Sep 11, 2019 12:26 PM

GM recalls over 3.4M pickups, SUVs to fix brake issues

Posted Sep 11, 2019 12:26 PM

DETROIT (AP) — Under pressure from the federal government, General Motors is recalling more than 3.4 million big pickup trucks and SUVs in the U.S to fix a brake problem.

The recall covers the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups from the 2014 through 2018 model years. Also included are the Cadillac Escalade from 2015 to 2017, and the GMC Yukon and Chevy Suburban and Tahoe from 2015 through 2018.

GM says that as it ages, the pump in the power-assist brakes can put out less vacuum power than needed, increasing stopping distance and the risk of a crash.

The recall comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the problem in November of last year.

Dealers will recalibrate the electronic brake control module at no cost to customers. Owners were to be notified starting Sept. 6.

NHTSA, the government's road safety agency, began investigating the problem last year after getting 111 complaints from owners of poor brake performance. At the time the agency had nine reports of crashes that had caused two injuries.

GM says the problems occur rarely and mostly at low speeds like driving in parking lots. Even with the problem, the brakes "continue to function and exceed the requirements of the appropriate federal motor vehicle safety standard," GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

The vacuum pump is lubricated with engine oil that flows through a filter screen. In some of the trucks, oil sludge or other debris can clog the screen, reducing oil flow and causing the pump's vacuum output to drop, Flores said.

The trucks, he said, have a secondary power brake assist system which works when there are problems with the main system, but it is limited at lower speeds. The reprogramming will activate the secondary system faster.

GM isn't replacing the pumps because pump failures are rare and already are covered by an extended warranty, Flores said. "This remedy will improve brake performance in any situation where brake vacuum drops," he said.

The recall comes 10 months after NHTSA opened its investigation. Asked why it took that long to do the recall, Flores said only that the company has been cooperating with NHTSA and providing data.

Drivers could feel a vibration in the brake pedal or a change in pressure required to push the brake pedal if their trucks have the vacuum pump problem. If the problem surfaces, owners will see a message on their dashboard telling them to service the brake assist system, Flores said.

Although the recall is a large number, the cost will not be high enough for GM to report it to the Securities and Exchange commission as an event that will materially affect earnings, Flores said. He said he didn't know the cost.

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Sep 11, 2019 12:26 PM
Sons of Missouri woman slain in 1988 responded to charges in case

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The sons of 31-year-old Cynthia Smith, who was killed more than 30 years ago in southwest Missouri, say they are happy that someone has been charged in the crime that caused them to be separated as children.

Lawrence Gene Timmons, 65, was indicted Friday on a first-degree murder charge in Smith's death and six charges of unlawful possession a firearm for incidents that allegedly occurred in 2017 and 2019. During an arraignment Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Jack Goodman entered not guilty pleas for Timmons, who does not yet have an attorney.

A court official told Goodman Tuesday that Timmons was not eligible for a public defender because he has more than $250,000 in assets. After Timmons told the judge he didn't have "anywhere near $250,000" Goodman ordered an indigent hearing on Oct. 8.

Jason Smith was just 4 in 1988 when his mother didn't pick up him and his then 8-year-old half-brother, Shawn Goodspeed, from a babysitter. After the body was found about a week later, Shawn was sent to live with his dad in California and Jason remained in Missouri with his grandparents.

Cynthia Smith was last seen leaving a Mt. Vernon, Missouri, bar with a man. Her body was found at a rural cemetery near Pierce City, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Springfield.

Jason Smith, who is now 35 and living in Springfield, said Monday he doesn't have many memories of his mother,

"Probably my biggest memory — (her death) is solely what separated my brother and I, for pretty much all of our lives,"

The older brother, Jason Goodspeed, now 39, remembers his mother as a kind and loving woman who sometimes cried when residents at a long-term care facility in Aurora where she worked had died.

"Her dying just changed everything," he said. "Everything."

Lawrence County authorities say Timmons is a suspect in the 1994 death of his first wife, Deborah Jean Timmons, and in the 1998 drowning death of an 11-year-old girl who was a friend of a daughter Timmons had with Deborah Jean.

The Associated Press could not independently verify that Timmons was being investigated in those deaths. A Lawrence County sheriff's detective told the AP Tuesday the department is working with other agencies, but would not say if Timmons is suspected of the Oklahoma killings.

Timmons also is charged with forgery on a job application he allegedly filled out in Feb. 2019 and a second forgery charge for which he was arrested Aug. 19 at his Pierce City home after allegedly filling out a job application in March that falsely claimed he was not a felon.

Smith said he only recently learned that Timmons was convicted of felony kidnapping and assault following a 1976 incident with an 11-year-old Springfield boy and that Timmons was accused but acquitted of raping a 24-year-old Monett woman just hours before his mother's disappearance.

"I didn't know about that," Smith said. "It seems like somebody — I wish they'd have caught him sooner."

Goodspeed, now 39, and living in Tempe, Arizona, said he knew Timmons was questioned when his mother disappeared but he wasn't aware of his extensive criminal record. He said he still wonders what happened to his mother before she was killed and often questioned if the case would be solved.

"He's affected a lot of families, a lot of people," Goodspeed said. "I can't help but have some annoyance at the original investigation from the beginning. Had they got it right, they'd have saved those lives. And I hope those families, I hope they find their closure as well."

In New York state Monday, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said there was no evidence that Timmons committed any crimes while living in the Rochester, New York-area from 2004 to 2014. But officials from Perinton, New York, said Monday that in 2014, Timmons falsified information on a job application and was hired as a public park watchman.