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Hummer Safety Probed by U.S.

Dec 7, 2004 | Sacramento Bee

Federal regulators are investigating the Hummer H2 after receiving three reports of wheels falling off the vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday.
Involved in the investigation are Hummer H2s from the 2003 and 2004 model years. General Motors Corp. said there are about 59,670 of those on the road.

Four drivers reported problems that were attributed to a fracture in the steering knuckle, which allows the wheels to turn. All said they lost control, including one driver whose H2 veered into oncoming traffic and ended up in a ditch on the other side of the road. In three of the cases, a wheel fell off.

On Oct. 24, 2002, Bee Auto Editor Mark Glover was putting a 2003 H2 through its paces for a Driver's Side review when a wheel came off the vehicle.

Here's his description of what happened:

"My memory is that the next three things occurred in approximately one second:

"The vehicle veered about 45 degrees left without me turning the steering wheel, there was an instant of white-hot fear as I realized I was no longer steering the H2, and then there was a crunching impact on the left side.

"The H2 lurched, nose-down, onto its left front corner, and I remember a terrible grinding sound as I endeavored to keep my nose off the steering wheel. No air bags deployed.

"I somehow unloaded myself from the now-unbalanced H2. The left front tire, wheel and wheel housing had somehow been removed from the vehicle. There they were, resting about 15 feet away from the H2 and a few feet away from a concrete light standard that had been clipped by the left front of the H2."

Until this time, Glover had driven hundreds of vehicles for 31 years without being at the wheel of one that crashed. Glover never found out what caused the wheel to come off, but he said he was willing to give the vehicle another chance.

After the crash in the test Hummer H2, Glover filed a report with NHTSA, something any motorist can do after being involved in a crash that may involve a mechanical problem of unknown origin. Glover checked in periodically with NHTSA over the past couple of years, but heard nothing further about an investigation of the crash in the Bee employee parking lot.

A little over a month ago, however, NHTSA contacted Glover by phone at The Bee and asked a few questions about the 2-year-old crash. Glover asked if a formal investigation was under way, but NHTSA said it was at that time making inquiries into the specific report Glover made after the Hummer crash.

About a week later, NHTSA called and asked if there were any photos of the Hummer crash. Glover said there were photos taken by Bee photographer Jay Mather and voluntarily sent them to NHTSA. Again, Glover asked if a formal investigation of the H2 model was under way.

NHTSA repeated that nothing was formal at that time, but that photos of the Glover crash might be helpful in determining a possible cause. NHTSA said it was difficult to confirm aspects of Glover's original report based solely on his verbal recall of the incident.

The Hummer H2, which starts at about $50,000, weighs 6,400 pounds and is one of the largest sport-utility vehicles on the road.

GM said it is cooperating with the new investigation. NHTSA investigations can lead to vehicle recalls.

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