Wixom fuse distributor plans recall

Wixom fuse distributor plans recall http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID 07709060341
WASHINGTON -- A Metro Detroit tool and equipment distributor plans to
recall nearly 15,000 Chinese-made auto fuse sets that could be linked to electrical fires, becoming the second company to pursue such a recall.
Privately held Wixom-based K Tools Corp. said Wednesday that it is recalling 14,808 fuse sets made in late 2006 and 2007 at the Yangzhong Shuguang auto parts factory in Jiangsu province. K Tools plans to formally announce the recall today.
"Obviously, with what has happened to Mattel, this is a hot button issue," said Robert Geisinger, K Tools president, referring to Mattel's recall of millions of Chinese-made toys.
On Wednesday, The News reported a California-based auto parts seller, Harbor Freight Tools, planned to recall 295,000 Chinese-made fuse sets.
K Tools is recalling two 120-piece fuse kits that feature sizes ranging from 5 to 30 amps. The kits are similar to those being recalled by Harbor Freight and Geisinger said they may have been produced at the same factory in China.
The planned recalls are the latest in a series of safety incidents with Chinese-made products. In recent weeks, there have been high-profile recalls of Chinese toys, pet food and toothpaste. This is the third recall involving auto parts; last month a New Jersey importer said it would recall 255,000 Chinese-made tires.
The safety of Chinese-made parts is a concern to automakers as they increase the volume of parts they buy in China. Last year, Ford Motor Co. said it planned to double its Chinese parts purchases to $3 billion annually.
Fed tests led to decision
The K Tools recall comes weeks after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle research center in Ohio began testing Chinese-made fuses, following the disclosure of problems with other Chinese-made fuses made by Harbor Freight Tools.
On Aug. 6, NHTSA tested a K Tools fuse set that didn't work properly and contacted K Tools about its finding, said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for NHTSA. The agency is investigating whether there are other faulty fuse sets on the market.
K Tools said it received a complaint on April 12 from a Grand Rapids customer about a fuse set. And in June, the Chinese factory "confirmed a problem and would replace existing inventory."
But it wasn't until NHTSA did its testing that K Tools decided to mount the recall.
"When (NHTSA) tested it, the fuse box melted," Geisinger said.
The "fuse housing can melt or catch fire before the fuse opens," K Tools said in an Aug. 29 letter announcing the recall to NHTSA. The housing is prone to melting because the fuse is made of aluminum instead of zinc, and the housing material is not high-temperature resistant, the company said in an Aug. 29 letter to NHTSA announcing the recall.
In the letter, K Tools said the Chinese factory will now use "better material such as adopting zinc instead of aluminum and use high temperature resistant plastic." The die-casting process has also been improved.About 90 percent of the products K Tools imports from China are "hardline" products such as wrenches, Geisinger said. K Tools sells to auto parts stores, independent tool distributors, tool stores and industrial distributors.
Geisinger said the company also planned to return to China about 6,000 fuse sets in its warehouses.
Calif. firm: Nothing official
Harbor Freight hasn't officially announced its recall. The company told NHTSA in an Aug. 10 letter obtained by The News that it planned to recall 295,000 aftermarket auto fuse sets sold over a two-year period.
On Tuesday, Harbor Freight said it may reduce the size of its planned recall, based on its investigation in China.
General Motors Corp. has raised questions about the fuses in talks with Harbor Freight.
GM spokesman Alan Adler said Wednesday the company hadn't formally issued a bulletin to dealers about the fuses, revising a statement the automaker made on Tuesday.
That bulletin is in draft form and still likely to go out, he said.
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