Auburn Hills, Mich. – Oct. 5, 2017 – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has recalled more than 646,000 vehicles potentially equipped with improperly installed brake booster shields, according to documentation filed with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The campaign affects 2011-2014 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles with production dates ranging from Jan. 5, 2010 to Sept. 8, 2013. FCA estimates that roughly 41 percent of the models referenced in the recall actually contain the defective parts.
Affected vehicles may include incorrectly installed brake booster shields that do not effectively divert water away from the critical drivetrain features they are intended to protect. This increases the likelihood of brake booster corrosion and could lead to freezing in particularly cold environments. Both of these phenomena are capable of reducing vehicle stopping power, which poses a serious risk to occupants. FCA has not received reports connecting the defective fixtures to any injuries. However, the automaker has received one report correlating the defect to an accident.
Drivers encountering braking issues stemming from ineffective brake booster shields will see their dash warning lights illuminate and experience abnormal resistance when compressing the brake pedal. In some cases, the anti-lock brake system may activate.
Timeline of Events
On Jan. 18, 2017, the FCA Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance group launched an internal investigation into field reports detailing customer complaints surrounding brake booster shield assemblies installed as part of an earlier recall, according to NHTSA documents. In February, engineers began evaluating approximately 20 brake boosters returned for further inspection. Between Feb. 23 and March 14, the third-party parts supplier responsible for fabricating the fixtures performed its own tests. On March 14, the NHTSA’s Vehicle Research and Test Center performed an independent evaluation and found that the returned brake boosters passed vacuum tests but failed to do so when brake assist was activated. The agency sent the results of this trial to FCA approximately seven days later.
FCA collaborated with the NHTSA and its supplier to conduct numerous other brake booster tests throughout April, May, June and early July. On July 6, NHTSA officials performed a road test with a vehicle equipped with returned brake boosters. The testers also adjusted brake leak rates to simulate different levels of corrosion. The vehicle used in the trial exceeded Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard requirements. However, during a post-run physical evaluation, the NHTSA officials noticed that brake booster water shields had been installed incorrectly. Five days later, the agency contacted FCA and requested that it examine all of the returned parts to determine the frequency of these incorrectly installed features. The NHTSA also asked the car company to conduct an accompanying field investigation.
On July 18, FCA reported that 12 of the remaining returned brake boosters in its possession included incorrectly installed water shields. It also found that of the 117 vehicles used in its field study, 41 percent had these parts. On July 27, FCA conducted an additional test which involved incorrectly installing brake booster water shields on a production vehicle, spraying it with water and letting it sit in an enclosed chamber with a temperature of -20 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. During a post-spray drive, the vehicle displayed reduced pedal functionality, requiring 22 to 24 pounds-per-square-foot of power to depress. This reading was well outside of the FMVSS-approved range of 4-16 psf.
FCA reported the results of the cold-chamber test to the FCA Aug. 8 and three days later assembled an internal committee to discuss further evaluations. The automaker performed another cold-chamber trial Aug. 23 and saw results similar to those collected during the first test. It conducted another evaluation three days later and again saw similarly problematic results. The pedals in the vehicle used in the trial required 22 to 28 psf of compression power. FCA reviewed these and other test results over the course of late August and early September.
On Sept. 11, the FCA Vehicle Regulations Committee determined that the defect posed a serious safety hazard to owners and issued a voluntary safety recall.
FCA will direct dealers to re-install the brake booster water shields in affected vehicles free of charge, according to a recall acknowledgement document. The car company plans to notify dealers and owners Nov. 7. Owners in need of more immediate assistance can reach out the Chrysler customer service personnel at (800) 853-1403. Callers should use the internal recall identification code T59. Owners can also contact the NHTSA via the agency’s 24-hour Vehicle Safety Hotline at (888) 327-4236.