General Motors Accelerator Problems

Sudden, Unexpected Deceleration in the 94 Pontiac Grand Prix (and other GM models)

I purchased a Pontiac Grand Prix new in 1994. The car was comfortable, quiet and fun to drive. It was trouble free until one day when I was driving on the 405 Freeway near Renton, Washington. The car suddenly and unexpectedly lost power. I was near an off-ramp and was able to coast off the freeway and into a parking lot. The engine had not cut off completely but was running at idle speed. Pushing on the accelerator had no effect on increasing the engine speed. I was able to nurse the vehicle to a nearby Pontiac dealer. The dealer diagnosed the problem as a broken accelerator cable, which he replaced. The car had 35878 miles on the odometer and was still covered by the warranty.

One year and 2 months later, I was driving along I-405 again with my wife, daughter and her boyfriend in the car. We were on the way to Redmond, WA to visit my son and celebrate his birthday. We had just passed Bellevue when the accelerator cable broke again. Traffic was relatively light and I was able to coast over to the shoulder. I walked back into Bellevue and phoned my son who came and rescued the passengers while I stayed behind and waited for the tow truck. I told the Pontiac dealer that this had happened before. He gave an evasive answer, implying that he was unfamiliar with the problem. The odometer read 60927 miles – only 25049 miles since the last time. The repair cost $90.14.

A little over two years later, my daughter was driving the car along I-5 in Seattle and as she was passing under the convention center that spans the freeway, the cable broke again. Fortunately we were now in the era of cell phones and she was able to call a tow truck, which brought the car to the nearest Pontiac dealer. The dealer admitted to knowing about the problem with accelerator cables and gave me a copy of a GM bulletin, but more about that later. The odometer read 96846. That was 35919 miles since the last cable failure. The repair cost was $101.62.

The cable broke again just one year and three months later. My wife was driving the car on a country lane on the outskirts of Olympia, WA. The car was towed to an independent repair facility. The owner was familiar with the accelerator cable failure on 94 Pontiacs and stated that the problem was a common occurrence. The odometer read 113276 miles – just 16430 miles since the last repair. The repair cost was $93.26.

One year and four months later we were zipping along in the fast lane on the 405 Freeway just north of Bellevue when the cable broke again. My wife was driving and immediately began moving to the right. Fortunately, traffic was relatively light and she was able to get it over to the shoulder. We were again going to visit my son in Redmond for a birthday celebration. We called my son on the cell phone and he came and rescued his mother and grandmother while I waited with the car for the tow truck to arrive. This had been the worst performance of any of the cable replacements getting just 15902 miles since the last repair. The repair cost had now grown to $131.74.

This ends our sad tale. We sold the car a couple of months later. I did report the problem to the NHSTA, the Federal agency but never received any acknowledgement that they had received my e-mail. This accelerator cable failure seems to be a dangerous product defect and the cars with this problem should have been recalled. The cable had a nasty habit of breaking while we were driving on the freeway. In each instance we were able to get through traffic and to the shoulder, but we could also have gotten marooned in a lane with traffic on both sides, a possibly fatal circumstance. Any survivors could have sued GM and won a big settlement.

The dealer that performed the third repair provided me with a copy of a GM Bulletin entitled “Broken Accelerator Control Cable.” It states that the cause is:

“Owner driving habits may be the cause of a broken cable. A rapid release of the accelerator pedal may produce a momentary slack in the cable assembly resulting in accelerator control cable wear and eventual separation. A rapid release or snapping back of the accelerator pedal may be achieved by sliding the foot off the accelerator pedal at a full throttle position. This driver induced condition is not a recommended driving technique. A broken cable will result in the throttle returning to idle and a loss of throttle control.”

Whoever wrote that has a real “in your face” sense of humor or that has got to be the lamest reason they could have come up with. The suggested “correction” is to install a “revised accelerator control cable,” part number: 12554626. All my repair tickets show that part number was installed. I guess that correction didn’t do the trick. The bulletin also lists several other GM products that apparently had the same problem. These are:

1994-95 Buick Regal 1995 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 1993-95 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 1994-95 Pontiac Grand Prix with 3.1L Engine

I’ve owned 8 or 9 GM automobiles over the years. Will I ever buy another GM Product? No way!

By Julian Linder

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