We all want to believe that our cars aren’t out to get us, but over the years, there have been some seriously scary recalls that kind of prove otherwise. No, we’re not talking demonic cars that come to life and try to kill you, but one of the cars on this list was recalled for flooring in reverse when you try to put it in park, and another one was bursting into flames for no reason at all!
Get ready, because we’re going to tell you about the most horrifying car recalls of all time!
1996 Ford Ranger – Flame On
Over the years, there have been countless recalls due to gas tanks that would rupture during a collision and start a fire. And, of course, no one wants their car to burst into flames. But at least if your car blows up after an accident, it sort of makes sense.
The 1996 Ford Ranger, on the other hand, would catch fire for a slightly more concerning reason. Owners of the all-American pickup reported their trucks experienced a fiery death just because they put them in park!
Apparently, this strange phenomenon was due to a problem with the ignition system, and it led to 8 million cars being recalled, and several houses being burned down! There were several other Ford vehicles recalled in 1996 for a similar issue, but none were as bad as the Ranger.
However, this wasn’t the first Ford Ranger that was known to burst into flames for seemingly no reason. Years earlier, a family in Georgia’s 1985 Ranger caught fire in their driveway at 2 a.m., about 8 hours after it had last been driven. That family would go on to form an internet group for the Association of Flaming Ford Owners.
Hopefully Ford has fixed these extremely terrifying problems by now, but still, you won’t see me driving a pre-2000’s Ranger.
The next recall isn’t about a fire, but more about a firewall. I’m talking cybersecurity, folks.
Fiat-Chrysler Infotainment Hacking – Set the Radio to Russian
With all the recent buzz in the media over hacking and cybersecurity, it’s a surprise more people don’t remember how Chrysler-Fiat vehicles nationwide were being remotely hacked back around 2015. The automaker ran into a class-action lawsuit after drivers found that the Uconnect infotainment systems on their cars were being taken over by hackers.
Now, I know we all want to blame the Russians, but it’s more likely that these hackers were hitting closer to home. One driver of a Jeep Cherokee reported that he was cruising down the highway when suddenly his A/C started blasting cold air. Then, his radio switched on and started cranking a Skee-lo song. Hey, at least it wasn’t Lady Gaga.
The windshield wipers started going nuts, and then, the hackers actually appeared on his infotainment screen. Finally, they cut his transmission in the middle of the highway. The guy wasn’t hurt, but I think we can all agree, the idea that two nerds with a Macbook can hack your car’s transmission is seriously scary.
That kind of thing will shake your faith in your car, no doubt, but it still might not be quite as bad as this next malfunction, which is just blatantly unsafe.
1970-1980 Fords Park-to-Reverse – Take It Back Now Y’all
As one of the largest automakers in the world, it’s only natural that Ford is going to have a few recalls here and there. But some malfunctions are just plain inexcusable. Take, for instance, the one that occurred in over 23,000 Ford vehicles between 1970 and 1980.
Drivers reported that when they would put their car in park, the transmission would accidentally slip into reverse, and send their car hurtling backward. The problem was the detent in the shifter mechanism that was meant to separate the Park and Reverse positions got rounded off.
This probably should have led to a recall of about 23 million vehicles, but Ford found a nifty little workaround by sending out warning label stickers to car owners. People who had these faulty Fords eventually learned to double-check the shifter engagement while holding down the brake pedal when starting their ignition, but the problem still led to around 6,000 accidents, over 1,000 injuries, and nearly 100 deaths.
After years of legal battles with the NHTSA, Ford was never actually required to recall these faulty vehicles. However, they have had to pay out some serious cash in personal injury lawsuits.
The next scandal didn’t really put anyone in danger, it was just a sneaky move that seriously pissed off the EPA.
VW Dieselgate – Bad Germans!
Probably the most high-profile recall scandal in the last 10 years, Dieselgate made worldwide headlines and has shaken many people’s trust in the VW badge. Although, it’s still not the worst thing that Volkswagen makers have ever done. You know what I’m talking about.
