• Action 9: How some car defects can make drivers sick


    ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando man claims his new car had a manufacturer's defect that triggered mold so bad the vehicle makes him sick.


    At first James Cox blamed a scratchy throat on allergies. Then a car detailer found mold blooming inside his trunk's spare tire well. Spores spread under carpets and the back seat.


    “It's like the air was really thick to breathe,” Cox said.


    “Was the car making you sick?” Todd Ulrich asked.  


    “I believe so, yeah,” Cox replied.


    A dealership confirmed the third brake light had a slow water leak.


    Car expert Jay Zembower told Ulrich that kind of brake light is one of several manufacturer defects that trigger slow water leaks that breed and then feed mold.


    “They're air tight enough to allow this mold to start growing. You wouldn't know it's there until the odor starts to happen, by that time it's occurred and it's too late,” Zembower said.


    Action 9 found three main causes for vehicle mold: Manufacturer defects like brake lights, sun roofs, and convertibles. Cars salvaged from floods are an obvious mold risk and third, the unexpected, car detailing that leaves moisture behind.


    “It was left to evaporate but yet was trapped within the vehicle and causes a mold bloom on virtually everything within the car,” said indoor air expert John P. Lapotaire.


    Chances are your car insurance won't cover clean-up and mold remediation.


    If it's a manufacturer's defect, there's some coverage.


    Still under warranty, Cox said the dealership replaced all the fabric surfaces in the trunk and treated the air with ozone.


    Months later he claims the air inside still smells and makes him sick.


    “I requested they replace the entire interior and anything with cloth,” Cox said. That didn't happen. 


    Experts say serious mold issues contaminate entire vehicles and manufacturer’s generally limit repair coverage, so owners are stuck with sick vehicles.


    “You've got to remove the rest of the car's material and replace it,” Lapotaire said.


    “You can smell it when you drive it. It's just not right,” Cox said.


    Ulrich contacted General Motors about the brake light failure and mold damage but there was no response.


    Experts say if mold is suspected make sure the cabin air filter is changed because too many times it's missed and that can make a mold problem far worse.




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