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NHTSA Opens Investigation of Over 800,000 Chrysler Vehicles with Potentially Faulty Airbag Sensors; Models Include Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country Minivans

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a formal investigation (Action Number EA06003) into more than 800,000 DaimlerChrysler vehicles for potentially defective airbag sensors that can delay or prevent the deployment of airbags in the event of an accident.

The preliminary evaluation, which has been upgraded to an “engineering analysis,”   found that the front air bag sensors may corrode due to water seeping in to the sensor assembly.

Vehicles affected by investigation include 805,000 2005 and 2006 model-year Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans.

The formal investigation announcement is as follows:

“THE MODEL YEAR (MY) 2005 DAIMLERCHRYSLER (DC) MINIVANS HAVE THE NEW ADVANCED FRONTAL AIR BAG SYSTEMS WITH TWO FRONT CRASH SENSORS MOUNTED ON THE FRAME RAILS BEHIND THE FRONT BUMPER AND A MAIN CRASH SENSOR INSIDE THE AIR BAG CONTROL MODULE MOUNTED IN THE PASSENGER COMPARTMENT. ACCORDING TO DC, THE FRONT CRASH SENSORS ARE DESIGNED TO OPTIMIZE DETECTION OF FRONTAL OFFSET AND ANGULAR CRASHES. THE ADVANCED AIR BAG SYSTEM OFFERS DIFFERENT LEVELS OF AIR BAG INFLATION BASED ON INPUT FROM THE CRASH SENSORS. THE PRELIMINARY EVALUATION REVEALED THAT THE FRONT CRASH SENSORS CAN CORRODE FROM WATER ENTERING THE SENSOR ASSEMBLY. DC IS STILL INVESTIGATING ALL POTENTIAL ROOT CAUSES OF SENSOR FAILURES. A CORRODED SENSOR CAN SET A FAULT CODE, ILLUMINATE THE AIR BAG WARNING LAMP, AND BECOME DISABLED. IT APPEARS THAT FAILURE OF ONE OR BOTH FRONT CRASH SENSORS CAN POTENTIALLY RESULT IN NO/LATE DEPLOYMENT OF FRONTAL AIR BAGS AND NON-DEPLOYMENT OF DRIVER’S HIGHER INFLATION LEVELS IN CERTAIN FRONTAL CRASHES. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT OCCUPANTS OF VEHICLES INVOLVED IN A CRASH MAY NOT BE AWARE OF LATE OR IMPROPERLY REDUCED LEVEL OF AIR BAG INFLATION AND THUS FIELD REPORTING OF SUCH EVENTS MAY BE SUPPRESSED. AN ENGINEERING ANALYSIS HAS BEEN OPENED FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION OF MY 2005 AND 2006 DC MINIVANS. NOTES: VEHICLE POPULATION SHOWN ABOVE INCLUDES APPROXIMATELY 182,000 MY 2006 MINIVANS PRODUCED AS OF DECEMBER 2005. MANUFACTURER’S COMPLAINT AND WARRANTY CLAIM TOTALS SHOWN ABOVE ARE FOR MY 2005 MINIVANS ONLY. TOTAL NUMBER OF ODI AND MANUFACTURER COMPLAINTS INCLUDES SOME DUPLICATE REPORTS.”

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