— GM stuck steering wheels are no longer the focus of a federal investigation that was opened after a customer complained about increased steering effort when driving straight for a period of time.
The customer alleges 2010-2012 Chevrolet Equinox and 2010-2012 GMC Terrain SUVs suffer from what feels like stuck steering wheels due to problems with the steering gears.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the GM investigation in June 2020 about four years after the customer petitioned NHTSA to open the investigation.
The GM customer said his Chevy Equinox steering gear had been replaced in 2015 for free under GM special coverage adjustment 14232, titled, "Power Steering Stick-Slip."
The Equinox owner who filed the petition said the Equinox had steering problems after the steering gear was replaced, and to perform repairs GM wanted $400 this time. The owner said the steering problem was the same as caused by the defective steering gear, which meant GM's bulletin was no help at all.
According to NHTSA, the condition occurs if a driver travels in a straight line at a high speed without turning the steering wheel for about 30 minutes.
Safety regulators learned the steering gear contains a servo unit that includes a worm gear with a worm and a worm wheel. General Motors blamed the increased steering effort on a supplier making mistakes with the application of grease between the worm and the worm wheel.
GM bulletin 14232 was issued in November 2014 to cover 2012-2014 Buick Verano, 2011-2014 Chevrolet Cruze and Volt, 2010-2014 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain and 2013-2014 Chevrolet Malibu vehicles.
The bulletin said customers complained about steering wheels that felt stuck when driving in straight lines, but GM said the steering wheels were never locked. A driver simply had to use extra effort to "unstick" the steering wheel.
GM dealers were told to replace the steering gears on 2010-2012 vehicles or reprogram the power steering control modules on 2013-2014 vehicles. However, the owner who filed the defect petition alleged the bulletin wasn't good enough.
"[T]he steering gear and module must be replaced as a pair, and the older units cannot be mixed and matched with the newer ones. Therefore the BULLETIN 14232 is insufficient in replacing only the steering gear on 2010-12 vehicles. The control module must also be replaced. Then, the module can be reprogrammed to correct the problem." — GM steering defect petition
NHTSA says it received 117 steering-related complaints from owners of 2010-2012 Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs, with 52 reports of vehicles experiencing the steering problems described in bulletin 14232.
NHTSA closed the investigation into 781,000 vehicles due to the low complaint and warranty rates, finding the safety consequences "are very low."
There have been no reported crashes, injuries or fatalities and investigators couldn't find a defect trend related to the steering problems.