The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a deeper investigation into a large number of Jeep Wranglers over the possibility that an electrical problem can prevent driver’s-side air bags from deploying on impact. NHTSA is opening an engineering analysis into 628,167 of the SUVs between model years 2007 to 2012. A preliminary investigation launched in June found a total of more than 2,000 complaints over an air bag light that possibly indicated a faulty clockspring in the driver’s-side air bag. According to NHTSA, an open clockspring circuit would prevent deployment of the driver air bag.
In response to the agency’s initial request for information on the issue, FCA US LLC, (the automaker), identified 1,703 consumer complaints related to the possible defect, six of which claimed an airbag did not deploy in a crash “in which either the air bag warning light was allegedly on or came on after the crash,” according to the agency. One of the complaints also alleged injuries as a result of the possibly defective air bag, NHTSA said. FCA also provided the agency with nearly 17,000 warranty claims that resulted in the replacement of the faulty clockspring, many of which took place during an extended warranty program Jeep offered from 2007 to 2011 to fix the issue.
The manufacturer told NHTSA that the replacements were not all related to air bag issues, but were due to noise, cruise control and/or radio operation issues. According to the agency, FCA also noted that the Wrangler’s removable roof and door configuration may make it more susceptible to outdoor water/moisture and dust ingress. This engineering investigation comes after FCA had recalled a number of Wranglers in the same model years for a similar clock spring issue on the passenger side. According to NHTSA, that recall led FCA to redesign the clockspring “to improve its durability and environmental protection.” The agency said there was also a redesign of the SUV’s steering wheel column shroud.
Hopefully, this new investigation will help NHTSA to understand the “scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect.” Certain Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee models are also the subject to FCA recalls announced in late October that include nearly 900,000 vehicles over the possibility of inadvertent airbag deployments that have already injured at least seven people.