Safety Regulators Probing Older Jeeps For Potential To Catch Fire In Rear-Impact Crashes

A preliminary investigation two years ago by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into whether older model Jeeps are at risk for fires has been recently expanded, prompting a new level in the probe that makes it likely that around 5.1 million vehicles could be recalled soon.

The NHTSA is looking into whether Chrysler Group Jeep vehicles could catch fire after rear-impact accidents, reports Reuters. The investigation includes around 3 million 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs, 1.1 million 1993-2001 model year Jeep Cherokee SUVs, about 975,000 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs.

The NHTSA raised the level of its probe, which began two years ago, to an engineering analysis and expanded it to include the other Jeep SUV models mentioned.

Chrysler’s liaison with federal regulators says that the risk of fire isn’t any higher in those three models than in similar models from other car makers.

“The vehicles are absolutely safe,” he said in an interview.

But the NHTSA said today: “NHTSA’s assessment of the data collected during preliminary evaluation indicates that rear-impact-related tank failures and vehicle fires are more prevalent in the Jeep Grand Cherokee than in the non-Jeep peer vehicles.”

It’s not quite a recall yet, but with this new level of investigation, it could mean that officials just want to make sure they’ve got every angle covered before asking for the manufacturer to issue a recall.

The investigation was prompted in 2010 when a consumer watchdog group said that the fuel tank storage system in Grand Cherokees was defective, and because its fuel tank is behind the rear axle, the risk of fire could be increased after a crash.

U.S. expands fire risk probe of older Jeep models [Reuters]

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Uh oh, my Pinto senses are tingling…

  2. CrazyEyed says:

    Considering these are much older models AND they are Jeeps (notorious for maintenance problems), why the investigation now? Most Grand Cherokee’s of that age aren’t even on the road anymore.

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      Jeep Liberty SUVs from those years are all over the place though.

      • CrazyEyed says:

        Very true but my comment was moreso for the Jeep Cherokee line, which has been around forever. My mother has a 1997 Grand Cherokee, and although she’s had it for many years, it’s had the transmission replaced twice along with many other issues before age became a factor.

    • Starrion says:

      Actually they are. Grand Cherokees have really durable drivetrains, and I see other mid to late 90′s GC’s everywhere. Go on Craigslist and there are hundreds of them available here in Mass. Our Jeep has 150K miles and the drivetrain is just great.

      Plus our jeep was rear-ended, but the Jetta that hit us ate the trailer hitch, so maybe it is Jeeps without the trailer hitch that more prone to fires.

      • ThinkingBrian says:

        Same here, while our families 202 Jeep Liberty with just about 100k miles has had its issues, but the drivetrain is pretty good. The only issues with my drivetrain was the transmission going into limp in mode and having to have the sensor replaced. But solid ride.

      • CrazyEyed says:

        My mom’s 97 has had the tranny replaced twice in its infancy. Although its still on the road, many thousands of dollars and insurance claims were invested well before age was an issue. Perhaps the WNY (Buffalo & Rochester) weather and driving conditions are a bit more taxing on a Cherokee as opposed to MA.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Older Jeep Cherokees are still all over the place here.

    • ovalseven says:

      The 1999 Cherokees are very dependable and I see them on the road every day. I did my homework before I bought a used one in 2008 and it received better than average reviews and ratings.

      Mine is approaching 200,000 miles with nothing but routine maintenance. Rust is its only issue, but that’s expected on any older vehicle in northern Michigan.

    • JBTX says:

      Yes they are still on the road.- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMC_Straight-6_engine#4.0 – thats the engine in most of the jeeps in question. “The engine is known for longevity and to go more than 300,000 miles (480,000 km) without rebuilding” And the V8 in the others wasn’t to shabby either.

      I kinda miss my 04 Jeep. I would still have mine, but I could carry my family in it after seeing all the fires caused by these

    • Coles_Law says:

      My ’98 grand Cherokee is still going strong. The engines in those things are suprisingly robust.

