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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
has upgraded its investigation of a possible defect in 2002 and 2003 Jeep Liberty’s. The agency has received 22 complaints of the upper ball joint separating, which can cause the wheel to collapse and the driver to
loose control of the vehicle. Chrysler has also received 74 complaints but none
that have been tied to an accident or injury. Most of the alleged separation
incidents have occurred at speeds below 20mph; however, at least five
complaints claim to have occurred at 40mph and another at 70mph.


Chrysler recalled more than 800,000 Liberty SUVs in August
2006 to fix the front suspension lower ball joint, which could experience excessive
wear and looseness. The recall affected Liberty SUVs from the 2002-2006 model


NHTSA has upgraded the investigation to an engineering
analysis to “assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences of the
alleged defect,” the agency said in a report on its Web site.


Chrysler has said publicly that earlier recalls and
confusion of upper and lower ball joints have led to a disproportionate number
of complaints associated with the upper ball joint. The NHTSA has stepped the
investigation to better assess the true dangers that may be associated with the
allegedly defective ball joints. 


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