General Motors is the defendant in a proposed class action that alleges the fuse block found in certain Chevy and Buick vehicles suffers from a defect. According to the case, the apparent defect—specifically an alleged issue with maintaining engine relay terminal tension—can cause a vehicle to not start, stall suddenly during the course of normal operation or experience a number of other malfunctions due to the disruption of electrical energy.
The 21-page suit out of California explains that a fuse block’s purpose is to distribute electrical energy from a car’s battery throughout the vehicle. In essence, the case continues, a fuse block “acts as a gateway” in controlling the flow of electrical energy throughout a car. An issue with a vehicle’s fuse block, which is located under the hood on the passenger side of affected GM models, can allegedly cause either intermittent or total disruption of how energy is dispersed through the systems of a particular vehicle model, including to engine components.
To distribute energy to engine components, a fuse block relies on an engine relay, “much like a night light would plug into a power outlet on the wall of a home,” the lawsuit goes on. An engine relay’s metal prongs are plugged into a designated spot on a vehicle’s fuse block, called the engine relay terminal. The lawsuit states that in order for a car’s engine relay to function properly, the relay must have adequate tension so that the metal prongs fit tightly into the fuse block terminal. Insufficient tension can cause the engine relay to be loose, leading to partial or total loss of electrical power throughout a vehicle, the case says.
The lawsuit claims a loose engine relay in the vehicles allegedly equipped with defective fuse blocks—2013-2017 Buick Enclave, 2013-2017 Chevrolet Traverse, 2013-2016 Chevrolet Acadia and 2017 Chevrolet Acadia Limited models—can become an even worse problem due to engine vibration. Engine vibration, such as that which occurs during normal driving, can supposedly cause a loose engine relay to move around, affecting a vehicle’s electrical power.
“This results in Class Vehicles’ engines stalling while being driven,” the case claims. “Engine stalling results in the loss of acceleration, the loss of power steering, the loss of power brakes, and several other very unsafe conditions.”
In addition to potential stalling or difficulty starting a vehicle, the alleged fuse block defect can affect everything from airbags to brakes to brake lights and headlights, the case says. Moreover, the suit adds, consumers typically only become aware of the apparent issue when their vehicle experiences intermittent or total energy loss. Even when the issue manifests, the case continues, it is often not apparent that a loose engine relay is the reason a car may be losing energy.
For its part, General Motors has known of the alleged defect with its fuse blocks since at least February 2013, the lawsuit alleges, citing a service bulletin issued by the automaker with regard to “circuit testing” certain cars and light-duty trucks. The lawsuit claims GM “actively concealed and failed to disclose” the fuel block issue to buyers and lessees, who the plaintiff asserts have had to pay out-of-pocket for repairs related to the problem and been deprived of the benefit of their vehicles’ value.