Safety recalls are nothing to snicker about, but some are worse than others. The 547 2010 Cadillac SRXs recalled this week for potential engine failure, for instance, are not even in the same time zone as the millions of Toyotas recalled earlier this year. In fact, the recall isn't even over an inherent defect in the engines, but over misfueling by owners.

According to the NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigations 547 2010 Cadillac SRXs equipped with the 2.8-liter HFV6 turbocharged engine are under recall due to potential engine failure induced by pre-ignition that can occur under aggressive driving--but only when the owner fills the car with regular fuel instead of the premium fuel required by the owner's manual. The problem arises because the engine's computer responds to the retarded spark timing brought on by lower octane fuel by increasing boost pressure. This creates the right conditions of pressure and temperature to cause the air-fuel mixture to pre-ignite.

Pre-ignition occurs when combustion begins before the piston has reached full compression, potentially damaging the engine catastrophically (i.e. breaking connecting rods and pistons, and/or sending pieces that are meant to be inside the block out through it), possibly disabling the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash.

The problem can be solved--before things go bad--by re-programming the ECU. The recall advises owners to bring their affected vehicles in to the dealers to receive the fix.

Of course, they could also prevent the problem entirely by simply using the proper fuel as stated in the owner's manual. If, however, regular gasoline has been used for a period of time, the engine may need to be inspected for damage, so all affected vehicle owners should take their SRXs in for the recall when notified.

Bottom line: saving $3 on a fill-up isn't worth a blown engine.

[NHTSA]