Jeep Owners Rally For A Recall, But NHTSA Says It's All Internet Hype

February 25, 2011

Auto recalls are a little like trips to the dentist: time-consuming, frustrating, and even though we know they're food for us, we'd rather avoid them. As such, it's a little unusual to find consumers hankering for a recall, but a growing contingent of Jeep owners are doing just that.

The problem centers around overflow issues on Jeep gas tanks. Numerous owners complain that when filling up, after the pump clicks off, a quantity of gas spurts out of the fuel cap, dousing the car, the pavement, and the unfortunate customer. The problem seems to affect a range of Jeep models, especially 2007 and 2008 Jeep Wranglers.

Chrysler has recalled certain Dodge Durangos for similar problems, but the company denies that there's any such issue with Jeeps. The automaker attributes the problem to owners using gasoline with high ethanol levels: "Chrysler testing shows that a plastic 'O' ring on the inlet check valve - the part that's supposed to stop the fuel from coming out - swells when its soaked in 22%, 50%, 85% and 100% ethanol."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received over 600 complaints and nearly 900 warranty claims about the problem, resulting in an investigation that opened in August 2010. But that investigation closed last Wednesday, February 16, finding that there was no "safety related defect trend".

What's interesting is that much of the buzz for the Jeep recall was generated online, in forums, on fan sites, and YouTube. And while it's great that Jeep owners are so connected and so passionate about their vehicles, it's that passion, in part, that made the NHTSA dismiss the claims:

"Although the rate of complaints reported to the agency on the subject vehicles is higher than or similar to the rates experienced in previous investigations where safety recalls were conducted, ODI suspects that the NHTSA safety complaints submitted by subject vehicles owners may have been influenced by internet related publicity both before and during this investigation."

Translation: yes, we received a lot of complaints about this issue, but it probably wouldn't have been such a big deal if owners hadn't rallied on the internet. Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi are saying the same thing right about now.

[MyFoxDC, NHTSA]

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