Your vehicle is not included in the recall. Unlike the multitude of house fires attributed to overheated ignition switches on Ford products, the switches themselves on GM vehicles aren't causing a problem. It's actually the lock cylinders that can turn to the "off" position due to the weight of a big wad of additional keys people may have on the key ring. When it turns off, the engine turns off, as well as the Air Bag and other computers. Drivers who never learned how to react to a stalled engine often mistakenly think they have no brakes or no steering, so they don't even try to control the vehicle. They just let it crash, and some get hurt because the air bags won't deploy when that computer is turned off.
If you've never experienced a stalled engine while you're driving, practice in an empty parking lot. Carefully shift to neutral while the car is moving, turn the ignition switch to the "off" position, then observe that it's rather hard to steer, but you can. With all cars that do not have anti-lock brakes, (this includes all cars from the mid '80s and older), you'll get two or three power-assisted stops before the brake pedal becomes much harder to push. GM cars in particular may require pressing the brake pedal with both feet, but there will be brakes. You won't have the precise control like normal. The brakes will grab pretty hard when they do engage. There are still a few car models that don't have or need power brakes. With those there won't be any difference in braking control when the engine stalls.
For those cars with anti-lock brakes, there are a couple of different designs as to how they incorporate the power assist into the braking system. On a lot of older Chrysler products you will have unlimited power assist until the battery runs down, or, if the ignition switch is turned off, you'll get about 40 power-assisted brake pedal applications. That will last much longer than it takes for the car to coast to a stop. Any system that uses a pump and pressurized brake fluid to provide the power assist will continue to provide that assist as long as the ignition switch remains on and the battery doesn't run dead. That takes about a half hour to an hour. Some anti-lock systems still use the older power brake boosters that run on engine vacuum. Just like non-ABS vehicles with power assist, you'll get two or three power-assisted pedal applications to allow you to stop safely, then the pedal will get hard, but it will still work.
You'll want to practice steering your vehicle too with a stalled engine. There has been a lot of changes in how they react lately due to the addition of a number of gimmicks the engineers think we want. In general, you do not need power steering at highway speeds, and if you shift carefully to "neutral", then turn the engine off, you may not even notice the loss of power steering. As the vehicle slows down, the feel of the steering will gradually get harder and harder, ... But you will be able to steer. The hardest steering will be when the vehicle is standing still. You'll definitely need both hands for that.
Another part of the recall involves the potential on some cars for the key to be removed from the lock cylinder when the shifter is not in "park", (or "reverse" with manual transmissions). That can lead to the vehicle going someplace on its own and potentially hitting someone.
Saturday, April 12th, 2014 AT 1:11 PM