Auburn Hill, Mich. – July 14, 2017 – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has recalled approximately 363,480 vehicles thought to contain defective air bag wiring fixtures, according to a press release from FCA. The campaign affects 2011-2015 Dodge Journey crossover models produced between Oct. 14, 2010 and April 20, 2015, as well as 2011-2015 Fiat Freemont crossovers sold outside of the North American Free Trade Agreement zone. FCA estimates that 1 percent of the vehicles named in the recall contain the faulty wiring fixtures, according to documentation filed with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
The affected vehicles could come equipped with air bag wiring fixtures that chafe against steering wheel components. In this scenario, short-circuiting is likely. This may lead to unexpected driver-side air bag deployment. FCA has received reports of six injuries connected to the defect. In these cases, the air bag warning light illuminated prior to deployment. Drivers also observed unintended windshield wiper operation.
The car company has yet to receive reports of any accidents related to the defective wiring fixture.
Timeline of Events
In October 2014, FCA investigated an instance of inadvertent air bag deployment involving a Dodge Caravan minivan, according to a chronology document filed with the NHTSA. Engineers reporting to the auto maker’s Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance group analyzed the issue and suggested the steering column clockspring conductor tape was to blame.
FCA continued the investigation and in March 2015 determined the actual root cause of the IAD: shorted wires due to friction between the air bag wiring harness and the metal horn plate located within the steering wheel assembly. In May, FCA engineers successfully tested tape-based wiring harness protection, which was then implemented in production facilities in September. This improvement applied to both Caravan and Journey models.
The car company continued to monitor the issue throughout 2015, while also identifying and quarantining damaged steering wheel assemblies.
In January 2016, FCA confirmed all of the updated wiring protections for Caravan and Journey vehicles were successfully installed in September 2015. One month later, the company requested a series of vehicle inspections to assess the efficacy of these production improvements.
In March, engineers conducted 26 corporate vehicle inspections and discovered that three models showed signs of contact between air bag wiring fixtures and steering wheel components. The FCA Quality Engineering Center obtained the inspection results the following month. After an initial review, QEC sent the results to the engineering laboratory, which conducted vehicle vibration tests and found that steering wheel components penetrated the air bag wiring protection. FCA continued to investigate and monitor the issue throughout 2016.
In January 2017, the VSRC received reports of IADs linked to other causes not addressed in previous investigations. One month later, FCA engineers opened a new inquiry and reviewed parts from the vehicles named in these reports and discovered a separate production anomaly limited in scope.
FCA closed this new investigation in early February but continued to monitor the issue. Over the course of late February, March and April the auto maker received new IAD reports involving shorted air bag wiring fixtures. It re-opened the brief investigation initiated in January. FCA received additional IAD reports in May.
On June 6, the Vehicle Regulations Committee conducted voluntary recall for Caravan models and requested more information on the Journey crossover. On June 20, engineers determine that shortened clockspring assemblies were the root cause in IAD instances involving Journeys.The VRC extended the campaign on June 30 to apply to Journey models.
FCA has directed dealers to inspect the air bag wiring on affected vehicles and replace and reinforce these fixtures, free of charge. Owners are expected to receive notification via first-class mail between Aug. 7 and Aug. 21. Those in need of more immediate help can contact FCA customer service at (800) 853-1403 or call the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at (888) 327-4236.