Girardi | Keese

Chrysler issues massive SUV recall over brake booster defect

General Motors once again grabbed headlines after its CEO Mary Barra was called to testify before the House Oversight and Investigations panel earlier this week. Here, Barra was subjected to rigorous questioning from lawmakers regarding the more than two million cars the auto giant has recalled for a faulty ignition switch that has now been linked to over 12 traffic fatalities.

While it's certainly understandable how this very important story would dominate the news, it did perhaps serve to relegate another significant auto defect story to the back pages.

On Wednesday, Chrysler announced that it was recalling just shy of one million sport utility vehicles for what could prove to be a potentially significant brake defect.

Documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that the automaker is recalling 867,795 2010-2014 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos built from January 5, 2010 through September 8, 2013.

The recall revolves around brake boosters whose tendency to corrode is allowing for water intrusion and freezing, both of which can greatly reduce braking capabilities.

Interestingly, the NHTSA documents reveal that Chrysler began investigating consumer complaints and warranty data concerning brake pedal pressure back in May 2013. Here, it discovered that the brake boosters, manufactured by a third party, were susceptible to corrosion when exposed to water and that this, in turn, necessitated an extra degree of pedal pressure.

Later that same summer, Chrysler decided against a recall in light of the fact that the Cherokee and Durango models equipped with the affected brake boosters still met applicable safety standards. Instead, it referred to the issue as a "quality improvement initiative," which lead to the development of a new improved brake booster installed on 2014 models built later in the year.

However, Chrysler was contacted by the NHTSA just last month over reports of actual water intrusion and freezing inside the affected brake boosters. An internal investigation subsequently revealed that this water intrusion and freezing were "previously unforeseen consequences" that could affect braking capabilities even more and possibly result in an accident.

This discovery was the catalyst for the current recall.

Owners of the recalled models, 644,354 of which were sold here in the U.S., will be able to take them to dealers to have the brake boosters inspected and, if necessary, replaced. A protective shield will also be installed over the booster to prevent water intrusion.

While Chrysler has reported only one car accident and no personal injuries in connection with this auto defect, we can only hope that this continues to be the case and that all necessary steps are being taken to keep motorists safe.

Source: USA Today, "Chrysler recalling Jeep, Dodge SUVs for brakes," Fred Meier and Mike Snider, April 2, 2014

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