5 of the Strangest Car Recalls Ever

Millions of vehicles are included in recalls every year in the auto industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps reports of car issues that can lead to recalls. Car recalls can cover systems or parts of the exterior, interior, engine, etc. However, a few recalls stand out in history for being unlike many others. Here are five of the strangest car recalls ever, according to Top Gear.

2010-2012 Mazda6: Spiders

Mazda recalled 42,000 Mazda6 models because of spiders, specifically the venomous Yellow Sac spider. According to Western Exterminator, the Yellow Sac spider’s bite can cause mild symptoms, including pain and swelling at the bite site and headaches. Some cases escalate to include nausea and vomiting.

According to Top Gear, Mazda6 models featuring a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine had a problem with Yellow Sac spiders. In 2014, a recall was issued for 2010-2012 models in the U.S. Then-Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes told CNN Business in 2014 that the spider is attracted to the hydrocarbons in gasoline and can find its way into a fuel tank hose. It’d then build a web that could block airflow to the fuel tank. Tanks could then crack and possibly start to burn. 

Originally, the car recall Mazda put a special spring in the hose to prevent spiders from entering the area. It did not fully solve the problem, so a new recall was issued to install a software fix to prevent the fuel tank from cracking. This was the second car recall on the Mazda6 related to the Yellow Sac spider after one was issued in 2011 for the 2009 and 2010 model years. The Mazda6 was discontinued following the 2021 model year.

Toyota Corolla: Spilled drinks causing airbag problems

In 1995, Toyota recalled 627,858 Corolla models due to an airbag sensor issue. The issue was unique in that it was because of the center console cup holder. An airbag sensor light could come on if drinks were spilled in the area. The car recall was issued because there was a chance this could lead to airbags inadvertently deploying.

2001-2002 Chrysler Voyager: Air conditioning ducts

Chrysler issued a car recall in 2004 of its minivan due to air conditioning duct problems. This problem caused condensation from the instrument panel to drop through the top of the radio. That would lead to a short circuit, sending current to the rear speakers. The speakers could then catch on fire.

This was not the only car recall for the generation of Chrysler Voyager. Models also had problems with a fluid leak in the power steering cooler hose, causing an underhood fire, per RepairPal. Another recall was issued for the lower control arm that had the potential to fracture. Chrysler limited Voyager sales to fleets only starting in 2022.

2002-2004 Volkswagen Jetta: Malfunctioning seat heaters

BMW caused a stir in 2022 by potentially making heated seats subscription-based, among other features. Decades ago, Volkswagen also made news with its heated seats for a different reason: malfunctions.

One VW Jetta owner in Canada felt her jeans burning and smelled smoke. Another in Kentucky said their seat burned the upholstery and made it smoke. An owner in Massachusetts was burned by the seat heater and later found out the repair was outside of their warranty.

Car Complaints data from the NHTSA shows 41 fires were reported stemming from seat heater problems. In all, 33 injuries and one death was reported. Volkswagen’s car recalls addressed the issue but ended the recall in 2007. That meant many drivers weren’t covered by it.

2010-2013 Subaru Outback, Legacy, Impreza, and XV Crosstreks: Random engine start

An orange 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek compact SUV parked on a wet pier near splashing washes from a forest lake
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek | Subaru of America, Inc.

More than 47,000 vehicles were included in this recall, per USA Today. This affected models with automatic transmissions and the ‘Audiovox’ remote engine start. The latter could transmit an engine start request when dropped. Without pressing a button, the models could run for up to 15 minutes. They’d stop once the battery in the remote fob ran out or the car itself ran out of gas.

This could happen even when owners were not aware. Subaru issued a recall for the problem and recommended owners switch to the keyless entry fobs that came with the new car. 

What to know about car recalls

Car recalls are issued every day for newer and older vehicles. Overall, the NHTSA issued 34 million recalls in 2021 for equipment, tires, car seats, and much more. That’s why it’s important to keep on top of whether your call is included in one. An April recall included nearly 653,000 Ford vehicles for a windshield wiper issue. The NHTSA rolled out the SaferCar App earlier this year to help you see if your car is included in any.

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