Auburn Hills, Michigan – Jan. 8, 2018 – Chrysler recently issued a recall of 16,900 Dodge Dakota pickup trucks from the 2005 model year, citing concerns that the driver or passenger seat warmers installed in some trucks may overheat, according to a defect filing made with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Specifically, the overheating issue could present itself in both front seats of the vehicle, in either the seat cushion itself, or the seat back. The risk presents itself because of “fatigue failure” – that is, long-term regular use of the warmers – within the carbon elements of the seat warmers themselves. These can lead to specific spots where the warmers overheat and potentially burn holes in the seat cushions or even result in open flames within the vehicle.
All vehicles in the recall were manufactured between May 17, 2004, and June 24, 2005. Only about 10 percent of the trucks being recalled are expected to carry this defect.
If the “hot spots” present themselves in a seat cushion’s heating element, it could lead to a high resistance electrical connection that generates heat beyond what would normally be expected. Unfortunately, the seat cushion control system in the Dakota pickups would not be able to detect the hot spots and therefore cannot automatically shut down the heating component.
Because of the risk of burning through the seats and starting fires, owners will likely notice extreme heat or burning smells as a result of the defect, as well as potential holes in the seat cushions or seat backs themselves. This risk can result in injury or fire in the vehicles.
Timeline of Events
On Sept. 13, 2017, reports of issues with seat heaters in the 2005 Dakotas led Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to convene its U.S. Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance organization to open an investigation into the problem.
In the week of Sept. 25, the organization reviewed designs with the company’s engineering team. About a month later, the two FCA groups met with the supplier of the heated seat carbon element pad to go over the design parameters of the parts in question.
Then from October to November, FCA conducted a test of the heated seat systems in question, to compare with other such systems, and determined that in the affected Dakotas, the system used to operate the seat heaters was unique from similar systems.
In late November, the VSRC and engineering teams did a more thorough design review of the heating system in affected trucks and found that they do not have automatic-off settings after the seat heaters have been used for a certain amount of time, potentially allowing them to stay on indefinitely. In early December, the teams were able to reproduce failures in laboratory settings.
The voluntary safety recall order was finally made Dec. 18, 2017.
Chrysler’s recall plan will ask owners to bring in their 2005 Dakotas for repair, to enhance the seating systems with updated control features.
In addition, the company will also reimburse owners who have paid out of pocket to have these issues addressed on their own, as long as they can provide proof of payment to confirm the amount they paid.
FCA dealers were first notified of the recall Dec. 20, 2017, while owners will receive their notifications beginning on Feb. 8, 2018.