NHTSA Investigating Why Jeep Airbags Continue To Deploy On Their Own

When a car manufacturer initiates a recall and provides a remedy for the issue, you assume that fix is going to stick. But that may not be the case for the 2012 airbag-related recall of two Jeep models, as federal regulators are investigating why Chrysler’s fix has not eliminated the problem.

According to a report [PDF] filed Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigators are looking into the effectiveness of a remedy put in place related to airbag inadvertent deployment (ABID) issues that resulted in the recall of 744,822 model year 2002-2003 Jeep Liberty and model year 2002-2004 Grand Cherokee vehicles.

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation recently received reports from Chrysler that the company is aware of six cases in which vehicles that received the fix have had an additional ABIDs. No crashes or injuries were reported in the most recent cases.

At the time of the initial recall [PDF], Chrysler issued a fix intended to eliminate transient electrical spikes thought to be responsible for the ABID. The repair consisted of installing an in-line jumper harness with an integrated electrical filter for the circuits that connect to the airbag modules.

The 2012 recall was initiated after Chrysler found a component in the airbag control module could fail, causing the front airbags, side curtain airbags and/or seatbelt pretensions to deploy inadvertently while the vehicle was running.

A subsequent NHTSA investigation found that on at least 131 occasions frontal ABIDs occurred in Jeep Liberty SUVs resulting in 62 injuries consisting of burns, cuts and bruises. Additionally, at least 61 frontal ABIDs, with 31 injuries, were reported related to the Grand Cherokee.

The unexpected airbag deployments happened both while on the road and during startup. NHTSA reported there were no instances of loss of vehicle control or vehicle crashes, but that “some owners noted that the airbag warning light (ABL) and/or chime had activated just seconds prior to the airbag deployment, while others stated that they did not observe any prior ABL illumination.”