WASHINGTON - Federal safety officials are conducting two new investigations of fuel-injection system leaks in full-sized Chrysler Corp. sedans.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the manufacturer together have received almost 300 complaints about fuel leaks in the LH sedans.
One investigation, already in the more intensive stage that NHTSA calls an engineering analysis, involves 1993-95 cars with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine.
They include the Chrysler Concorde, LHS and New Yorker; Dodge Intrepid; and Eagle Vision. There are about 350,000 on the road.
NHTSA investigated the same cars from 1995-97 and accepted Chrysler's determination then that 19 reported leak incidents had a variety of correctable causes and did not represent a safety defect.
In opening the new investigation, NHTSA says it and the company have collected 264 leak reports, including reports of 28 fires and one injury.
A second new investigation, this one in the early stage that NHTSA calls a preliminary evaluation, involves 1993 Concordes, Intrepids and Visions equipped with the 3.3-liter V-6. There are 84,000 of the cars in service.
The agency said it has received 21 reports of leaks from crossover tube fittings at the front of fuel rails. It also said some owners reported long delays in getting repairs because dealerships are having trouble getting replacement fuel rail assemblies.
Jeff Leestma, a Chrysler communications manager, said the company is cooperating with NHTSA officials and 'working with them to fully determine the scope, root cause and consequence of this, and will take action as necessary.'
3 CASES CLOSED
In its monthly report of defect investigations, NHTSA said it closed three cases - including one that involved an airbag wiring problem - after finding insufficient evidence of what it calls a 'defect trend.'
In the airbag case, NHTSA had been looking at 1994-95 Chrysler Corp. minivans, which have a single fuse for a wiring circuit that includes both the rear wiper motor and the airbag module. The agency and the manufacturer received 35 complaints about airbag warning lights staying on, apparently because a wiper motor short opened the common fuse.
Chrysler assured NHTSA there is a separate circuit that provides power to the airbag module. That means airbags still function even when the warning light is on as a result of a wiper motor short.
The company also issued a service bulletin telling dealers how to disconnect only the rear wiper motor for any owner who doesn't want to pay for a repair but does want the airbag warning light to work.
There are 935,000 of the Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler minivans in service, NHTSA said.
Another case was closed after Mazda North America Operations said it would provide an 11-year warranty, with no mileage limit, for a device that separates vapor from liquid fuel on 1989-94 MPV minivans.
NHTSA and the manufacturer received 66 complaints that failure of the separator on some 1991-93 models allowed vapors to leak into the passenger compartment. About 80,000 vehicles from the investigated model years are in service.
The separator was previously covered by the vehicle's basic three-year, 50,000-mile warranty, said Barbara Nocera, director of government relations for Mazda.
In the third closed case, NHTSA had investigated 42 reports of steering shaft separations in 1996-97 General Motors light trucks, including pickups, Suburbans, Jimmys, Blazers and cab/chassis adapted for commercial and other uses.
The agency found that some bolts may have been improperly installed but that any failure occurred early in a vehicle's life. It also said the reports have ceased.
There are 1.6 million of the vehicles in service.
NHTSA reported the following other new defect investigations:
1997 FORD F-150
Problem: Sliding floor mat may interfere with accelerator pedal.
Vehicle population: 730,000
1993-94 JAGUAR XJ12 WITH 6-LITER ENGINE
Problem: Throttle may stick
Complaints: One to NHTSA; number to manufacturer to be determined
Vehicle population: To be determined
1993 GM FULL-SIZED VANS AND CAB/CHASSIS
Problem: Ignition switch wiring rubs on steering column bracket, may short out.
Complaints: One, including a fire, to NHTSA; number to manufacturer to be determined
Vehicle population: To be determined