The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating the flanges after Continental filed recall documents last week saying the parts could be defective, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The documents indicate that Continental sold the flanges to 11 automakers and 5 other parts supply companies. Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi already have recalled nearly a half-million vehicles because of leaky flanges, which cover openings in the fuel tank for the fuel pump and other components.
The flanges, composed of industry-standard polymer, can crack and let fuel leak. This problem could lead to fires, NHTSA said.
Continental still hasn’t determined exactly what causes the flanges to crack, but believes the outer wall can degrade due to uncontrollable environmental factors, such as acids from cleaning solutions or other sources. Each automaker uses the flanges differently, and some may not be as exposed to the environment, the supplier said.
Automakers will be responsible for determining whether the flanges are defective in their vehicles, and if so will have to conduct their own recalls. If automakers find they aren’t having any issues, there may be no additional recalls.
Volkswagen and its Porsche and Audi brands did a total of 4 separate recalls for the issue between September 2016 and March 2017. No vehicle fires were reported; however, documents say drivers reported smelling fuel. Dealers were to apply a protective ring to the flanges. If they were cracked, they would be replaced.
Continental’s recall could potentially involve other automakers and millions of additional vehicles, although the total number is still unclear. A spokesperson for Continental said the actual number could run into the millions, but will ultimately be hard to determine because part numbers are not the same.
To date, no fires or other incidents have been reported in connection with the recall.