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Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP14-002

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country, Chrysler Voyager

Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP14-002

Frank S. Borris II
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
April 8, 2015


[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 67 (Wednesday, April 8, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 18935-18936]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-08082]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP14-002

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Denial of petition for a defect investigation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This document denies a July 7, 2014 petition from Mr. Brian 
Rosa of Union, NJ, requesting that the agency open an investigation 
into an alleged defect resulting in engine stall without warning after 
refueling in a model year (MY) 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. The 
petitioner's vehicle is a Chrysler RS platform minivan. The RS platform 
includes MY 2003 through 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Caravan, 
Chrysler Town and Country and Chrysler Voyager minivans. NHTSA 
evaluated the petition by analyzing consumer complaints submitted to 
the Agency, analyzing field data and reviewing technical information 
provided by Chrysler in response to an information request letter from 
the Agency, and testing an RS minivan that was the subject of a post-
refuel engine stall complaint to NHTSA. After completing this 
evaluation, NHTSA has concluded that further investigation of the 
alleged defect in the subject vehicles is unlikely to result in a 
determination that a safety-related defect exists. The agency 
accordingly denies the petition.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Paul Simmons, Vehicle Control 
Division, Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: (202) 366-2315.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Alleged Defect

    The petitioner alleges that his MY 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan vehicle 
experienced multiple incidents of engine stall without warning after 
refueling. The petitioner discovered that the defective part is a valve 
that is integral to the fuel tank, requiring tank replacement to repair 
the problem. The petitioner alleged that stalling without warning is an 
unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety and requests the agency take 
action by opening a Preliminary Evaluation fully evaluate the defect.

Engine Stall Defects

    The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 
301) defines motor vehicle safety as ``the performance of a motor 
vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public 
against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, 
construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against 
unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes 
nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.'' NHTSA considers several 
factors when assessing the safety risk posed by conditions that may 
result in engine stall while driving. These include the speeds at which 
stalling may occur, the ability of the driver to restart the vehicle, 
the warning available to the driver prior to stalling, the effects of 
engine stall on vehicle controllability, when and where the stalling 
will occur and the effects of the condition on other safety systems of 
the vehicle. In general, conditions that result in engine stall during 
low-speed operation at idle, such as when slowing to a stop, and which 
do not affect the operator's ability to immediately restart the engine 
are considered the least hazardous types of stalling problems and, 
absent other safety factors, are not considered to be unreasonable 
risks to safety.

Background (PE13-016)

    On February 10, 2014, ODI closed an investigation of an alleged 
defect in approximately 153,817 MY 2006 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and 
Dodge Magnum vehicles (LX cars) that may result in engine stall shortly 
after refueling (PE13-016). In response to ODI's information request 
for PE13-016, Chrysler identified a problem with the multifunction 
control valve (MFCV) fuel shutoff float integrated into 19-gallon fuel 
tanks in certain LX vehicles. According to Chrysler, the float may 
swell after exposure to fuels with high ethanol content, which may 
cause the valve to stick. A float valve that is stuck open during 
refueling, could result in fuel tank overfill and allow raw fuel to 
enter the purge line. This could result in problems with engine 
driveability (e.g., stumble or hesitation) or stall while driving in 
the brief period immediately after filling the fuel tank.

[[Page 18936]]

    ODI's analysis of complaints related to this condition determined 
that most of the incidents of engine stall were occurring when the 
vehicles were stopped or travelling at low speeds and there were no 
reports of any difficulty restarting the engines after such incidents. 
No crashes or injuries were identified in the subject vehicles, which 
had been in service for 7 to 8 years. The investigation was closed with 
no safety recall due to the low safety risk associated with the alleged 
defect condition.

RS Minivan analysis

    In response to ODI's information request letter for DP14-002, 
Chrysler indicated that the RS Minivans may experience a condition with 
MFCV float sticking similar to the one investigated in the LX Cars in 
PE13-016:

    ``The failure mechanism is a result of a swollen refueling float 
within the multifunction control valve. Studies have proven that 
elevated ethanol additives cause the float and housing to swell, 
which, in turn, causes the float to intermittently stick. Once 
stuck, a limited amount of fuel will pass beyond the refuel float 
and enter the vapor recovery system before the fill pressure 
threshold is reached and shuts the fuel nozzle off.
    ``Once fuel has entered into in the vapor recovery system, it 
can then be purged into the engine's intake system in place of 
anticipated vapor within the first minute of starting the engine. 
The result of fuel rather than vapor entering in the engine intake 
system will cause the engine to stumble or, when the vehicle is not 
in motion and/or the engine at idle, a stall can occur. The 
condition is often contained to a momentary engine stumble as the 
purge event is immediately turned off when a rich fuel condition is 
detected by the Powertrain Control Module.
    ``Chrysler believes there is no unreasonable risk to motor 
safety because an engine stumble or rough idle will occur at a low 
driving speed, and while a stall is most likely to occur at an idle 
or stop. There have been no reported accidents or property damage in 
over 1.8 million vehicles. Additionally, when a refuel valve does 
stick, there is sufficient back pressure in the fuel system to shut 
off the fuel pump and limit the amount of the fuel into the purge 
line.''

