The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating almost 500,000 Dodge Durango SUVs and Dodge Dakota pickup trucks because of a possible loss in steering control.
NHTSA reports that the agency has received several reports of loose steering shafts and separation because of loose or missing coupling bolts in the vehicles.
NHTSA said there have been no reports of crashes or injuries but ConsumerAffairs.com has received several reports of accidents caused by steering problems.
J.A. of Dolton, Illinois, said the steering failed on his 2000 Dodge Durango. "The steering wheel was straight and the truck was going to the left. I was traveling at about 25 mph," he said.
"My vehicle struck an oncoming car and continued into a gas station where my vehicle struck the concrete barrier around the gas pump. It continued to slide out of the gas station onto a residential street where we finally came to rest in a front yard," J.A. reported.
The preliminary investigation will involve more than 467,000 vehicles, including the 2004-05 models of the Durango and the 2005 model of the Dakota.
While owners of the Durango and Dakota writing to ConsumerAffairs.com confirm the steering problems, they also report the vehicles suffer from a wide range of other difficulties just as troubling.
The list of complaints includes the continued potential of fires despite previous recalls.
Consumers are reporting oil pressure failures, brake and rotor problems, along with continued and repeated ball joint failures.
Valerie in Eustis, Florida dealt with the aftermath of her Durango fire for 5 weeks.
Overnight the interior of my car had caught on fire, she writes. When the fire chief came, he said that had I left the windows down, my whole house would have caught fire while my son and I were sleeping.
Her insurance company declined to pursue the cause of the fire. Dodge was even less helpful.
They sent a special investigator out. Later I received a letter from Dodge stating that they denied any fault. I was told to get a lawyer if I wanted to get the conclusions of their findings, Valerie wrote us.
Michael in Dunaway, Kentucky, found himself stuck in the mud on his farm when his 2003 Dodge Dakota truck caught fire.
I was attempting to get my truck free and something caught fire under my truck. I crawled out of the truck on the ground and looked to see what was smoking and I saw a small fire and realized my truck was burning.
In Garden Grove, California, Michelles 2004 Durango was parked inside her garage. At approximately 6:50 in the morning as I was getting ready to go, my home alarm went off. I turned off the alarm and opened the car door and the Durango was on fire, Michelle wrote.
The fire chief concluded there was an electrical fire in Michelles Durango.
Rogers 2004 Durango burst into flames on the streets of Hackettstown, New Jersey in September. The car was assessed as a total loss by our Insurance Company, he wrote. We had found out that the 2004 Dodge Durangos were recalled In December 2003. Why would we have been sold a recalled vehicle?
The NHTSA preliminary investigation is generated by reports the agency has received of loose steering shafts.
ConsumerAffairs.com has received similar reports of faulty steering. Susan in Barnstead, New Hampshire thought her 2001 Durango was acting very strange.
The thing that is bothering me the most is that the mechanic told me he had never in all his years of working on vehicles seen a steering arm broken off the way this one was and that he felt I was extremely fortunate that I had made it to the store and parked the car before it came apart, she wrote us.
Ball joints continue to be a major problem on almost every Durango and Dakota, despite previous recalls. Intermittent oil pressure that can lead to engine failure is troubling many Durango and Dakota owners as well.
Here are more experiences reported by our readers:
Natalie in Rockland, Massachusetts: The ball joints on my 1998 Durango wore out two sets of tires. They tell me there is no recall for that year, just for Dodge Dakotas. I spent $500 on the steering shaft after it loosened up and there was a lot of play in the wheel. I almost went off the road.
Steve in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin: I purchased a 2003 Dodge Durango and was told this was an inspected, certified SUV. After 874 miles I noticed the tires in the front wearing out on the inside if the tread. I took the Durango to a Dodge dealer. They had to replace all of the ball joints and I had to have 2 tires replaced.
Jackie, Kunkletown, Pennsylvania: I bought used Durango from dealer. Paid top dollar. After no more than 200 miles on it the Durango will not pass inspection until the ball joints are replaced.
Alan in Dickinson, North Dakota: My Durango suffered engine failure due to the oil pump not working properly on a 600-mile trip. My wife said the oil gauge would drop and start again. Then the gauge would return to normal. The service representative told me the maintenance records were improper because I changed my oil myself. This is a 2002 Durango with 46,600 miles.