General Motors is recalling about 1.5 million model year 1996-98 Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire cars, Chevrolet Lumina/Venture, Oldsmobile Silhouette, and Pontiac Transport minivans, and 1997-98 Pontiac Grand Prix cars to repair a lower pinion bearing condition in the power steering gear assembly.

Of the total, about1.2 million of the vehicles are in the U.S. and approximately 240,000 are in Canada. The vehicles were built between January 1, 1996 and October 31, 1997.

In some of these vehicles, the lower pinion bearing in the power steering gear may separate, permitting movement of the pinion shaft. Most reports indicate the driver experienced an intermittent loss of power steering assist when making left turns, usually at low speeds. If the pinion shaft moves too far, some drivers could experience higher resistance when turning left followed by unintended power assist to the right. There have been 15 reports of crashes and three injuries that may be related to the condition, but no fatal injuries.

Beginning in January, GM will notify owners of the affected vehicles, instructing them to bring them into their dealers. Dealers will install a new lower pinion bearing or, if necessary, replace the steering gear assembly at no cost to owners.