Inaccurate fuel gauges. Malfunctioning hood ornaments. Lights without power supplies.

Those are just a few of the quirkier defects compelling auto makers selling in the U.S. to issue recalls, which in 2010 totaled some 17.2 million cars and trucks.

Make no mistake, every defect represents a potential safety hazard. It’s just that some are more likely to draw a chuckle than others.

For example, Bentley Motors Ltd. recalled 630 of its Arnage, Azure and Brooklands luxury cars from ’07-’09 because the retracting mechanism that keeps their famous “Flying B” hood ornaments aloft could become corroded.

“If the hood ornament does not retract, it could increase the risk of injury to a pedestrian in the event of a crash between the vehicle and the pedestrian,” a recall report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. says.

A Ward’s analysis of NHTSA data for this year also reveals navigation specialist Garmin Ltd. could be leaving drivers lost – and hot under the collar.

In three separate campaigns from Volvo Cars of North America LLC, American Suzuki Motor Corp. and Nissan North America Inc., NHTSA says batteries contained in certain navigation systems from Garmin and equipped in the auto makers’ vehicles could overheat.

“Overheated batteries could result in a fire,” the NHTSA filings say.

The recall includes a total of 29,056 cars, cross/utility vehicles and SUVs from the auto makers dating back as far as the ’01 model year.

NHTSA warns the trendy new audio speakers in Kia’s’10 Soul and ’11 Sorento CUVs could be a fire hazard.

Located in the front and rear door panels, the speakers are designed to light up and enhance the audio experience. But a faulty wiring harness in up to 35,185 units could lead to an electrical short and perhaps a fire.

Some auto makers also might leave their customers stranded with fuel gauges providing inaccurate readings. Nissan and BMW of North America LLC both conducted recalls this year because of faulty fuel-level sensors.

On certain ’10 and ’11 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo models, a fuel-tank sensor could come loose, leading the fuel gauge on the instrument cluster to indicate more fuel remains than is actually in the tank.

“As a result, if the tank became empty, the vehicle could stall, increasing the risk of a crash,” NHTSA says of the problem, which brought back 6,080 units.

Nissan experienced a similar issue with a number of Xterra SUVs and Frontier pickups from ’06 and ’08. The auto maker recalled 80,689 units because their molded fuel tanks could deform and cause a float arm to rub against the tank shell.

“The instrument-panel fuel gauge (could) show that the vehicle has approximately one quarter tank when the fuel tank is actually empty,” the recall statement says.

If the Lamborghini Murcielago did not go through enough fuel already at less than 10 mpg (2.4 L/100 km) in city driving, certain models from ’08 and ’10 feature poor welds that could lead to leaks, NHTSA says, as Automobili Lamborghini SpA recalls 428 units.

BMW may want to consider extra coffee breaks at its plant in Spartanburg, SC. The auto maker recalls 735 of its high-performance X5 M CUV for an assembly error – side-marker lamps had no power-supply cables.

“As a result, the side-marker lamps do not illuminate,” the NHTSA document says.

jamend@wardsauto.com