Fiat Chrysler recalls 494,000 Pickups for Fire Risk
Read the story at Automotive News.
This article raised questions that needed to be addressed.
- How could a water pump cause a fire?
- How many constitutes a “small number?”
- What does this really mean for ’13 – ’17 owners?
To answer the first question, “How does a water pump cause a fire?” The story goes like this. If a water pump bearing gets too hot (bearing failure), the plastic wiring harness/loom above the water pump could melt, and the plastic could cause a fire. That is the one plausible answer from the field guys we contacted. Another, a seized pump causes a belt fling, electrical wires are cut, and a short circuit happens. Care to speculate on other ways? The “belt fling” likelihood seems more plausible to me. Again, care to speculate? What are the chances of these kinds of failures? Well, when the first fire happens, all types of regulatory folks stand at attention. That is the situation that FCA is dealing with in their 494,000 recall.
To check out the likelihood of the “plastic melt,” we opened the hood of a ’16 Turbo Diesel. The plastic wiring loom is about 1” above the water pump. With moderate force, I pushed down the wiring loom to see if I could make it touch the water pump’s housing. I was unsuccessful. There is not enough “give” in the loom. And, contrary to the melting plastic causes a fire scenario, I wondered just how the bearing could get that hot without the water pump’s shaft becoming cocked causing all kinds of under-hood noise. I also wondered how the same pump shaft (or the heat from the bearing) would not destroy the water pump’s seal, causing a coolant leak and/or high water temperature condition. I just couldn’t see how a water pump bearing failure could cause a fire. But when you manufacture 494,000 units, sometimes stuff happens.
This water pump looks like the same simple design that Cummins has used since ’83. The wiring is about 1″ above the water pump. This water pump does NOT have a vent hole and we expect the owner will receive a recall notice.
Now let’s address question number two, “How many constitutes a small number?” The answer from field representatives is less than ten. So less than ten out of 494,000 will cause FCA action. On the other hand, ten out of 494,000 could be the not-so-intelligent types that would run the truck (imagine all of the Christmas-tree lights of caution blinking on the dashboard) until the truck went up in smoke, be it coolant loss smoke or an actual fire. The truth is most likely somewhere in between.
For question three, “What does it mean to ’13-’17 owners?” As noted, there will be a recall. The truck’s water pump will be inspected. If the water pump is from the manufacturing sequence with the potential for internal bearing failure, the water pump will be replaced. If not, you are out the dealer’s door in no time at all.
LAST MINUTE DATA
In late September there was further information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in memo/recall 17V-562. The recall will involve 2013-2017 Ram 2500/3500 and 3500 Cab/Chassis trucks with the “Concentric water pump without the vent hole.”
We found it! We looked at an employee’s ‘16 Ram truck for a vent hole. The vent hole was not found. His pump was made by Concentric.
We searched the Geno’s Garage inventory (Mopar 68210961AA and Cummins 4309429) to look for the vent hole. Here is a picture of what we believe to be a good pump. The pump has the vent hole. Notice the date of manufacture was 04/26/2017. This pump was made by Concentric.
For clarity, we have circled the “vent hole.” This is not to be confused with a weep hole that is typically found on water pumps. Note the Cummins and Mopar part numbers.
Update: As noted above, Cummins has released a post recall design/new part number for the ’13-’18 water pump. The new number is 5473057. It is made in Italy. We cannot determine the manufacturer (3AC) It also has a casting/vent/weep hole at 11 o’clock.
Again, the ‘16 Ram truck we inspected did not have the 11 o’clock vent hole. Our guess is the ‘16 Ram truck’s pump will be a part of the recall.
It is our guess that the 11 o’clock vent hole is the identification mark that will be used to identify a good water pump.
The NHTSA memo reinforces our belief. Their closing comment, “vehicles not included in the recall population were built with either a Concentric water pump with a vent hole or a non-Concentric water pump.”
Time to give yours a quick look?
Good: A non-Concentric brand or a Concentric with the vent hole at 11 o’clock.
Bad: Concentric without the vent hole at 11 o’clock.