The ability to go off road is one of the Jeep Wrangler’s greatest attractions, even if you never actually do it. Now it turns out off-roading could cause an unsuspected safety hazard, and that possibility has led Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to recall 506,420 Wranglers, according to Reuters. The problem has nothing to with off-road worthiness, however, so don’t give up the dream.
Driving off road can cause a clockspring in the Wrangler steering wheel to move out of place. That spring, in turn, is part of the circuit that controls deployment of the driver-side airbag in the event of a crash. Even taking the doors off and roof off, which you know you want to do at least once, can jeopardize the spring. So if you take the top and doors off and head off road to bounce around and climb rocks, the picture many of us carry in our heads when we think about Wranglers, that’s a triple threat to airbag deployment. Can’t have that.
This airbag issue is totally unrelated to the 65 million to 70 million U.S. vehicles that will be recalled for faulty Takata airbag inflators. In that case, the inflators lack a drying agent that controls the force of the deployment explosion — when things don’t go well the force of the explosion is such that inflator parts blast through the airbag material and directly into the person the airbag was supposed to protect.
The Jeeps included in this recall are 498,985 Wranglers from 2007 to 2010 model years worldwide plus 7,435 from 2011 to 2016 right-hand drive, special duty models in the United States. So, as long as your left-hand drive U.S. Wrangler is a model year earlier than 2007 or later than 2010, you’re good to go right now. Pack up your weekend equipment and head off road without concern. If you have a 2007 through 2010 model or a later model right-hand driver, get your clockspring fixed (before you get clocked yourself).