Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ rugged Jeep brand is in the spotlight as its been forced to issue a recall and stop-sale on some units of the brand-new Jeep Wrangler JL, owing to sub-par welds on the frame. The welds in question are at the bracket that secures the front track bar (a.k.a. “Panhard rod”) to the frame, and failure can cause a partial or complete separation of the bracket from the frame, creating a significant hazard that can contribute to a crash.
A rather official-looking – yet uncorroborated – safety recall communiqué was posted to JL Wrangler Forums last Friday, affecting “certain” examples of the 2018-’19 Jeep Wrangler JL. Whether or not the document is legitimate, however, Jalopnik reports that FCA has confirmed that recall notices are pending, with just a “very defined population” of Wrangler JLs – 18k examples in total – potentially impacted. FCA is planning to inspect each of those examples, and expects to find just 4 percent – about 720 vehicles – with failure-prone welds.
Owners began noticing weld issues on their Jeep Wrangler JLs straightaway, with one forum thread on the subject starting as far back as March of this year after an owner took his vehicle in to a shop to have a lift kit installed. Most new Wranglers rolling off the line have welds that appear to be perfectly good, but a small portion don’t, and there’s no evidence that owner activity has anything to do with the weld failures.
One owner’s story, which was explored in-depth by Jalopnik‘s David Tracy, involved the outer of the track bar mount’s two welds coming apart as he was getting on the freeway. “It kind of felt like it was wanting to drift to the right even though I was putting steering input to the left,” said Jeep Wrangler JL owner Bret Stevens of North Carolina. He says he had to hold the steering wheel at about a 45-degree angle to keep the vehicle traveling straight.
Upon inspecting the weld after he arrived home, Stevens found that while the inner track bar mount weld was intact, the mount had become completely separated at the outer weld, and it almost appeared as though the weld never even penetrated into the frame at all. Understandably, he’s insisting that Jeep buy back his vehicle.
FCA says that it is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue, but the automaker may have to act fast if it wants to keep it that way.