Feds Probe Jeep Engine Fires

A Connecticut man says he wants Jeep to know about a fire danger under the hood.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into complaints about engine fires is some Jeep Wrangler models.

A Connecticut driver who said it  happened to him on several occasions claims he's found a cause and he's hoping Chrysler takes his concerns seriously.
John Turek, of Derby, customizes factory-made Jeeps and he also owns a 2011 Jeep Wrangler.  He's a huge fan of the rugged vehicle.

"It's built from the factory, square-one, to go through any kind of trail that Jeep Jamboree or Jeep throws out at their customers," Turek said.

Jeeps are famous for their ability to climb boulders and tackle mud pits. However, the federal government says some Jeeps might pose under-the-hood fire hazards.

NHTSA is investigating model year 2007 through 2012 Jeep Wranglers. The government says 23 Wrangler owners have complained about fires. Complaints said four people were hurt and two houses were damaged.

Turek also filed a complaint with NHTSA.

"When it starts having problems, you will smell a burning smell and things just go wrong," Turek said.

Turek took his Wrangler on a Jeep Jamboree in late 2011 and noticed white puffs bursting from under his hood.

"Going through one of the trails it started throwing electronics on my inside of my car telling me there was problems," Turek said.

Turek said he caught it before it turned into a fire. He said, as soon as he popped open the hood, however, he smelled burned plastic and his electronics were "cooked."

Chrysler told the Troubleshooters that vehicle fires can occur for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the vehicle itself.

But after repairs and talking to other jeep owners, Turek is pointing the finger at a major part under the hood.

"All these electronics problems and they don't know what's going on and every single time I asked them, 'Do you smell a burning smell, like something plasticy burning? Yes,' and it comes back to this panel," Turek said.

Turek said the master fuse panel in his Wrangler and others like it is not waterproof. He said he's told Chrysler that water or any liquid getting into the panel can cause arcing and possibly fires.

"There's hole's drilled in it," Turek said.  "To have water get into the main fuse block is the most dangerous and stupid thing I've ever seen in my entire life."

Jim Macpherson is an automotive expert with AAA and asked him for his take on Turek's theory.

"Certainly, electrical problems are one source of vehicle fires," Macpherson said. "Generally speaking, when we have a vehicle fire, we usually have some combustible material and there are many that are carried around in a car."

The Troubleshooters also reached out to automotive expert Bill Visnic of Edmunds.com.

"I certainly wouldn't rule out John's theory as a potential cause of underhood fires - but perhaps not the only cause," Visnic wrote to the Troubleshooters. "Failures that lead to extreme results, such as fires, often are the result of stacking circumstances and can be extremely hard to diagnose to a satisfying conclusion."

Chrysler points to poor maintenance, improper vehicle use or installation of aftermarket equipment as causes of vehicle fires. 

The automaker could not comment further on Turek's concerns, but said it is cooperating fully with NHTSA's investigation.

Chrysler said the Wrangler meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards and has an excellent safety record.

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