      • Coles_Law says:

        Now, the electrical system on the other hand was designed by a spiteful Amish man and built by colorblind gremlins.

    • frodolives35 says:

      My 2001 Cherokee w/114000 still going strong with only a few minor problems. I also know quite a few people with jeeps even older still going strong.

  3. ThinkingBrian says:

    No surprise that there is yet another reported problem considering I drive a 2002 Jeep Liberty. Its a nice SUV, but it does have a few issues. I will have to keep a close eye on this one as I normally do.

  4. buddyedgewood says:

    I’ve experienced no problems with my ’99 Jeep Wrangler, even after 150k on it. Oh, that’s right, that model’s not on the list… because it’s a real Jeep. :P

    • holocron says:

      I have a 1998 Jeep Cherokee Classic. It is a “real” Jeep as it was still build on the good frame and older style. However, it is on the list.

      • CrazyEyed says:

        I don’t think the article pertains to wranglers but I’ve always been fond of Ranglers. I think yanking the top and doors off makes it an attractive summer vehicle. Plus its not uncommon to see older wranglers on the road. The wrangler line has gone virtually unchanged for decades up until recently when they started introducing 4-door versions.

    • Costner says:

      I don’t remember…. did the 99s have round headlights? Because I’m sure you know any jeep with rectangle headlights doesn’t qualify as a “real” Jeep.

      I’d probably the same comment for the stretched Jeeps and the four doors… but I’m biased.

    • daemonaquila says:

      LOL! I totally agree. Those other “Jeep” vehicles? I think burning would improve them.

  5. Costner says:

    I never had to worry about someone rear-ending my Jeep Grand Cherokee… it was pretty safe while it sat at the dealership’s service center around one week every month.

  6. ckspores says:

    We just took a decent loss on a used, 2004 Jeep Liberty we bought in October. We sold it and bought a new Honda. We bought the Jeep quickly because of a wreck with our other car and our need to have the second vehicle replaced quickly. This is not an excuse for not researching but we learned why nothing should ever be done in haste the hard way.

    Even though we lost about $4000 I consider it money well spent that we will never had to deal with Jeep’s inferior product again.

  7. dave731 says:

    Not so sure on the liberty having the problem, I own a 2003 and have been rear ended twice. The first time causing pretty bad damage to a compact Chevy and the second time destroying a Buick Enclave. Very little damage to the Liberty, slightly bent rear tire mounting and a sprung hitch. I would imagine problems with models like the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee that do not have the spare tire on the back and may not have a hitch receiver. The spare and the hitch work wonders absorbing impact and protecting the gas tank. From a google search after my last accident I found that the backend of a Jeep liberty is pretty much a battering ram that destroys other cars.

    • randomneko says:

      huh. if the back end of my jeep has a rep for being nigh indestructible then why are so many assholes tailgating me at 70mph?

  8. Phil James says:

    i love my 1995 jeep Cherokee Country! it has 210,422 miles on it and i still drive it every day.. i bought it with 62,000 miles on it!

  9. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    It is odd, but ever since Chrysler took over the Jeep brand I have avoided it. Not only has the questionable reputation of Chrysler damaged the brand, but if this problem proves to be real, so has Chrysler’s poor engineering and design practices.

    Sad for a brand (Jeep) to fall so far.

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      I do miss my ’82 CJ7 Laredo… great top down doors off fun!

    • daemonaquila says:

      I think you’re wrong about this. When Chrysler first took over, the problems were bad. Unfortunately, I had a Wrangler from that era and paid the price. However, after a number of years driving a Honda because I was not going to deal with those problems again no matter how much I love Jeeps, I did some research when I needed a new car and heard virtually all good things from other owners of the current Wrangler line. To be fair, there are a lot of complaints about one of the 2012 breed, however.

      What I can say for Wranglers now, is that I have driven over 100k miles with absolutely no problems. Performance has been as flawless as my Honda’s was – an absolute 180 degree turn from my experience with the horrible 1990s model. I love this car, and I’d happily get another… sometime after I hit 200k or 300k and feel the urge.