Following eight reports of vehicle fires, Jeep has decided to recall 32,125 examples of the Wrangler 4xe PHEV in the United States. The vehicles come from the 2021-2024 model year, with roughly 13,000 being situated outside the U.S. While parent company Stellantis has said the vehicles can continue being driven, it’s advising customers against charging them and has likewise recommended parking them outdoors away from anything you might not want burned.
Out of the eight fires reported by Jeep, six reportedly had a Wrangler 4xe hybrid plugged into a charging port. Fortunately, the company said it’s unaware of any injuries relating to the issue.
But that does make it sound as though the problem stems from the vehicle’s relatively small 17.3-kWh battery pack and/or the charging system. Battery defects have been a sore spot for electrification as the technology matures. While often less rampant than the media likes to suggest, EV fires tend to be extreme in nature due to the way lithium-ion batteries combust.
Damage to the individual cells or internal short circuiting can create thermal runaway events that quickly encompasses the entire battery pack. In fact, most EV fires seem to happen immediately following a crash or when vehicles are plugged in and taking on power. Due to the high energy density of these batteries, the rustling fires are often incredibly violent and exceptionally difficult to stop. As a result, emergency crews often take special precautions when dealing with EV fires — focusing on containment as they allow the battery to burn itself out.
While Stellantis doesn’t appear to have any concrete answers on what’s happening with the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, the company does have a recall plan in place. Sadly, it’s the obligatory software update that seems to have become a catch-all remedy for modern vehicles suffering catastrophic failures. We’re not saying that’s not the best solution here, especially if the fault pertains to the Wrangler’s charging regimen. Modern vehicles are heavily reliant on computers and a few bad lines of code is certainly capable of causing problems.
However, the automotive industry has been leaning on “software updates” to address all sorts of issues lately. Software tweaks cannot solve mechanical problems and sometimes appear to be little more than a way for the company to buy itself some time in the early stages of a recall. They cannot solve any physical defects pertaining to the Jeep’s batteries or charging hardware. But they are significantly cheaper than having to pay for replacement parts and the necessary labor involved in most recall campaigns.
Though Jeep has said it would replace battery packs on Wrangler models where a specific error code is observed. This offers us a hint of where the problem area happens to be and also offers some peace of mind that Stellantis isn’t simply going to do a software flash before calling it a day.
If the software fix doesn’t work, we will undoubtedly see Jeep making more headlines as the Department of Transportation demands additional actions be taken. Concerned Jeep owners can head to the NHTSA recall website and input their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or contact the manufacturer at 1-800-853-1403.
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