On 21st July 2010 at about 1530hrs, I was driving along East Coast Parkway, toward the direction of Changi Airport, I was exiting via the Rochor exit when I noticed a slight drizzle and I activated my driver side window switch to wind up all my windows.
To my surprise, thick white smoke started to appear from the driver side window switch assembly, the smell of the electrical burn was overpowering and the thick white smoke did not stop even after I stopped operating the window switch. I was driving at 60-70km/h at that time and there were no road shoulder along the exit of the highway where I could stop to inspect or put out the fire (if there was one).
I looked around my car for some fluids I can use to temporarily resolve the situation. I managed to use some mineral water from an open bottle to hopefully douse the fire. That stopped the thick smoke but the smell from the burnt circuitry and possibly plastic was still very strong in the confined cabin space of my Honda Jazz purchased from Kah Motors(Singapore) in 2007.
2 options came into my mind..
I could stop the vehicle safely at the next nearest appropriate location after the expressway exit, or I could drive direct to Kah Motors(Honda local agent) for them to check it up, despite inhaling the fumes and potential fire risk to me.
I chose the latter so as not to become a hazard to other road users and causing massive traffic jam as a result. From Rochor to Kah Motors Service Center at Ubi, I was constantly observing the window switch unit for any signs of continual burning. And as I was unable to operate the window switch, there was little fresh air coming in and I had to inhale the fume and bear with the overpowering stench.
Once I reached Kah Motors at Ubi, it took them 5-8minutes before the first person came out to serve me. (Did they not consider this critical?)
The first person that talked to me was their Service Supervisor, Mr LIM TIAM LAY, whom told me that they will replace the window switch free of charge since my car is still under warranty ( 3 years and my car was bought on 24th July 2007, with current mileage of 86,000km ). And he did not mention of the Honda Jazz/Fit Window Power Recall, until I brought it up.
As I brought the subject of the recall, I remembered clearly reading up this piece of news in Singapore that Kah Motors(KM) did mention in their press release that my batch (manufactured in 2007) was not part of the recall and was safe to use without the need of any replacement of the window switch.
And Mr LIM assured me again that my vehicle was not part of the 'faulty window switch' batch as adviced by Honda(Japan) to KM. As their policy of the service center, they were only able to replace the window switch free of charge.
But that was not good enough for me. I feel KM/Honda have a social responsibility to anyone and everyone whom had placed their trust and confidence to buy a car from them.
To sell a car that is a potential fire hazard and life-threatening is not expected from a corporation such as KM/Honda. I asked Mr Lim, if the plastics and materials used in the power switch was ROHS compliant for human safety and he was unable to reply to my question. For any electrical/electronic product that is to be used in a confined space which involve humans, the materials used must be ROHS compliant to prevent any health hazard to the person in the event that the product burn and produce toxic fumes.
At the point, Mr LIM invited his 'Service Manager', Mr KEVIN ANG, to the room where we are having the discussion. Mr Ang had informed me again that my car was not due to the faulty window switch batch and also told me that carbon monoxide which we breathe in everyday on the road may be as toxic as the fumes produced by the burning. At this point, it made me realize that I no longer needed to speak to the service manager about the science and the fumes hazard as he did not have the knowledge to comment and yet suggested nonsensical facts to divert the fact that I had been inhaling the possibly toxic fumes and not him. I doubt he understand the ROHS standard.
Next, this Mr ANG continued to tell me that almost every fault is possible and can happen in any car that Honda produces and KM sells and that is the reason why there is a warranty period. And that this issue is no different from any transmission or brakes problem. And that every fault in the car is life-threatening, as argued by every car owner experiencing fault that he has dealt with.
Mr Lim and Mr Ang had also shown me the report from Honda Japan that vehicles out of the recall batch may experience the problem and it was also stated in the report ( which was not for public distribution ) that there was a 5% chance of the burning to occur and it may not lead to a fire.
The keyword was "MAY", which means it "MAY" also lead to fire. That keyword in the sentence regards to the fire hazard was clearly imprinted on the report and now in my mind as well.
Mr Ang told me that for every Honda Jazz that comes to KM for regular servicing, they are obliged to remove the window switch assembly and check for symptoms. He even told me that he had purchased a large magnifying lamp for his technicians to check this assembly for all the Honda Jazz [ regardless of batch ]. I asked him for his procedure of checking and symptoms that the technicians are looking out for. Instead of replying, he redirected my question with another question. He asked me if I do come for regular servicing. I actually do "NOT" service my vehicle at the Honda appointed agent "KM". MR ANG continued and said that if I do not come for regular servicing, that might impair my warranty status and they are not able to be sure if anyone had tampered with my window switch assembly. He also said that for those whom come back for regular servicing, their Honda Jazz will be inspected and preventive enhancements were made on the Honda Jazz if they suspect any risk of fire on the window switch.
I had asked Mr ANG, if there was a chance of the fire happening on other Honda Jazz out of the recall batch, why KM did not try to contact all other Honda Jazz owners? Mr ANG, nonchalantly replied that for a small percentile, there wasn't a need. I guess he was doing his best to protect the company's interest and image with his reply. I see no point in going into any further discussion with KM's representatives. Last, I asked if the Honda Jazz sold under KM should come in for checking of the window switch and not for servicing, will there be any charges? He replied that for warranty vehicles, they are obliged to check and implement the preventive enhancement even if they are coming in for this check alone and not the servicing.
Mr Ang again tried to reassure me that the faulty window switch assembly was to be replaced on the house, but they'd have to retain the faulty part under warranty policy. I kindly refuse their offer and I told them I will pay for the replacement so as to get my hands on the "faulty" power switch. I paid about S$160++ for the replacement part.
If KM/Honda has no regard for social responsibility, perhaps something should be done outside their loop. I believe if I was to accept their warranty replacement, they will not do much about it and continue to sell cars that "MAY" be a fire hazard.
To all the other Jazz owners that are not within the recall batch, they are also not doing any form of contact to inform them that there is such a risk. Neither are they publicly announcing that they are offering any free replacement or checking to these owner of Honda Jazz out of the recall batch.
I feel all Honda Jazz owners whom owned a Jazz manufactured in 2007 and before should be aware of this and get it checked at KM as soon as possible.
The day after this happened, I checked the internet for the recall articles from major newspapers and media company from both Singapore and out of Singapore.
This is what I found.
The recall was activated because a child died in Africa due to a fire that resulted from the faulty window switch.
Reuters : Honda Motor Co recalled 646,000 of its Fit/Jazz and City automobiles globally over a faulty window switch after a child died when fire broke out in a car last year
The international news release announced that all Honda Fit/Jazz manufactured from 2002-2008.
JapanToday : Honda recalls 646,000 vehicles worldwide over power window switch
NYTimes : Honda recalling cars to fix switch
CNN : Honda recalls 646,000 FITs for fire hazard
The Singapore media news reported that only Honda Jazz/Fit manufactured and sold between 2002-2004 are affected ( as told to them by Singapore local Honda agent, Kah Motors ).
Why is it that internationally, all the Honda Jazz from 2002-2008 are recalled and for Singapore, the recall are only for 2002-2004?
Are you driving the fire hazard?
Do you drive the fire hazard with children?
Should you be informed?
Shouldn't such companies have a social responsibility to the car owners?
Should companies' interest and image be prioritized over safety of consumers?
Below are pictures depicting the extent of the damages on my affected window switch of the 2007 Honda Jazz I purchased from Kah Motors(Singapore)