4,846,885 Vehicles: Fiat Chrysler Launches Massive Recall to Prevent Runaway Cruise Control

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2017 Ram 1500 Rebel Blue Streak, Image: FCA

In terms of size, this recall is one of the largest from a single manufacturer in recent memory. And the problem it’s designed to fix once served as the plot of a 1990s TV movie I can’t recall the name of.

While there’s only one known incident on its radar, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has decided to go ahead with a recall of over 4.8 million Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram vehicles to prevent them from getting stuck in cruise control.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a fault exists in several newer models that could prevent the driver from disengaging cruise control. The dangers associated with this are obvious.

In its summary, the agency writes:

If, when using cruise control, there is a short circuit within the vehicle’s wiring, the driver may not be able to shut off the cruise control either by depressing the brake pedal or manually turning the system off once it has been engaged, resulting in either the vehicle maintaining its current speed or possibly accelerating.

Expected to begin on July 6th, the recall covers many models. They include the 2014-2018 Dodge Journey, Charger, and Durango, 2015-2018 Dodge Challenger, 2014-2018 Chrysler 300, 2014-2017 Chrysler 200, 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica, 2014-2018 Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, 2018 Jeep Wrangler, 2014-2018 Ram 1500, the next-generation 2019 Ram 1500, and 2014-2018 Ram 3500, 4500, and 5500 trucks, in both regular guise and chassis cab varieties.

A list of production dates can be found here.

According to FCA, in October of 2017, “Powertrain Engineering recorded a test observation regarding the inability to cancel cruise control when the CAN-C bus was fully disabled (no communication among any control modules, indicated by a U0001 diagnostic code).”

That same month, the team alerted the automaker’s U.S. Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance office to the issue, sparking a two-pronged investigation. Only one real-world incident matches the description of the test. The incident, which occurred earlier this year, involved a 2017 Dodge Journey operated by the Avis rental agency. (The driver was not hurt and contacted the NHTSA on March 2nd.)

FCA purchased the Avis vehicle in April following conversations with the driver and the federal road safety agency. Apparently, a nest of rodents was found in the vehicle during teardown, but the chewed-up wiring “could not have caused the CAN-C bus to stop communicating.” While the automaker was able to replicate the fault in a test vehicle by severing CAN-C bus communications at the engine control module connector, investigations continue into the cause of the runaway cruise control.

The identified models all contain “a modified fault handling strategy in the Engine
Control Module (“ECM”) or Powertrain Control Module (“PCM”) software” that only affects vehicles from the 2014 model year or newer, thus, that’s where the recall begins. All recalled vehicles will have their software analyzed, with a flash performed on the engine or powertrain control module.

The automaker advises anyone who experiences the issue to “firmly and steadily” apply the brakes, shift into neutral, pull off to the side of the road, and place the vehicle in park. “Once placed in neutral or park, some of the vehicles will cancel cruise control when the engine hits a certain high-rpm threshold,” FCA noted.

Until the computer flash is performed, FCA advises owners of affected vehicle to refrain from using cruise control. This could mean a tired right foot for many motorists this weekend.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]