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NHTSA Warns of Rust on Brakes in Cold-Weather States

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April 9, 2015—U.S. safety regulators warned millions of owners of older model vehicles in "Rust Belt" states to get their brake systems checked for corrosion, a warning that stems from a long-running investigation of complaints about GM trucks and SUVs. The advisory stems from research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine whether rust-related problems on brake systems were a safety defect on about 2 million GM trucks and SUVs.

NHTSA on Thursday also closed that investigation without a recall of the GM vehicles from model years 1999 to 2003, which included Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. 

NHTSA issued the wider advisory essentially asking owners to wash their cars regularly and have their brake systems inspected during cold weather if they drive in the Rust Belt. This advisory is for owners of any vehicle made by any manufacturer from the 2007 model year and earlier. That is because a zinc-aluminum alloy widely used to coat brake systems until about 2007 was more susceptible to rust than the nylon and plastic coatings that replaced it, a NHTSA official said.

The average age of cars on U.S. roads is about 11 years, so millions of them are included in the advisory. NHTSA did not offer an estimate of the number of vehicles covered by its warning. NHTSA said it did not determine that the GM vehicles had a safety defect in part because vehicles of similar age made by other automakers had about the same incidence of brake system corrosion.

The regulator said vehicles in the these states are more prone to corrosion-related problems to brake lines and brake pipes: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

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