U.S. closes Chrysler SUV sun visor fire investigation

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Saturday it is closing its investigation into fires in Chrysler SUV sun visors, saying it was satisfied with the recall fix.

In July, Chrysler Group LLC said it is recalling 895,000 SUVs for fire concerns and will reroute wiring for vanity-mirror lights after government regulators upgraded an investigation into the issue.

The Auburn Hills unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said if a recalled SUV “was involved in a repair related to servicing the vanity mirror and/or headliner, the wiring — located inside the sun visor — may be subject to short-circuit and fire if not appropriately reassembled by the dealer.”

The recall campaign covers some 2011-14 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs.

Chrysler said it was aware of three related injuries — each of which involved a vehicle that had the vanity mirror and/or headliner serviced. Chrysler told NHTSA it was aware of 62 reports of fire incidents.

The recall includes 651,000 vehicles in the U.S.; 45,700 in Canada; 23,000 in Mexico and 175,000 outside the North American Free Trade Agreement region.

Chrysler will install a spacer containing a wire guide feature that will keep the lines properly routed, preventing a potential short-circuit during reassembly. Chrysler said in “the interest of protecting our customers, this spacer will be installed in all vehicles within the range, regardless of whether or not the vanity mirror and/or headliner have been serviced.”

In August 2013, NHTSA said it was opening a preliminary investigation into reports of three major fires in Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. The investigation initially covered 146,000 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. The expanded investigation — announced in January — covered two more model years and a Durango version.

NHTSA said it has now identified six reports of vehicle headliners catching fire at the front of the vehicle near the sun visors on Jeep Grand Cherokees.

“Customers reported a range of fire conditions ranging from minor overheating to an open flame at the headliner and/or sun visor material while driving the vehicle,” NHTSA said.

NHTSA said the sun visors are mounted to the roof of the vehicle with three screws.

“The sun visor wiring may be penetrated, or pierced by one of these screws either during initial vehicle assembly or subsequent headliner area repairs. The piercing causes an electrical short that could result in a fire. There is no dedicated fuse for the affected circuit so the electrical short can continue until the short clears or the vehicle is keyed off,” NHTSA said.

Chrysler said it opened an investigation into the issue in March 2011. Chrysler revised the repair wiring procedure on four occasions between 2011 and 2013. Chrysler said in its recall notice that NHTSA “prefers that Chrysler inspect all vehicles and repair damage wiring as needed.”