By on May 25, 2018

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]

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44 Comments on “4,846,885 Vehicles: Fiat Chrysler Launches Massive Recall to Prevent Runaway Cruise Control...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Chrysler? No problem, it’s probably just the ballast resistor.

  • avatar
    s_a_p

    Hmm I have noticed 2 things on my Grand Cherokee srt. The cruise has on occasion been flaky and the accident avoidance braking holds on way too long in some circumstances.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Ah, that familiar Fiasler stench…

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Think of this as poor man’s Autopilot.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Jesus Christ….what a mess….How can you produce 4 million vehicles that will happily accelerate uncontrollably…

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      Simple:
      You don’t account for what happens when there is a very specific wiring fault.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        That is true, you can’t plan/test for everything. If you never take it out of test phase, you’ll never make use of the product. This may prove to be otherwise, but I don’t fault a company for having something unpredictable showing up 4 million cars later.

        We have a lot of parts on a lot of vehicles out there. 9 times out of 9 million, none of them try to kill you. Machines are imperfect, but really, I think we do pretty well, considering.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      They didn’t say it would “accelerate uncontrollably”; they said it wouldn’t shut off; a completely different problem.

      I think I already know a work-around for those who actually understand and use their cruise controls properly. Just hit the Decel button to slow down until it falls below the system’s minimum speed settings.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Makes so much sense, nobody else thought of it I’d wager. Good one.

        Better than fumbling around in a panic with a nonostable shifter trying to get neutral because you forgot how.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        Also, keep in mind that Chrylser has utilized brake override for a number of years. The threat isn’t near as bad as it sounds.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The article here states that brake override isn’t working. Shift to neutral and get to the side of the road is the quickest and safest choice. Then worry about getting it shut down.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    “I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of 2 million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” – John Glenn, U.S. astronaut and politician

  • avatar
    Kalvin Knox

    Well now I have an actual reason to tell my mom to get rid of her shitty ass Journey.
    Oh wait. Besides:
    The brakes locking on
    Doors not opening
    The radio breaking
    Tie rods lasting less than 2000 miles
    Doors filling up with water
    Constant brake rubbing making the car smell like burning meat
    Cramped interior
    Shitty seats
    Leaky wheels
    Plus a bunch of other BS problems that I missed.
    I can smell a whiff of DaimlerChrysler……….

  • avatar
    RSF

    FCA products with electrical issues is nothing new.

    • 0 avatar
      Kalvin Knox

      We haven’t had many electrical problems with our chrysler products over the past 15 years.
      Rust? Transmission retardation? Sure. But electrics have been fine for us.

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      Other than a recall on my current Charger’s alternator and the occasional ballast resistor in my GTX and Road Runner many, many years ago…I’ve never had any electrical issues with Chrysler products. Besides the aforementioned Chrysler products, I’ve owned two Wranglers, a Power Wagon, a Dart, and a Monaco…plus two DSM cars,

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I’ve encountered many on 80s/90s XJ and Wrangler. Not as bad as VWs lol but the guys and gals I knew who were really into one or both talked about it at length.

        But, that was a long time ago. However, these are domestic products, so they’re subject to ridicule about reliability and such, deservingly so or not.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      @ RSF. Exactly, my friend the warranty manager at a local Chrysler dealer keeps a pile of Totally Integrated Power Modules (TIPM) around. Symptom – car cuts out when you’re just driving along. After the tow truck arrives, the cooled down module sometimes reverts to normal, and the damn thing starts. WTF?

      There was an entire half-hour TV show in Canada about the fault before FCA actually figured it out.

      The fact these other guys cannot remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t/doesn’t happen.

      https://jalopnik.com/this-expensive-part-has-hundreds-of-chrysler-owners-fum-1628115596

  • avatar
    Kalvin Knox

    Is the Grand Caravan affected?

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    See Elon? Rather than lash out at the media, reputable automakers justvget down to business and fix the potential problems.

    Good for Chrysler for identifying the problem and getting a fix out quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      If you call almost 10 million hours (4,846,855 vehicles x 2 hour trip to the dealership) in unscheduled maintenance quick…..and this has been a known design vulnerability since October 2017…

      Looks like Tesla might have an OTA update for the Model 3 this weekend…

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    My dad’s ’83 T-bird had the cruise control fail to wide-open throttle once. He simply clicked the cruise master switch to OFF. Had that not worked, he’d have rotated the ignition switch one click counterclockwise, turning off the engine but not locking the steering. And had that somehow failed, he’d have put the mechanical PRNDL shifter in N.

    But if a car doesn’t have a master switch for the cruise, and it has a pushbutton starter instead of an ignition switch, and a non-intuitive HAL9000 shifter instead of a simple PRNDL…well, some folks are gonna die. All in the name of Progress, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Your comment aligns with something I was thinking. These FCA vehicles are quite likely not the only vehicles on the road that can enter uncontrolled acceleration because of a wiring fault. However, they have now gotten caught doing that, so NHTSA is involved.

