakes that work correctly, any threat to a braking system is worth a recall. The sheer variety of malfunctions that have been detected and responded to in recent weeks shows a cross-section of these problems, and should remind component manufacturers of the importance of thorough testing.
It's obviously impossible to anticipate every possible scenario that could affect vehicles' brakes negatively. However, observing the wide variety of recalls going on today can give manufacturers insights into the ways modern systems are falling short and help them prepare their own products to stand up to the rigors of the road. Any issue anticipated and corrected before the parts are ever manufactured saves the bottom line from the pressures of a recall and keeps motorists safer.
The following are three recent examples of brake-impacting problems that triggered recalls. Each is unique, and can serve as an item on a checklist of issues to watch for.
Mercedes vacuum hoses
One of the most humbling realizations an automaker can have is discovering a recall has been undersold and actually affects more vehicles than anticipated. According to Motoring, Mercedes-Benz's Australian division recently had such a moment concerning a brake vacuum hose recall for its A-Class and B-Class cars.
The issue, originally reported in July by the same publication, involves the chance a critical booster hose may break. In such a case, the brake pedal's pressure will grow larger, with braking assistance gone. Someone hoping to stop quickly in an emergency may be unable to do so, raising the potential of a collision. According to the initial recall, the cars in question were sold between February 2012 and June 2013.
Engine control software
Today's cars and trucks are deceptively complex, with software running behind the scenes to generate a smooth ride. But what happens when the software governing acceleration and braking functions is prone to issues? A separate Mercedes-Benz recall recently revealed the answer. Consumer Affairs explained that Mercedes-Benz USA has recalled 12,322 cars, encompassing the 2016-2017 AMG GLE43 and 2017 AMG GLE432s for a digital fault.
The problem has to do with compatibility between the engine and the transmission control units. When a driver accelerates or brakes to a stop, these two systems could malfunction, causing the engine to shut off. It goes without saying that the car stopping unexpectedly could lead to a collision. As is the usual procedure with software-based problems, dealerships will simply reprogram the systems in question rather than actually swapping out any physical hardware.
Ford wheel hub components
Sometimes, other wheel parts around the brakes are responsible for motorists' driving problems. The interactions between these defective pieces and otherwise functional brakes leads to trouble. A recent Ford recall in this vein is peculiar in that it involves parts sold through aftermarket companies, rather than installed on vehicles in the factory.
Car Complaints reported that wheel hub bearing assemblies were marketed for use on the front and rear wheels of Ford Explorer SUVs with front-wheel drive. However, when installed on the rear wheels of these vehicles, the assemblies could cause trouble – non-drive axles don't have the same retaining nuts as drive axles.
A grinding noise from the brake rotors is one sign that things are going wrong in the wheel hub, along with potential wobbling and the anti-lock braking light illuminating on the dashboard. If this problem is allowed to persist, the wheel may separate from the car. There are no reported cases of this happening yet.
Different yet connected
What's the connection between a hose, a piece of software and an aftermarket wheel hub? These disparate parts all run the risk of negatively impacting braking performance. Every stage of a vehicle's assembly and each piece manufactured possesses its own importance, and understanding the roles of these components, as well as the way they interact with one another, is essential for automakers hoping to avoid recalls.
When manufacturers begin designing a new braking system, testing is an essential step in getting it ready for production. To navigate the complex world of safe component manufacturing, companies can request a complimentary brake testing consultation from Greening.