Buick Doesn't Tell Dealerships About Fire Hazard

There are efficient ways to initiate a recall and issue safety notices, and then there’s the Buick way. After determining a potential fire hazard in the certain Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Regals, Buick sent out safety notices in advance of a probable recall to its customers. It alerted them of the hazard, and recommend they have a mechanic investigate any suspicious burning smells. What they neglected, however, was to inform their dealerships of the hazard. Reader Tculkin, who had already complained of burning smells to another mechanic, followed the advice in his safety notice and immediately called his local dealership. The dealership had no idea what he was talking about. Literally, they didn’t get the memo. Details, inside…

I received a “safety notice” from Buick on/about 3/21/08. It advised that my 1999 Buick Regal GS might CATCH ON FIRE under selected, though infrequent, circumstances. They cautioned not to park the car in a garage or carport, and to call my Buick dealer if I smelled a burning odor. (I had already asked a local repair shop, before receiving the safety notice, to check for the source of the burning odor.)

So I called two local Buick dealers on 3/25: Neither one had any idea what I was talking about. One said, “You know more about this than we do.” Both advised waiting a week or two for the dealers to “catch up” with the news.

So then I called Buick Customer Service. The representative told me to wait a week or two for Buick to advise all their dealers about the problem.

What the heck? I’m supposed to wait while my Buick may start burning? It seems to me that Buick should alert their dealers FIRST (or at least contemporaneously).


If Buick can send the customer a letter, maybe they should at least cc: that letter to their dealerships. Just a thought. If you have a 1997-2003 model year Pontiac Grand Prix GTP and Buick Regal GS, or work at a Buick dealership, you might want to check out GrandPrixForums.net. Those gear heads have a few details on what the problem is and how to fix it.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. digitalhen says:

    i learned a new word today, “contemporaneously”. thanks consumerist. i shall try to use it in all conversations from now on.

  2. valarmorghulis says:

    Tag please: Putting the cart before the horse

  3. dorianh49 says:

    I’m sorry this is off-topic, but IE 6 is having weird issues again displaying the site. The section that shows the author and number of comments is currently on top of the main story. Just started about maybe an hour ago.

  4. sleze69 says:

    This isn’t isolated to Buick. Many VW dealerships are unaware of firmware updates and notices regarding my TDI Passat.

  5. Buran says:

    @sleze69: I’ve had decent experience with VW dealerships and recalls, personally.

  6. snazz says:

    or is this the dealership trying not to admit anything, to avoid blame and possible lawsuits?

  7. Nighthawke says:

    Take the notice physically to the dealer and show it to them.
    If they balk or hedge around it, tell them to call Home Office for clarification. This puts them on the spot and the proof in the pudding will be if they do so or try to hedge around it again. If the latter, post a complaint with Buick HQ regarding the dealership.

  8. htrodblder says:

    The recall has not be officially released to the dealers because of a lack of parts issue. The letter was designed as a warning to owners so they dont have a fire in thier home (anybody seen Fords little problem lately?) I just recieved a bulletin from GM stating Dealers could perform a temporary repair until the recall is released. A perfect example of no good dead goes unpunished.

  9. htrodblder says:


    Date: March 12, 2008

    Subject: Upcoming Safety Recall 07035
    Potential Under hood Fire – 3.8 L Supercharged

    Models: 1997-2003 Buick Regal GS
    1997-2003 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP
    With 3.8 L V6 Supercharged Engine (VIN1 –

    To: All Buick and Pontiac Dealers

    Attention: Service Manager, Parts Manager, and
    Warranty Administrator

    Based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, the media may report that General Motors will be announcing a safety recall involving certain 1997-2003 model year Buick Regal GS and Pontiac Grand Prix GTP vehicles equipped with a 3.8 L supercharged engine (VIN 1 – RPO L67).

    These vehicles may experience an under hood fire. The fires may be caused by drops of engine oil being deposited on the exhaust manifold through hard braking. If the manifold is hot enough and the oil runs below the heat shield, it may ignite into a small flame in and in some instances the fire may spread to the plastic spark plug wire channel. Most cases have occurred five to ten minutes after the vehicle has been turned off.

    If a fire occurs, it may cascade through the engine compartment causing vehicle damage and in some cases, the fire may spread to structures where the vehicle was parked.

    A total of 207,542 U.S. vehicles are involved. We are currently working with our suppliers to obtain parts required to launch a safety recall in the near future. However, in the interim, a customer advisory letter (see attached) is being sent to all customers of record to inform them of this situation. This letter will also provide three important precautions the customer should take: 1) Do not park the vehicle in a garage, car port or other structure. 2) If a burning odor is detected, the customer should take their vehicle to a dealer for inspection. 3) Customers should use premium fuel (91 octane or higher) as recommended in their vehicle owner’s manual. The customer letter will be mailed on March 13, 2008.

    If a customer comes in with this letter or is otherwise concerned about this condition, please use Technical Service Bulletin 08-06-04-019 to service their vehicle. Please note that there are two T labor operations listed. Warranty claims should be submitted using the specific T labor operation depending on the source of the gasket (GM or aftermarket) you install in the vehicle. The use of the two T labor operations may allow GM different options when the recall is officially released. The Technical Service Bulletin 08-06-04-019 is available in SI on March 12, 2008 and is attached for your convenience.

    After the repair is complete, the customer will be able to park their car in their garage, car port or other structure.

    A Frequently Asked Question and Answer document has been developed for your reference. This FAQ will help answer any customer concerns. Please see the attached Dealer FAQ’s.

    GMVIS information will not be available for this recall until the recall bulletin is released to dealers.

  10. NotATool says:

    @Nighthawke: Proof in the pudding? Ewww…

  11. oakie says:

    @NotATool: unfortunately, very few people seem to know the actual line is, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

  12. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    But does the notice come with a free $5 smoke alarm you can mount to the headliner with sticky tape? (or marshamallows?)

    Can you say “Carbeque?”

    Anybody who has a 99 Regal they want to get rid of for the insurance payout, better act quickly!

  13. shor0814 says:

    More information than you probably want about the issue:


    Valve cover gaskets, valve cover grommets, and a new spark plug wire loom/bracket.

    You will also read that most doubt that oil is leaking onto the exhaust manifold during hard braking and then bursting into flames minutes after shutting the car off. It doesn’t make much sense. The real cause has been speculated to be a leaky o-ring in the fuel rails.

  14. wutzu says:

    You take “A”, the number of cars on the road, times “B”, the probable rate of failure, times “C”, the average cost of an out-of-court settlement. A times B times C equals “X”. If “X” is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.

    Can’t believe nobody thought of this.

  15. ext212 says:

    hahah I love this

  16. Jack-in-CA says:

    My sisters 98 Buick is in this recall list. It caught fire in March of 2006 and burned up in the garage and took my classic GTO with it. I am spear-heading a possible lawsuit against GM. So if you or anyone you know has had this fire please email me at buickpontiacfire@hotmail.com