      As you said, in past years, there may have been more opportunities for the driver to maintain control. Now the electronification of controls is making that more difficult. Why all the electronics? Mostly because it’s cheaper for the manufacturers.

      Also, this may be pessimistic of me, but I think the fact that FCA believes it can fix this problem with a software flash is the main reason that the recall is going forward. I get the feeling that if hardware redesign and replacement was involved, FCA would be fighting NTHSA tooth and nail, and lobbyists would be calling Trump for help.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        The defect is the brakes should (electronically) always override everything else that can tell the car to accelerate or maintain speed, even a gas pedal trapped by a floor mat.

        If power-braking is allowed, and it should be, under 25 mph should be fine.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Ironically, both Ford and Fiatsler require the cruise main switch to be turned on after an ignition cycle. What other makes reset the state to “OFF” at shutdown? Honda doesn’t, and AFAIK, GM doesn’t; maybe they did after taking away the infamous turn signal-stalk cruise switches? (I honestly don’t remember driving any GM product from this CENTURY without the “old-style” controls, maybe a Savanna/Express rental box truck once, but that still had the stalk control.)

      I always prefer having the control state kept between cycles.

      You’d think the main switch would be set to override everything else, cruise-wise. I wonder what else shorts out to cause the condition?

      All this stuff which supposedly saves a few bucks, but requires more comprehensive testing, and which still poses failure points, particularly with the electronic transmission controls: I’d darn well better to be able to move the lever to “N,” or be able to push the button for same, and get Neutral!!! That’s the quickest and safest way to bring a vehicle to a stop under any conditions with a “stuck” throttle, even if the engine itself is maniacally bouncing off the rev limiter! (Yes, yes, I know that cars with three pedals have an even more direct link, but there are those of us who are as or more dangerous trying to coordinate our right hand and left foot in traffic than we would be if we were engrossed in texting at 85mph!)

  • avatar
    pdog_phatpat

    SO, are we moving on from Ford to how crappy FCA vehicles are now(again)? I’d say GM is next but we all know they build the biggest piles of crap already.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Oh, don’t worry, it won’t get that bad here.

      Ford recalls a few hundred vehicle for incorrect wording on the brake resivor cap, and its “Ford needs to include a bus schedule in all its cars” followed by high-fives and atta-boys.

      This, just a tiny bit more serious and widespread, gets EcoBoostFlex up there praising FCA for a job well done, LOL!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Expensive? This isn’t just a software issue.

    I just hope FCA can resolve this quickly.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    ‘Tired right foot’

    Whatevs.

    Fact: I haven’t used cruise control in 25 years. One doesn’t use it on slick country roads and highways. Certainly not in the city, either. I’ve never even tried it out in the last nine vehicles I’ve owned nor in the several dozen I’ve not owned. Weirdly, my right foot has never been tired. Also, I run a grader for 10 hours a day without ever using throttle-lock. Still, my right foot is fine.

    • 0 avatar
      scuzimi

      When I used to run MINI Cooper across the USA the Cruise Control helped on those long drives from Boston to LA, Charlottesville to LA and from Orlando to LA. Also drove their MINI Takes The States rallys and found it helped with those 500 mile drives between venues.

      But here in California, unless you are driving the 5 outside Los Angeles, it’s useless.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Can still remember when Enterprise rental gave me an F150 pickup for an accident loaner after I was broadsided back in 2003, and I swapped it out for a Focus after a few days because of the fuel mileage. (4×4, 5.3 V8.)

      Two things I got out of the experience:
      1. The first-gen Focus, while very competent otherwise, had turn signals which could wake the dead!
      2. I will NEVER have another car without cruise!

      Obviously, everyone did without until the mid-‘80s or so, when that option started to be more available on mass-market cars, but call me spoiled! I took that Focus to Cedar Point, just an hour or so away from me via the Ohio Turnpike, and by the time I got home, my foot was absolutely in searing pain! Conversely, with adaptive cruise, a six-hour stint without stopping is no problem!

  • avatar
    scuzimi

    At least my 2016 Fiat X seems to be clear of this mess. Last time I took my X to the dealership to fix the jerky, clunky trans they actually did fix it. This was their 4th try but they can’t fix the what I thought was a rough idle but turns out it’s some sort of a vibration of some type they say was fixed when the installed the new trans/motor mounts… NOPE… though it is better.

  • avatar
    relton

    My father kept the ballast resistor in the car, where it was more useful when the car stopped on the road.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    How many people here are old enough to remember GM’s cruise control system that used a vacuum-actuated dashpot to hold the throttle open. Not only did that system have an off switch (or a brake pedal cut switch), but it had a secondary vacuum release valve on the brake pedal which dumped the vacuum in the dashpot, just in case the electrically-operated solenoid valve failed to do its job.

    It was a belt-and-suspenders approach that worked well.

    In contrast, the factory cruise control on my 1971 Ford LTD had a bad habit of occasionally sticking on, which, with a 429 engine, was quite scary when it attempted to full-throttle back to cruising speed after letting off the brake pedal or the “off” rocker switch on the steering wheel. There was no mechanical fail-safe way to turn that system off like GM had.


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