Chrysler and Ford Recall 160,000 Vehicles for Safety Defects

Ram pickup trucks
Ram pickup trucks

Chrysler Group is recalling more than 144,000 Dodge and Ram vehicles in three separate actions to repair defective airbags, noisy rear axles and steering components that may lead to loss of vehicle control, according to federal safety officials. The actions are in addition to one by Ford Motor (F), which is recalling about 15,000 trucks and sport-utility vehicles that may catch fire.

The largest of Chrysler's recalls involves front-door wiring harnesses that may wear and break, rendering side-impact airbags inoperative. The call back involves an estimated 65,180 Dodge Journey sports-utility vehicles manufactured from Nov. 1, 2007 to Sept. 7, 2008.

In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chrysler said an investigation determined that the type of wire used, plus the way it was routed internally through driver and passenger doors of the Journey, may lead wires to fatigue and break. Cold weather is also believed to be a contributing factor. Should the wires fail and a crash occur, the side airbags may not deploy, increasing the risk for injuries, according to a documents supplied to NHTSA and posted on the agency's website.

More Oil Needed

A second recall involves 56,611 Ram 1500 pickup trucks from the 2011 model year. The rear axle bearing on those vehicles may exhibit a growling or grinding noise that can result in the bearing eventually seizing and increase the risk for a crash. The automaker said it has received three complaints from consumers about the problem. Chrysler said the remedy involves adding additional axle lube oil.

Lastly, Chrysler informed NHTSA it's recalling 22,274 Ram 4500 and 5500 pickup trucks from the 2008-11 model years because a steering component, known as a ball stud, may weaken and fracture, possibly resulting in loss of vehicle control and increasing the risk for a crash. The company said it wasn't aware of any crashes related to the defective part.

Chrysler said it will begin informing owners of affected vehicles in each of the campaigns to bring their vehicles in for repair starting in February.

Owners of any of the recalled vehicles can call Chrysler at 800-853-1403.

Possible Electrical Short and Fire

Separately, Ford said it's recalling 14,737 Ford F-Series pickup trucks, and Ford Edge and Lincoln MKS crossover vehicles, all from the 2011 model year, to inspect for possible faulty body-control modules, which control the vehicles' electronic components.

In a letter to NHTSA, Ford said during a six-day production period in early November, the supplier of the part manufactured modules with the potential for an electrical short. Should the short develop, overheating can occur, resulting in a fire in unattended vehicles.

The action comes after two vehicles caught fire at a Ford assembly plant, the company said. The automaker hasn't received any reports from consumers about the defect, it said. Ford will begin notifying owners of the vehicles to bring their vehicles in for free repairs on or before Jan. 11. Consumers can call Ford at 866-436-7332.

More Cars Recalled Than Sold

These latest rash of recalls follow what has been a banner year for recalls among automakers in the U.S. So far this year, manufacturers have recalled about 19 million vehicles through some 600 actions. The U.S. auto market is likely to end 2010 with sales of around 11.4 million vehicles.

2010 is set to go down as the busiest year for recalls since 2004, when more than 30 million vehicles were recalled. So far this year, Toyota Motor (TM) has recalled the most cars and trucks, mostly related to concern about sudden unintended acceleration caused by sticky gas pedals or bulky rubber floor mats that may pin accelerators to the floor.

The world's largest automaker is the subject of several investigations and numerous lawsuits. Toyota has agreed three times to pay the maximum fine allowable under federal law -- $16.4 million for each occurrence -- for failing to inform federal safety officials about the defects in a timely manner.