Some of the most notorious product recalls have involved medicines, such as Tylenol and Vioxx. But the makers of cars, coffee makers and computers sometimes have to offer mea culpas, too. How total is your recall on these factory flaws?
Before he ever ran for president multiple times, Ralph Nader was busy writing this book, published in 1965, which inspired product safety recalls.
"In Cold Blood"
"Unsafe at Any Speed"
Before he set his sights on the White House, Nader targeted the American auto industry. His book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," attacked GM's Corvair in particular and led to the passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
In 1972, this manufacturer was forced to recall 3.7 million cars because of faulty windshield wipers.
Longfellow once said, "Into each life some rain must fall." For Volkswagen, this was especially true in 1972, when the German automaker recalled almost 4 million vehicles, including the iconic Beetle, to fix windshield wipers that wouldn't wipe.
An airbag deploying in a non-crash situation is never a good thing. Which car maker was forced to recall close to 1 million cars in 1998 for just such a problem?
Airbags save lives when they deploy during a collision. They become a dangerous obstruction when they deploy for no reason under normal driving conditions. Several manufacturers had to work through this problem as they introduced the technology in the early 1990s. For GM, that meant recalling about 800,000 Chevys, Pontiacs and Cadillacs in 1998 so the airbags could be fixed.
Which U.S. government agency investigated the "unintended acceleration" that affected Toyota vehicles in 2009 and 2010?
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Maybe NASA officials had time on their hands as the shuttle program began winding down. Or maybe the space agency's engineers were really good at analyzing the intricacies of a complex machine. Whatever the reason, NASA did indeed conduct a study in 2011 looking for software code errors and electrical defects in nine Toyotas purchased from owners who claimed to have problems with unintended acceleration. The agency didn't find anything, in case you were wondering.
When U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials conducted an independent study of the same problem in Toyota vehicles, they came to a surprising conclusion. To what did they attribute the problem?
When officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study of 58 reported cases of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, they found that 67 percent of the cases were caused by the driver pressing the gas instead of brake pedal. Oops.
In 2006, Segway Inc., recalled all of the scooters it had manufactured since 2002. What problem did some scooters have that led to the recall?
sudden acceleration backward under certain conditions
The Segway Personal Transporter was supposed to revolutionize how we got from point A to point B, but it failed to, ahem, move consumers in any significant way. To make matters worse, the company had to issue a recall in 2006 when a few users reported that their scooters started moving backward abruptly.
sudden acceleration forward under certain conditions
sudden and uncontrollable vibration at certain speeds
The Segway recall involved something known as a "speed limiter." What was it?
a compressed air brake system mounted to the rear axle
a governor that regulated the scooter's supply of gasoline
a piece of software that kept the scooter under 12.5 mph (20 kph)
Whether it's moving forward or backward, a Segway scooter should never travel faster than 12.5 mph. That's because a piece of software -- what Segway calls a speed limiter -- makes sure the scooter stays under its maximum speed. In certain rare situations, however, the speed limiter got confused, causing the scooter's unexpected motion. A software patch fixed the problem.
This combination of vehicle and tire resulted in 200 deaths in the 1990s.
Dodge Durango and Dunlop
Ford Explorer and Firestone
Ford sold huge numbers of Explorer SUVs in the early 1990s, but triumph turned to tragedy when it became clear that the top-heavy vehicles were prone to tipping over in emergency handling situations. Unfortunately, such situations were common because the Firestone tires installed on Explorers tended to come apart at the seams.
During the 2001 Ford recall of its SUVs, what was the problem with the tires installed at the factory?
The tread of a tire is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road. So it's not good news when the tread peels away from the rest of the tire. This was the problem with Bridgestone/Firestone tires installed on early-model Ford Explorers. In one of the biggest recalls in auto history, more than 6.5 million tires needed to be replaced.
In 1978, Ford recalled 1.4 million units of this vehicle model, which tended to erupt in flames during a rear-end collision.
Ford hoped the Pinto would be a phoenix, helping the car company rise from the flames to beat Japan in the small-car game. Unfortunately, the American automaker almost crashed and burned over the Pinto, which featured engineering that placed the fuel tank behind the rear axle.
How did Ford execs arguably make their 1978 recall problems worse?
They decided it would be cheaper to settle claims than fix the problem.
The Ford folks decided it would be cheaper to pay settlements for injuries and deaths than it would be to recall the defective Pintos and make repairs. When someone leaked the memo discussing the decision, Ford lost more than money as many once-loyal customers took their business elsewhere.
They offered to fix the problem as long as owners paid for the repairs.
They tried to pass the blame to the supplier that made the fuel tanks.
Recalls of the Audi 5000 in 1987 to fix runaway acceleration problems led to what safety feature now common on all vehicles?
shift interlock system
In the 1980s, Audi's business in North America was hampered by several recalls. Almost all of the problems involved runaway acceleration in the Audi 5000, which "60 Minutes" featured in a 1986 exposé. During the final recall, in 1987, Audi dealers installed a shift interlock system -- a device that prevented the car from being shifted out of park unless the brake pedal was fully depressed -- on each Audi 5000.
Why did Braun recall its models E200T and E260T espresso/cappuccino makers in 1992 and then again in 1996?
The units' glass carafes had the potential to break.
Being a barista ain't easy, especially when you're brewing with broken equipment. Braun issued a voluntary recall of its models E200T and E260T espresso/cappuccino makers because of a problem with the machine's filter holders. If not properly aligned, the holders could become dislodged under pressure, releasing steam, coffee grounds, and, under some circumstances, breaking the glass carafes below.
The units' thermostats couldn't regulate temperature.
The units' water reservoirs cracked spontaneously.
In 2006, an alarming number of laptops seemed to succumb to spontaneous combustion. Which Sony product was responsible?
Some laptops you take camping. Others you use as the campfire. That was the unfortunate fate of numerous laptops sold by Toshiba, Gateway, Fujitsu and Sony in 2006. Models carrying Sony-made rechargeable lithium ion batteries were susceptible to overheating and, on rare occasions, to starting a blaze. In October of that year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Sony was recalling 340,000 batteries sold worldwide.
How many Nokia cell phone batteries were recalled in 2007 when the company discovered the batteries could overheat and cause injury?
In 2007, Nokia was the world's largest maker of cell phones, so when the company issued a recall to replace defective batteries, the numbers were impressive: 46 million affected devices. In the end, Nokia decided to split the cost of the repairs with Matsushita, the manufacturer of the batteries.
In 2006, this company fell under scrutiny for issuing a "silent recall" of rechargeable batteries powering its laptops.
Even Apple wasn't immune to the Sony battery fiasco. When some of its iBooks and PowerBooks began having battery issues in 2006, the Cupertino-based computer maker issued a "silent recall" -- fixing units that were returned, but not making a widespread announcement of the issue. Eventually, however, the problem grew, and Apple was forced to recall more than 1 million Sony batteries sold in the U.S.
Honda was forced to recall 200,000 model-year 2004-2005 FourTrax all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for fear that users could die or be seriously injured. What was the problem?
steering rod separation
If you think "steering rod separation" sounds dangerous, you're right. The problem could cause an ATV to crash and lead to serious injuries, or even death, to passengers. When Honda received 27 reports of steering rod separation in 2005, it issued a voluntary recall to repair the defective parts.
In 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled almost 2.5 million of these units due to fears that they could lead to house fires.
On a really cold day, a space heater can be a blessing -- unless it overheats and begins to fill your living room with smoke and flames. In 2011, several models exhibited these problems, leading to recalls throughout the year.