The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said sound-deadening material inside the steering wheel comes loose and interferes with the clockspring mechanism. An open circuit is created, disabling the airbag.
The affected vehicles are 1997-2000 Dakotas and Durangos and 1997-2001 Ram pickups. The agency said 216,000 trucks are being recalled so the clockspring assembly can be replaced.
Company spokeswoman Angela Ford said DaimlerChrysler has received no reports of injuries or deaths related to the problem. She said the airbag warning light comes on if the clockspring circuitry malfunctions.
NHTSA, in its latest monthly list of safety recalls, said DaimlerChrysler is notifying the owners of about 400,000 other vehicles that they should return them for repairs.
About 353,000 Dodge and Plymouth Neons from the 2000-01 model years should have brake booster vacuum hoses replaced. The original hoses swell and loosen from the intake manifold, limiting brake performance and increasing engine idle speed, NHTSA said.
About 42,000 minivans are to have lower control arm pivot bolts replaced. The originals may break, causing loss of vehicle control. The affected vehicles are 2001 Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Chrysler Voyager.
Head padding needed
In another development, NHTSA said Daewoo Motor America is recalling nearly 59,000 Daewoo Leganzas from the 1999-2001 model years so dealers can install more padding on the A-pillars.
The agency said the cars do not comply with federal rules adopted in 1998 to limit injuries if occupants' heads strike vehicle interiors.
Automotive News records show the Daewoo recall is the second necessitated by noncompliance with the head-impact rules. A year ago, American Isuzu Motors recalled 73,000 Rodeos from the 1999 model year to add more padding near the sun visors.
Wires, bolts and belts
Here are other safety recalls announced by NHTSA:
2001 NISSAN SENTRA
Problem: Front suspension lower control arm bolts break.
Fix: Replace bolts.
1998-2001 AUDI A6
Problem: Sulfur deposits on fuel-level sending units in gas tank cause gauge to read full when tank is not.
Fix: Replace sending units.
2001 VOLVO S40, V40
Problem: Faulty diode causes heater and defroster fan to stop.
Fix: Install adapter with diode fitted to the fan motor.
2001 KIA OPTIMA
Problem: Driver's seat tilt mechanism pinches side airbag wiring, disables airbag.
Fix: Secure wiring with plastic tie-wrap in safe location; replace damaged wires.
2002 ACURA 3.2TL
Problem: Driver's power window control fails; window may open or close without use of switch; failure of auto-reverse feature could injure an occupant.
Fix: Replace window control unit.
2002 ACURA 3.2TL
Problem: Seat belt tongue jams in buckle.
Fix: Replace buckle.
2001 SAAB 9-3, 9-5
Problem: Airbag warning labels are not properly attached.
Fix: Clean sun visors, attach new labels.
2001 CHEVROLET SILVERADO, SUBURBAN, TAHOE; GMC SIERRA, YUKON, YUKON XL
Problem: Seat belt retractors for second and third row seats break.
Fix: Replace seat belts.