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Faulty Flex-Fan Blades in Older Cars and Trucks

January 2002

TP 2436 E 
Fact Sheet RS 2002-01 
Prepared by Motor Vehicle Safety Directorate 

Many Canadians enjoy the hobby of restoring older passenger cars and light trucks. It is therefore fitting to remind the owners of North American-built, eight-cylinder passenger cars and light trucks produced between 1970 and 1980 of the danger of flex-fan blade failures.

During 1970-1980, some large engines were equipped with cooling fans with flexible steel blades that were designed to reduce fuel consumption by reducing the power robbed from the engine to drive the fan at cruising speed. Some of the fan blades broke off causing damage to components such as the fan shroud, the radiator, the battery or the cooling hoses. If the engine is running and the hood is open, any person standing in line with the fan could be seriously injured or killed.

In response to failure reports and to investigations conducted by Transport Canada, some manufacturers issued recall notices to vehicle owners to have the faulty fans replaced. This action virtually eliminated the hazard, but the possibility exists that some of the surviving 1970-80 eight-cylinder vehicles were never modified.

Here are some safety tips when working under the hood of these cars or trucks:

  • Never stand with any part of your body in line with the cooling fan when the engine is running.
  • Ensure that bystanders or helpers stay well away from the fan, particularly if the engine is revved up by actuating the throttle linkage when the hood is up.
  • With the engine shut off, examine the fan blades and hub for any signs of cracking or fatigue.
  • To determine if the original flex fan was replaced, it is a good idea to check with a dealership or an experienced mechanic who is familiar with 1970s era North American vehicles.