The last several years have been the most drastic ever when it comes to motor vehicle recalls. This is because automakers apparently let things go for too long a few years back and paid dearly for that, in the form of government fines and lawsuit settlements. Now, they are becoming more proactive and trying to fix problems before they lead to large numbers of injuries and/or deaths.
The Details of the FCA Recall
Last Friday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced a massive recall of about 4.8 million vehicles for a defect in which drivers may not be able to turn off their cruise control. This could lead to problems because it could cause drivers to panic and it coulds also cause the vehicle to speed up unexpectedly on the highway. The defect so concerns officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they issued a public consumer advisory, which is an unusual step for the agency. The advisory warned owners and drivers of the affected vehicles to not use the cruise control feature on their vehicle until they have visited their dealer to have the software glitch at the bottom of this problem fixed.
Which Vehicles Are Affected?
This is a large recall and it includes many of the company’s most popular models under the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram makes. These include the following sedans and coupes:
- 2015-17 Chrysler 200
- 2015-18 Dodge Challenger
- 2014-18 Chrysler 300
- 2014-18 Dodge Charger
It also includes the following SUV and minivan models:
- 2014-18 Jeep Cherokee SUV
- 2014-18 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV
- 2014-18 Dodge Journey SUV
- 2014-18 Dodge Durango SUV
- 2018 Jeep Wrangler (select JK and JL versions)
- 2017-18 Chrysler Pacifica minivan
Also included are the following pickup trucks and chassis:
- 2014-19 Ram 1500
- 2014-18 Ram 2500
- 2014-18 Ram 3500
- 2014-18 Ram 3500 cab chassis
- 2014-18 Ram 4500/5500 cab chassis
The stated purpose of including cruise control on a vehicle is to allow the driver to maintain a constant speed with their vehicle, without having to hold down the gas pedal constantly. Typically, tapping the brake pedal slightly will cause the cruise control to disengage, or press a cruise control button. However, with the Fiat Chrysler issue that led to this recall, there is a short circuit and a software problem that can cause drivers to find themselves unable to shut off the cruise control normally. Worse, the problem could potentially cause the vehicle to accelerate unexpectedly.
What to Do if Your Car is Affected
Officials have weighed in and have advised those who find themselves in this situation on what to do if they find themselves with a faulty FCA cruise control. First, they should not panic. They recommend the driver calmly pull over onto the shoulder and stop the vehicle just as they always have. Once they are stopped, they should shift the car into “Park” because that will disengage the cruise control once and for all.
If the car won’t stop and it feels as if the engine is fighting the driver and trying to accelerate on its own, they should shift the car into neutral while stopping the car normally. The engine may rev a bit higher than normal, but the vehicle will eventually stop. When it does stop, shift into park. Then, follow the NHTSA recommendation and don’t use the cruise control again until the defect is repaired.
The problem was discovered by FCA engineers last October, as they were testing torque control systems. They then conducted an internal investigation and found one customer complaint involving a 2017 Dodge Journey a driver had rented from a rental car company, and engineers were able to replicate the problem at a test track in March. In a statement, FCA said it would take “extraordinary circumstances” for the problem to occur under normal circumstances, but they have taken the step of recalling all affected vehicles because the company is “fully committed to vehicle safety.” So far, there have been no accidents or injuries tied to the problem.
Fixing the Problem
Fiat Chrysler Autos has indicated it will begin contacting all affected customers beginning next week, and it will ask them to visit their local FCA dealer, who will upgrade the software and fix the problem free of charge. Owners who may be concerned about this problem can also call FCA at 866-220-6747 or their local dealer free of charge. To find out if your vehicle is affected by this recall, you can also input your 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into the NHTSA website and it will let you know if your vehicle is included.