Open recalls affect 1,000+ city vehicles, and most are still in service

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s fleet has 1,068 vehicles with open recalls.

The total number that haven’t been fixed and are currently in service? 873.

“[I’m] amazed. Shocked. Because they’re our vehicles,” said Henry King, a professor of automotive technology at ACC.

KXAN got the list of VIN numbers related to city vehicles with open recalls, and corroborated them with data from CARFAX.

The recalls affect the city’s fleet across the board, from Ram trucks used by Austin Resource Recovery to Ford Explorers used by APD.

The recalls affecting police interceptors is mostly related to emissions.

Among city vehicles, 2016 Dodge Ram Chassis trucks are facing recalls over a diesel water pump.

CARFAX says “the water pump may experience a failure which may result in an engine compartment fire.”

“We’re talking about a very expensive vehicle that, through no fault of us, didn’t get a recall fixed,” said King. “And now we have a 60,000, 100,000 dollar piece of charcoal on the side of the road.”

Another example in the city’s list is the 2019 Ford Fusion Titanium, which faces a recall over its “high voltage wiring electrical shock protection.”

CARFAX says, “If the high voltage battery service disconnect access panel located behind the rear seat is removed, it may be possible to make contact with an uncovered high voltage fuse through a small gap.”

Through CARFAX data, the city says it identified 1,324 nationally recalled parts in its fleet.

The city has fixed 235 of those, and is waiting on manufacturers’ remedies for 568 of them.

The city says it does all it can to get the recall issues addressed, fixing between 700-900 parts a year.

Austin Fleet Officer Jennifer Walls said the city determines whether to pull a vehicle from service depending on whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a “do-not-drive” alert.

“The City of Austin’s Fleet Mobility Services is impacted by recalls of vehicle parts in the same way as any other motorist and we work with manufacturers to fix hundreds of parts every year. Whenever the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determines that a recall issue is severe enough to warrant a vehicle being withdrawn from the road we follow their advice immediately and without exception.”

-Jennifer Walls, Fleet Officer

But Henry says there are safety concerns associated with open recalls, even if they aren’t this obvious.

“Even if it’s not a do not drive recall, it needs to get addressed,” he said.

The city has budgeted $32 million to maintain its nearly 7,000 vehicles. That’s less than one percent of its budget.

KXAN’s Anthony Cave contributed to this report.

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