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Feds to investigate Jeep Wrangler over vehicle frame concerns

After numerous complaints, NHTSA has opened an investigation into alleged frame and steering issues.

2019 Jeep Wrangler
The feds want to know if weld issues may compromise steering ability, among other things.

The 2018-19 Jeep Wrangler is the subject of a new investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed last week. Agency documents detailed the new investigation after its Office of Defects Investigation received 608 various complaints from owners.

Combined with complaints received by Jeep's parent automaker, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the document shows 3,566 owners filed complaints surrounding frame weld concerns that may also allegedly affect steering systems. Weld concerns include "excessive slag" (a coating over welds), "splash" (small pieces of materials literally splashed onto surrounding metal during welding), welds with holes in them and poor weld penetration. It's possible these issues may compromise the structural integrity of the Wrangler.

As it gathered information from FCA, NHTSA said, the automaker did not fully address if these kinds of problems may pose a structural risk to the Wrangler's frame. The investigation will, therefore, seek to understand if quality discrepancies may "pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety."

Jeep said in a statement it's "providing our full cooperation." Of note, 2020 Jeep Wranglers are not part of this investigation.

This issue under investigation is not related to a prior recall Jeep carried out over a separate weld issue. That recall, launched in September 2018, addressed welding issues with the front-track bar. The component connects the front axle to the body and a poor weld could make the Wrangler a difficult thing when steering. Said recall only applied to a small portion of early-production Wranglers.

During this recall, however, NHTSA also asked for additional information to address complaints related to steering systems, wobbling and unexpected lockups. Combined with questions around how these complaints may affect structural integrity and complaint overlap, the feds want to learn if the alleged faulty frame welds affect steering abilities.

Jeep told Roadshow it's working on a mechanical steering fix via an upgraded steering damper to address customer complaints over vibrations that often occur in cold weather. Again, this is unrelated to the prior recall.

NHTSA's document said it has not received any reports of crashes or injuries due to the alleged defects. The investigation also follows news that Jeep engineered a remedy for the well-known "death wobble" problem.

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