Mysterious auto fire leaves owner suspicious of recall fix

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC 7 I-Team investigated a mysterious automobile fire and what you need to know about insurance payouts if this happens to you.

The owner says she put $10,000 down and spent two years making payments on a new Jeep that caught fire under the hood. She also said she's suspicious over a recall fix, but the manufacturer and investigation reports say the fire remains a mystery.

"I was very scared, it was absolutely terrifying to see your car in flames," Ariela Shaoul said. "It was a 2-year-old car, no issues."

Pictures captured the dramatic moments when Ariela Shaoul's 2015 Jeep Cherokee burst into flames.

"We noticed it smelled a little bit like smoke so within a couple of seconds while we were stopped we immediately got out of the car because the smoke started pouring out. We got out of the car, walked over to the front of the car and flame had been ignited," Shaoul said.

She said she tried to see what she could get under the manufacturer warranty but faced with the challenge of needing transportation for work, Shaoul accepted her first offer of an almost $17,000 insurance claim.

"The insurance covered the balance of the loan, but other expenses they don't take into consideration," she said.

She said that paid her loan balance, but she was left with only $2,500 to put down on a new vehicle.

Since she accepted that insurance money, the Illinois Insurance Association said she's most likely waived her right to get any payout from the manufacturer.

Shaoul is also questioning if a fire risk recall for her Jeep was properly fixed. Documents show she had an air conditioning hose connected to that recall repaired at her authorized dealer in 2015.

After the fire, one independent insurance investigation said "the inspection confirmed the air conditioner hose and fitting were routed appropriately..."

Another report says : "the cause of this fire is undetermined." And although it originated elsewhere, it also noted that "there was a fire pattern...on the lower right front corner, directly in line with the air conditioning discharge line."

A Fiat Chrysler automobiles spokesperson said the cause may never be known and: "FCA US regrets the customer's experience and endeavored, in good faith, to resolve her concerns. The Company takes seriously its obligation to provide effective recall remedies. In the case of recall R57, nearly 69,000 vehicles have been serviced, to date. FCA US is unaware of any potentially related, post-service fires."

"No car- no 2-year-old car - should be engulfed in flames like that," Shaoul said. "I knew something wasn't right."

FCA also says points to recent data from the National Fire Prevention Association, which shows there are eight vehicle highway fires every hour. So, car fires, overall, are more common than you may think.

If you have a complaint about a vehicle you should report it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by clicking here or calling their Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236.
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