    ODI's analysis of complaints, field reports, legal claims and 
warranty data related to the alleged defect in Chrysler RS Minivans 
identified a total of 720 post-refueling engine stall incidents in 
approximately 1.8 million vehicles, resulting in an overall rate of 
0.39 per incidents per thousand vehicles (IPTV). Similar to the LX Car 
analysis in PE13-016, the engine stalls were mostly occurring when the 
vehicle was stopped or coasting to a stop at low speed. There were no 
allegations of difficulty restarting the engines immediately after the 
stalls occurred. There were no allegations of crash or injury.
    Differences in tank design, exhaust routing and purge strategy may 
influence the incident rate at which the MFCV float sticking condition 
occurs and/or the potential for engine stall or other performance 
concerns. As a result, ODI's analysis examined incident rates over the 
full range of RS Minivan production to assess the effects of changes in 
tank design and purge control logic. This analysis identified an 
elevated incident rate for approximately 208,000 MY 2004 and 2005 RS 
Minivans built during a seventh month period from September 2003 
through March 2004, which exhibited a failure rate similar to the LX 
Cars investigated in PE13-016. Table 1 summarizes the field data for 
DP14-002 and PE13-016.

                                Table 1. Summary of NHTSA Complaints and Chrysler Complaints, Field Reports and Lawsuits
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                      Vehicle age     Total     Report rate    Crashes/
               NHTSA inv. No.                           Vehicles            Build range   Population      (yrs)      reports       (IPTV)      Injuries
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PE13-016...................................  LX cars, 2006................    4/05-7/06      153,817          7-8          299         1.94          0/0
DP14-002...................................  RS vans, 2003-04.............    7/02-8/03      425,544        11-12           34         0.08          0/0
                                             RS vans, 2004-05.............    9/03-3/04      208,419        10-11          445         2.14          0/0
                                             RS vans, 2005-07.............    4/04-5/07    1,221,370         7-10          241         0.20          0/0
                                             Total RS, 2003-07............    7/02-5/07    1,855,333         7-12          720         0.39          0/0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Subject Vehicle Test Results

    As part of its evaluation of this defect petition, NHTSA's Vehicle 
Research and Test Center (VRTC) conducted testing on a 2005 Chrysler 
Town & Country LMT (3.6L SFI, 20 gal. fuel tank) vehicle that was the 
subject of an ODI complaint (VOQ 10641603) that provided the following 
description of the problem:

    After fill up, vehicle stalls, the engine cuts off and the 
vehicle loses all power and power steering. This happened first on a 
cross country trip and caused some serious safety concerns when 
attempting to exit the gas station and merge onto the highway. This 
problem has been occurring regularly from the first instance in 
2011. When fueling, the van is never over filled; we fill until the 
pump clicks off. This seems to be a fairly common problem in this 
generation of minivans as represented in online forums trying to 
diagnose the problem.

    VRTC conducted tests on the complaint vehicle to assess engine 
performance after refueling, including the driving conditions and ease 
of engine restart associated with any observed engine stalls. When 
refueling the vehicle up to the initial shut-off of the filling station 
pump nozzle, the VRTC testing was able to reproduce stalling incidents 
when the vehicle was stopped or coasting to a stop at low speed. The 
vehicle did not stall 4 out of 5 times when travelling at 5 mph, but 
minor hesitation was noted. No stalls and only minor hesitation were 
occurred when travelling at 10 mph or above in tanks filled to the 
initial nozzle shut-off. Stalling was more likely to occur if the tank 
was overfilled (i.e., adding fuel past the initial fill nozzle 
shutoff). Testing after overfilling resulted in stalls in 4 of 5 tests 
at speeds up to 10 mph. Regardless of fill condition, the vehicle could 
always be immediately restarted after each engine stall.

Conclusion

    In the Agency's view, additional investigation is unlikely to 
result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety 
exists given the limited conditions under which the subject condition 
may result in engine stall, the low failure rate in vehicles with 
approximately 8 to 13 years in service and the absence of any reports 
of crashes or injuries. Therefore, in view of the need to allocate and 
prioritize NHTSA limited resources to best accomplish the Agency's 
safety mission, the petition is denied. This action does not constitute 
a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist. The 
Agency will take further action if warranted by future circumstances.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30162(d); delegations of authority at CFR 
1.50 and 501.8.

 Frank S. Borris II,
Acting Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2015-08082 Filed 4-7-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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