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General Motors is recalling cars for the third time in seven years, this time the reason is because of an oil leak that can catch fire, in some instances damaging garages and homes.  The recall, which covers 1.4 million vehicles dating to the 1997 model year, is needed since repairs from the first two recalls didn’t work.

The company said over 1,300 cars caught fire after they were fixed by dealers.  In the previous recalls, in 2008 and 2009, GM told owners to park the cars outside until repairs can be made since most of the fires happened shortly after drivers turned off the engines.

U.S. safety regulators became aware of the fires in early 2007 and GM has since reported 19 minor related injuries. In 2008, a GM spokeswoman said the cars were responsible for 267 fires, including at least 17 that burned structures.

The latest recall, mainly in North America, includes: the 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Regal; the 2000-2004 Chevrolet Impala; the 1998 and 1999 Chevrolet Lumina and Oldsmobile Intrigue; and the 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. All have 3.8-liter V6 engines.

Over time, a valve cover gasket can degrade, allowing oil to seep out and under hard braking, oil drops can fall onto the exhaust manifold and catch fire. Flames can spread to a plastic spark plug wire channel and the rest of the engine.

In 2009 GM recalled almost 1.5 million more cars that weren’t supercharged. Dealers replaced the spark plug wire channels however documents filed with the government don’t mention any repair of the oil leaks.

Spokesman Alan Adler said GM hasn’t come up with a final fix in the most recent recall. He also said that the company will use state registration databases in an effort to track down the owners.

The recall is so large that it could have an impact on GM’s fourth-quarter earnings, although Adler said that hasn’t been determined.


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