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Feds Investigating Expansion To GM Headlight Failure Recall

The foibles of "Old GM" continue to haunt the company as 312,000 vehicles could be to an existing recall.

General Motors would prefer you didn’t remember much about the company before its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization, but for some owners the memories are hard to shake—especially when the headlights keep failing randomly on a whole range of pre-recession models. Between 2014 and 2015, GM recalled nearly half a million mid-aughts cars and trucks from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Saab, Isuzu, and Pontiac because excessive heat buildup under the hood could cause the headlamp driver to melt and the headlights to stop working. Now, the NHTSA is weighing an expansion thanks to a rash of consumer complaints from both owners of similar models that were not originally recalled and people who claim the recall repairs didn’t solve the problem.

The list of affected vehicles reads like a tattered greatest hits album from some aged rock group that probably should have stopped touring long ago—the 2005-2009 Buick LaCrosse; the 2006-2007 Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, and Buick Rainier (plus the ’06 TrailBlazer EXT and ’06 Envoy XL); the 2006-2008 Saab 9-7X and Isuzu Ascender, and the 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix. Basically, if you own one of these cars or trucks you’re already familiar with GM’s questionable build quality in those Bush-era years, but sudden headlight failure goes way beyond a few fit-and-finish details and has just as much a chance of causing a serious accident as their notorious ignition switch debacle.

Not all VIN numbers from those model years were included when the original recalls were first announced years ago, and some owners claim they were denied repairs despite encountering the problem because their specific vehicle wasn’t on the list. Others say their headlights continued to fail despite receiving the promised fix, which itself took GM a year and a half to manufacture. Though the problem doesn’t appear to affect the high-beams or parking lights, the fact that normal headlights can shut off with absolutely no warning while driving at night is a pretty scary thought.

“I was driving home from a wedding on the interstate at 55 mph, and my headlamps failed. Everything went completely dark. After a panic, I was able to turn on my high beams, and they worked properly. I turned the car off, waited a few minutes, and turned it back on. The low beam headlamps worked then. Since the first incident, I have had approximately 10-15 other incidents of the same occurrence,” one TrailBlazer owner reported to the NHTSA.

So far the NHTSA has received almost 130 of these complaints since the original recalls, though it doesn’t take much searching to find forums filled with “unofficial” reports, and the results of their current investigation are due soon. GM says it doesn’t know of any accidents or injuries related to the issue yet. But until then, if you’re driving any of these vehicles at night, we suggest keeping one finger on that high-beam stalk.