Families buy them for room and safety, but some minivans are now scaring local drivers.
Lisa Ray, of Penn Hills, said she got a sweet deal on her 2005 Chevy Uplander. She bought it new and it came with a television and all the bells and whistles.
Kelly Zajicek, of Allenport, said all of her friends were excited when she bought her new 2007 Chevy Uplander van last spring. She finally had a vehicle big enough to carry her daughter and several fellow cheerleaders to practice and games. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Zajicek started having trouble with her van.
“This right door will open sporadically by itself. It will not close properly. It's opened going down the highway,” Zajicek said.
That's right, opened while the van was moving. It happened one time when Zajicek was going 55 mph on the highway with her daughter and friends in the van.
Dani Zajicek said, “It flew open and me and another girl was in the car and we were scared that we were going to fall out or something was going to happen.”
Lisa Ray said she had very similar problems with her power doors. Her right passenger van door popped open as she was driving and her 4-year-old and 13-year-old daughters were in the car.
Her daughter Taylor Ray Jetter said, “I looked at my sister and she starts screaming the door is opening I’m going to fall out.”
Ray now puts her 4-year-old in the opposite seat.
Channel 11 searched the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) database and discovered over 20 complaints about similar problems with the Uplander's doors.
The Uplander isn't the only GM made van with door complaints. There have also been similar complaints for the Pontiac Montana, Saturn Relay, and Buick Terraza.
This doesn't surprise Bob Silverman of Kimmel and Silverman, a law firm that specializes in the lemon law.
Silverman said, “I’ve had clients, hundreds of clients, complain of doors not closing, popping open when they felt they were closed, warning buzzers going off and actually some of my clients saying the doors are opening while driving. Very serious issues.”
Silverman said despite repeated complaints,GM has never issued a recall for the vans.
Ray and Zajicek took their vans back to the dealers several times.
Zajicek said, “I had the vehicle for 12 days the first month I owned it. It was at the dealership the whole time trying to get this door replaced.”
In all she has documentation that shows she took it back to the dealer five times between in the six months she had the car. Ray also took her van back to the dealer several times.
Despite several attempts to fix the problem he said, “I'm being told there is nothing wrong with the van.”
Zajicek contacted General Motors.
“Sometimes they didn't even listen to my concerns and validate them. They'd open up a case and not follow through with it.”
Silverman has heard that complaint before, “With these Uplanders we saw a huge trend in the beginning where manufactures instructed dealers, on the side, don't find anything wrong, it's normal, clean the contacts, it could be debris or something causing the door to fly open. It isn't.”
Finally, Zajicek contacted Silverman. Within two weeks she got good news.
“They are going to buy back the vehicle which means I will not have to worry about my family's safety. GM is doing the right thing.”
And Zajicek does not pay any attorney fees. Silverman said the quick resolution of Zajicek’s case is a little unusual.
“That case involved a newer vehicle with repairs that occurred faster under PA law and where the cable actually snapped. Once where the door did open when driving and essentially there is no way to deny it on GM's part,” according to Silverman.
Zajicek also had all her repair work and phone calls documented which made filing the claim easier.
Silverman said, “A lot of manufacturers including GM tend to do what is right. “