General Motors will conduct what amounts to a voluntary recall of several thousand Chevy Volts to strengthen post-crash battery integrity.

The repair comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered a test vehicle caught fire a few weeks after it was subjected to a major collision.  The NHTSA did not follow GM’s post-crash procedures that require a full discharge of the battery to prevent overheating and fires.

GM announced to dealers and customers yesterday that a number of enhancements will be made to existing vehicles and all new production vehicles. Repairs begin in February and will involve strengthening a portion of the vehicle to better protect the battery pack following a severe collision. Since the NHTSA investigation involved the coolant lines running to the battery, GM will also be placing a sensor in the battery system to monitor coolant levels. It will also add a bracket to the top of the top of the battery coolant system to prevent coolant overfill. The NHTSA approved the repairs after it conducted a follow-up crash with another test vehicle that has not caught fire several weeks after its collision.

Watch a video of the proposed repairs:

The company will also host an online chat taking questions and communicating next steps. The chat begins at noon January 6 but will be archived for future reference.

GM reports that no Chevy Volt beyond the crash test vehicles have caught fire following collisions. Each Volt is equipped with free OnStar service that notifies emergency officials when a vehicle is involved in an accident. GM is able to communicate proper discharge procedures to first responders arriving on scene. 

The National Fire Protection Association reports that approximately 184,500 gas and diesel powered vehicles caught fire in 2010, killing 285 people and injuring 1,440. Those fires resulted in $1 billion in property damage. 

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