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General Motors (GM) recently recalled nearly 3.5 million pickups and SUVs because of brake problems. So far, according to Consumer Reports, 113 crashes have been reported related to this issue, along with 13 injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating the problem for nearly a year.

Brake Pump Can Stop Performing Well Over Time

The NHTSA opened its investigation in November 2018 after receiving over 100 complaints about brake problems in GM vehicles. During that investigation, the agency reviewed reports of accidents seemingly caused by the brake problem, with related injuries. It then presented field reports to GM, after which the automaker opened its own investigation.

GM then recalled about 310,000 vehicles in Canada in June 2019 because of this same braking problem, but held back on implementing a similar recall in the U.S. until now. The recall in Canada followed a Transport Canada investigation, which was opened after reports of braking problems in GM trucks and SUVs. Owners told of reduced braking performance and a “hard” brake pedal feel.

It’s the power vacuum assist pump in the braking assembly that’s causing the problem. Over time, a buildup of debris may accumulate in the pump, causing it to generate less pressure. The pump itself is lubricated with engine oil that flows through a filter screen. In some of the affected vehicles, oil sludge or other debris can clog the screen, reducing oil flow.

As a result, the output of the power braking system may decrease. Even with the problem, the brakes will continue to function, but will not respond as easily. Each vehicle does have a secondary power brake assist system that kicks in when there are problems with the main system, but it works only at lower speeds.

GM Not Replacing the Brake Pump

According to GM, symptoms of the problem include vibration in the brake pedal, changes in the pressure required to push the brake pedal, and a ticking noise coming from the engine compartment. The pedal may become more difficult to use, and drivers may notice they need more time and distance to stop. The dashboard is also likely to show a message advising the driver to service the brake system.

GM will not replace the pump, but instead, will recalibrate the electronic brake control module at no cost to customers. With the change, the module should make better use of the secondary hydraulic brake booster when the vacuum assist has been depleted.

GM has been repairing affected vehicles since December 2018, but only now issued the recall in the U.S. The recall affects 2014-2018 models of:

  • Chevy Silverado
  • GMC Sierra 1500 light-duty pickups

It also includes:

  • 2015-2017 Cadillac Escalade
  • 2015-2018 GMC Yukon
  • 2015-2018 Chevy Suburban
  • 2015-2018 Chevy Tahoe

Owners can check the NHTSA’s recall site to see if their vehicles are affected by this recall. They can also contact GM at the following numbers:

  • Chevrolet 800-630-2438
  • Cadillac 800-458-8006
  • GMC 800-462-8782

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