Another Recall Looming? NHTSA Investigates BMW & Mazda for Steering Failures

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Under increased pressure, NHTSA opens investigations into BMW and Mazda over power steering failures.

Apparently, NHTSA used to just take consumer complaints…and make cheerful paper machete dolls out of them. Sort of like crash-test dummies, but much more festive.

Those pesky ‘runaway Toyota’s’ however, brought an end to the long standing tradition of ‘arts & crafts’ at NHTSA. Now, the government agency actually has to do something about all those old complaints.

Case in point; non-functioning steering wheels.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received 33 complaints, and 1 accident report concerning power steering assist failure on the 2007-2009 Mazda3.

The complaints “allege loss of power steering assist while driving, requiring excessive force on the driver’s part to maintain control, or in some cases causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle”.

According to reports, the Mazda 3’s hydraulic power steering pump can fail if contaminates get into the pump. In 2009, Mazda issued a Technical Service Bulletin to its dealers concerning the problem. However, they didn’t issue a recall.

After cleaning out a broom closet, one of the NHTSA janitors discovered another old stack of complaints. This time about BMW.

They received 107 reports of steering failures on the 2003-2005 BMW Z4.

The Z4 uses a drive-by-wire electric power steering system. Instead of the steering wheel being connected to the front wheels, it’s connected to a bunch of sensors…which can stop working when the car reaches speeds in excess of 45 mph. The steering system can also experience problems if the temperatures exceeds 75 degrees. So, if you drive your Z4 through Florida…you’re screwed.

The complaints allege that the BMW’s steering wheel can stick, bind, or lock up. One wreck has also been attributed to the problem.

So far, no recalls have been issued in either case.

  1. While the ongoing case of Toyota (and Lexus) recalls and defects might be especially egregious, there have been many other recalls or potential safety issues over the past months affecting a number of brands worldwide. Toyota is still getting most of the bad press and I still don’t think many people realize how wide spread defects are in the industry. I think if the NHTSA had been doing actual work prior to the Toyota situation, the public would have a better idea of what to expect from automakers and the government. While these Mazda3 and BMW Z4 problems are pretty scary, I think what’s equally scary is that the feds are just now getting the word out. A janitor didn’t really stumble on these records, right?

    1. no, a janitor didn’t actually discover the BMW complaints. i was just trying to make a point.

      you’re right about the problems being widespread. for years, people have been trying to get NHTSA to force a recall on the Pontiac G6 and Chevy Cobalt for similar electric steering issues. but so far, they’ve refused.

      NHTSA seems to be about as effective/useful as any other government agency…perhaps they should ‘outsource’ to a private entity?

  2. This happened to me 3 times yesterday out of the blue with my children in the car. I had no idea about the recall and the first time, I was very scared that I could not control the car. I called the national Mazda and because my year is 2005, it doesn't fall under the recall. They were a bit rude about it. Thanks for posting about this as yours was the first site to which I navigated. I'll hear what my local Mazda dealer has to say when they take it in today

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