BRENTWOOD (CBS 5) – A Brentwood family that has been fighting with Chrysler to fix their handicapped-accessible Dodge Caravan is finally getting some help from the car-maker after some calls from ConsumerWatch.

Michele and Brian Smith purchased the 2008 Dodge Caravan two years ago with partially donated funds to transport their severely disabled son Cameron. The vehicle has a special wheel chair lift and other features.

“It’s crucial to him. That’s how we get him to and from his appointments,” Michele Smith said.

The Smith’s said the vehicle has broken down twice in the last month, once in an intersection. In addition to stalling out, the vehicle’s horn and windshield wipers were going full-tilt, and wiper fluid was spurting out. And the Smith’s said when they brought the vehicle to their local Chrysler dealer for repair, they were told the problem couldn’t be fixed because mechanics were unable to replicate what went wrong.

The Smith’s aren’t alone. There are many similar complaints about other Dodge Caravans on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Website Among them posts such as “electrical chaos,” and “wipers go crazy.”

The problem is often attributed to a back-ordered part called the “total integrated power module” or TIPM. There are also blogs dedicated to so-called TIPM problems in Chrysler’s Jeep Wrangler and Town & Country.

“It’s not surprising when parts fail, but it is surprising when I hear they are on backorder,” said consumer attorney Mark Anderson of San Francisco, who has handled hundreds of car cases. Anderson believes it’s a serious safety concern.

“They are not fulfilling their obligations to keep vehicles safe,” he told ConsumerWatch.

After calls from ConsumerWatch, Chrysler has agreed to give the Smith’s a free loaner van while the car company fixes the vehicle. The car company said it will also forgive the family’s loan payments, while their own vehicle is being fixed.

To report a complaint to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration click here.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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