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WASHINGTON (AP) _ DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group announced a recall Wednesday of about half a million minivans and an extended warranty on 1.3 million more because of a problem in the steering wheel.

The recall covers some 1996-1998 models of Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Grand Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country.

The recall will close a 20-month government investigation into a problem with the clockspring, which provides power to some parts in the steering wheel.

Chrysler says the clockspring may have been installed off-center during assembly at plants in St. Louis and Windsor, Ontario. If this occurs, the air bag warning lamp will illuminate and the driver's air bag, horn or cruise control may stop working.

One hundred sixty-four people complained about the problem, including two people who said they were injured when their air bag did not deploy during a crash.

Chrysler spokeswoman Angela Spencer Ford said one of the accidents was not related to the problem. In the other case, she said the air bag warning light had indicated a problem for months, but the driver ignored it.

Ford said the problem is most likely to occur when the van has 25,000-30,000 miles, but the recall will cover all vehicles with up to 70,000 miles. Another 1.3 million vehicles will receive a lifetime clockspring warranty.

Chrysler said it will send letters to owners of recalled vehicles this month. The automaker says if the air bag warning light remains on for more than a few seconds after the van is started, it should be taken to a dealer for inspection.


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