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Jeep recalls 392,464 Wranglers because dirt can disable an airbag

Of all the things to fell an off-roader...dirt? Really?

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It's important for a vehicle to be capable of everything the marketing team says it can do. Driving through a stream? Check. Tackling daily driving without creating lower lumbar pain? Check. Off-roading in the dirt? In the case of certain Jeep Wranglers, you might want to hold off on that next "Check."

Jeep has issued a recall covering 392,464 examples of the 2007-2010 Jeep Wrangler in the US, along with 7,435 examples of 2011-2016 US-spec Wranglers with right-hand drive. Apparently, an issue with an electrical connector behind the steering wheel might cause the driver-side front airbag to not deploy in the event of an accident.

The issue lies with the clockspring, which is a component that allows a rotating object (in this case, the steering wheel) to maintain electrical contact with a fixed object (in this case, the wiring in the steering column). On these Wranglers, exposure to dust and dirt can sully the clockspring's electrical contacts, potentially preventing the driver's airbag from going off.

The strange thing about this, though, is that Fiat Chrysler claims the conditions rife for a ruined connection are "consistent with extensive off-road driving or driving with a vehicle's top and/or doors removed." Problem is, the Wrangler is more or less built for off-roading, and the top and doors are quite literally built with the notion of later (albeit temporary) removal in mind. Wouldn't an automaker torture-test the car in off-road conditions, simulating tens or hundreds of thousands of miles, before selling it?

Either way, Jeep dealers will fix the problem by replacing the steering column shroud and installing a new back cover on the steering wheel itself.