Chrysler announced it is recalling almost 68,000 Jeep Wranglers from the 2010 model year equipped with automatic transmissions because of a fire hazard, according to a report the automaker filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The action comes after the agency opened an investigation late in March after receiving eight complaints from owners who said their vehicles caught fire.
In Chrysler’s report to the NHTSA filed on the agency’s Web site, the automaker blamed a “less than optimal clearance between the exhaust catalyst and the automatic transmission skid plate” for the problem. The condition could allow debris to collect between the skid plate and exhaust, increasing the “potential for an underbody debris fire.”
The automaker told the agency it was aware of 14 complaints in which fires appeared to be linked to the debris problem.
Eric Mayne, a Chrysler spokesman, said in a telephone interview that the automaker was not aware of any injuries. The investigation covered about 100,000 vehicles. It appeared the 32,000 vehicles not recalled by the agency were equipped with manual transmissions, but the agency could not immediately be reached for confirmation.
The automaker said it was prompted to explore the problem in response to the agency’s investigation. In such investigations the safety agency requires an automaker to provide information ranging from design changes to reports of problems.
Starting on July 14, 2010, Chrysler said, it began using a “skid bar” instead of a plate on vehicles with automatic transmissions as a weight-saving measure. The new part would reduce the potential for debris to accumulate, the automaker told the agency.
Chrysler described the recall as voluntary, but under federal regulations once a manufacturer is aware of a safety defect it must notify the agency within five business days of its plan for a recall.