Basically, the Dieselgate scandal involved VW installing a “defeat device” into their vehicles that could detect when they were being tested, and then would boost their performance metrics for the duration of the test. Known models that contained this device were the VW-made Audi A3, as well as VW Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, and Passats. All in all, VW admitted that they installed this device in over 11 million cars worldwide!
And that defeat device was a serious piece of engineering. Apparently, it monitored speed, engine operation, air pressure, and steering wheel position to identify whether or not it was in a test scenario. If it determined the car was being tested, the engine would run below normal power and performance to reduce emissions. In reality, some VW cars were emitting up to 40 times the approved level of nitrogen oxide in the USA when running at normal capacity.
As a result, the EPA required those sneaky Germans to recall as many as 9 million vehicles worldwide, and they’ve paid over $9.5 billion in settlements in the USA alone. It’s been a few years since Dieselgate now, and people are starting to crawl back to the VW badge, but I’m sure the EPA’s still keeping a watchful eye on those conniving krauts.
As shocking as Dieselgate was, this next scandal still might have a leg up on it, since it literally directly led to the creation of the NHTSA.
1960 Chevy Corvair – Shaky Boots
You know you’ve done something bad when they have to create an entirely new government agency to make sure you don’t screw up again. Corvairs made between 1960 and 1964 had a rear engine and swing axle design that caused the rear wheel grip to lose control and, in many cases, would cause the driver to lose control of the car completely and crash.
This design flaw was first exposed by activist-actor-presidential candidate Ralph Nader in his book Unsafe at Any Speed. After the book was published, GM apparently went after Nader in a smear campaign to try and discredit his findings, but to no avail. Nasty Nader is still going strong today! And the outrage he caused over the Corvair directly led to the formation of the NHTSA.
One thing, however, that he didn’t mention in his book, is that the Corvair also apparently had some very weak hinges that connected the hood to the frame of the car, causing the hood to act like a flying guillotine during collisions. Both design flaws made the 1960 Corvair a certified deathtrap, and sales of this car effectively dropped to zero after Nader’s book hit the shelves.
But, if you really want to talk about cars that lose control, this next car was called back because it was taking drivers straight down the highway to hell.
2010 Toyota Corolla – Highway to Hell
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say, “I thought Toyota was the most reliable car company on the planet!” And, for the most part, you’re probably right. But, they did have one malfunction on the Toyota Corolla which might be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard.
Apparently, in the 2010 Toyota Corolla, the gas pedal would sometimes stick down when in full-throttle acceleration! That’s right, one second you’re testing the limits of that Toyota four-banger and next thing you know you’re on a highway to hell!
If you’ve ever seen Runaway Car, which is a horribly-made yet insanely awesome movie, it might as well have been about the 2010 Corolla. Imagine hitting top speeds and then not being able to stop. Scary.
Toyota eventually had to recall 9 million cars because of this flaw, but only after 31 people lost their lives. So, yes, most Toyotas are extremely reliable, but the 2010 Corolla is a freaky, demonic death-machine.
Hey, at least in that car you could possibly tuck and roll out the door to safety, unlike these next cars, which just straight-up hold you hostage.
1995 Honda Jammed Seat Belts – Seatbelt Straightjacket
Okay, so this recall isn’t actually so dangerous as it is just kind of funny. In 1995, Honda experienced a major problem with their seatbelts, which involved the release button becoming cracked and essentially trapping drivers in their seats. Yes, this could be potentially dangerous if you should get in a collision and have to crawl out of your car.
However, I think it’s pretty funny to imagine Joe Schmo yelling from the driveway that he’s trapped until Suzy Q comes out with the kitchen knife to cut his seatbelt and free him. But, obviously, if you have to cut your seatbelt, you can’t really use it anymore after that. So, not surprisingly, Honda was forced to recall these vehicles and fix the seatbelt problem. Stop holding people hostage, Honda!