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Spartan fire trucks recalled for failing to pump water – Autoblog


We don’t cover a lot of non-consumer recalls here at Autoblog, but occasionally something will prompt a quick double-take. Spartan Fire’s recall of its 2022-2024 Gladiator, Metro Star, FC-94 and KME Panther fire trucks is a fine example. It’s a recall of just 166 vehicles, but rather than catching fire, they could potentially fail to put one out due to a defect in their transmission control units. Yes, you’re reading that correctly.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s get this out of the way: Spartan discovered this issue during internal testing; no incidents of failed pumps were reported in the company’s notice to safety regulators. With that out of the way, are you ready for a Monday morning lesson in the mechanical workings of a fire truck? I sure wasn’t, but it’s fascinating. Here’s a handy explainer from Dallas Fire-Rescue in case you prefer a visual explanation. The mechanical details start around the 0:45 mark. 

While the firefighting pump on this type of fire truck is an independent piece of hardware, it is still powered by the truck’s engine. To accomplish this, the truck’s driven wheels have to be decoupled from the transmission. If you’re familiar with power equipment, this essentially functions like a power takeoff unit; if your knowledge is limited to cars, think of it like a 4WD transfer case, only rather than sending power to both axles, it disconnects the rear shaft (leading to the drive wheels) and connects the front (leading to the pump). Once this mechanical connection is made, the truck’s transmission is locked in gear (4th, in this case) and the pump is ready to operate. This is where the recall comes into play.

Spartan says the mechanical bits work fine, but a misbehaving sensor may cause the transmission control module to act up if the truck is backed up before firefighters attempt to engage the pump. This reverse -> park -> pump sequence can trigger a software glitch that won’t allow the transmission to lock in the appropriate gear, leaving firefighters with an inoperable pump. Spartan says the issue will be addressed with a software update for the Allison transmission’s control module. Operators and dealers should be notified in April. 

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