DaimlerChrysler AG is recalling nearly 1 million minivans with defective wiring that could cause inadvertent air bag deployments.
The action by the world's fifth-largest car company will affect 996,900 Dodge Caravans, Plymouth Voyagers and Chrysler Town & Country minivans manufactured for the 1994 and 1995 model years.
The recall is for driver's-side air bags only.
There have been 35 reports of the inadvertent air bag deployments, some of them causing painful but not life-threatening injuries, such as facial scrapes and broken noses, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and DaimlerChrysler officials.
Company and NHTSA officials said the action is unrelated to a study of Chrysler front-passenger air bags. The NHTSA is investigating passenger-side air bags in some Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth minivans to determine whether those bags pose a deployment risk to children and small adults in frontal vehicle crashes.
In this case, officials said there is a suspected short circuit in the wiring harness, which is the bundle of wires connecting electrical systems in the steering-wheel assembly that includes ignition and air bag components.
"We've had reports of people jumping into their minivans, turning on the ignition and the air bags inflating," DaimlerChrysler safety spokesman Mike Aberlich said.
The company will replace those faulty wiring harnesses for free, Aberlich said, adding that the repair job should be a "simple fix," though officials said it is considered a serious defect.
Most recalls involve the production and distribution of replacement parts. The bigger the recall, the bigger the parts mobilization, which, in this case, could take at least a month to complete, Aberlich said.
DaimlerChrysler customers should start receiving recall notices sometime in July. Customers with questions should call DaimlerChrysler's Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-992-1997.
The suspected defect has been under investigation by the NHTSA since October 1997.
CAPTION: Chrysler minivans manufactured in 1994 and 1995 are being recalled.