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Vauxhall Insignia Power Steering Issue

Barry Mulcahy – Friday 4th May 2012

On BBC’s Watchdog consumer programme on the 3rd May 2012 they reported potential issues with the Vauxhall Insignia which could lead to power steering problems and potential car fires. These issues relate to a power steering pipe that can crack and potentially release power steering fluid on to hot exhaust parts.

Vauxhall do not consider this to be a safety issue. They accept there is a problem and are fixing it as a service action.

Service actions are non safety related vehicle issues that are performed during routine vehicle maintenance, e.g. servicing. If this was considered a safety issue Vauxhall would have to recall all of the vehicles, a much more expensive process.

The cars affected are 6,900 Diesel Vauxhall Insignias built in Germany between 2009 and 2010.

The owner of the Insignia featured on the programme said that he was told by Vauxhall that the cause of his car fire was a cracked power steering pipe that had sprayed fluid on to the diesel particle filter of the exhaust, which then led to the fire.

Vauxhall say they have no record of this conversation.

Vauxhall did perform a detailed investigation of the burnt out vehicle but their results were inconclusive, they could not say with certainty what had caused the fire.

Interestingly enough the Vauxhall Insignia featured in the programme was not one of those covered by the service action!

If you would like more information on this power steering service action click Vauxhall Insignia Power Steering Service Action

Are power steering failures a safety issue?

Power steering failures (full or partial) often result in recalls. Some manufacturers believe that any change in steering control is a safety issue. Others believe that as the car can still be steered it is not a safety issue.

Speaking as someone who has been driving a car that had a power steering failure I can tell you that the steering suddenly becoming heavier and less responsive meant that I didn't quite make the corner I thought I would go round with ease. Luckily nothing was coming the other way!

There are a number of power steering related recalls active at this time, including 2 that appear to be very similar to the issues described above.

In October 2010 Mercedes recalled 22,586 C Class & E Class cars because “It is possible that a power assisted steering fluid leak could occur on the connection from the fluid line to the pump”.

In May 2011 Volvo recalled 4,992 XC90s because “a leak may occur from the internal pipes of the steering gear. In most cases the leak will be gradual and will drain the power steering oil generating noise and a slow decrease in the power steering assistance”.

So, is a power steering failure a safety issue? It depends on what goes wrong, where you are when it happens and the impact it has on the vehicle's steering. It also depends on who the manufacturer is!