Malfunctioning Seat Heaters and Burns Sustained By Car Occupants
There are umpteen number of car manufacturers in the whole wide world. But, not all manufacturers realize that comfort and safety are the main expectations of car users. A prominent lacuna is that there have been many instances of burns sustained by drivers or passengers due to heated car seats. After investigating, authorities of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have found out that these instances are due to malfunctioning seat heaters or the seats have been used by people who lack sensation in their lower extremities. It’s a very saddening affair to notice how paralyzed people become the evident victims of such horrible and mind wrenching tragedies.
Risks due to malfunctioning seat heaters
138 complaints involving malfunctioning seat heaters that have caused burning smell or visible flames have been received by NHTSA in a period of 6 years. NHTSA authorities have started their investigations aimed at determining "whether the frequency and severity of this condition may create an unreasonable risk to safety." According to experts, heater temperatures more than the human tolerance limit may be risky, more so, on people who have paralysis or do not have sensation in their lower extremities.
The complaints received by NHTSA involve either a burning odor or presence of visible smoke. Ironically, these instances occurred 34 times in cars manufactured by Mercedes and 27 times in BMW cars. Among the 34 Mercedes complaints, there were approximately 28 complaints registered for M-Class and GL-Class itself.
Factors causing heater problems
According to Mercedes authorities, the foremost factor for this problem is the stress caused to the seating surface. If people get in and get out frequently, the electrical wire of the heating mat may break. This further leads to the creation of other major problems when it comes to using the cars for other possible needs. If such cases are registered with NHTSA on a frequent basis, there would be a time when all the car dealerships and car manufacturing companies would be scrambling for shelter under the various Bankruptcy Acts.
Authorities handling the NHTSA complaints are hopeful of compiling their reports soon based not only on the NHTSA data but on the feedback from the consumers and also the physicians who have been treating these burns. But, their prima facie opinion is that "If a seat heater exceeds human tolerance for burns, it should be considered defective" and such defective seat heaters should be recalled by the automakers.
Who are most affected by this problem?
The most affected people include those who have been affected by paralysis. While other passengers can reduce the intensity of the problem by moving or turning down the heater, paralysis-affected people cannot do that. A burn develops in 8 hours if the skin and an object of at least 109 degrees are in contact with each other. Especially, if the skin belongs to a weight-bearing area like the buttocks, the wound may not heal easily.
Remedy for the problem
The safety protections vary from one automotive manufacturer to another. There are variations even among the different models brought out by the same manufacturer. The good news is that some manufacturers have started taking suitable measures like having heaters that shut off after particular time duration. In certain models, temperature can be set at a threshold of 105 degrees. But, all the automotive manufacturers should follow suit and adopt similar measures to prevent passengers from sustaining such burns.
This guest post is contributed by the team of Austin Mobile Mechanics whose main services includes car repair in Austin. Along with providing effective car care tips, they also offer everything from regular maintenance to complete restorations of older and classic vehicles.