Electrical system, engine and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
Families have been moving away from minivans over the past few years, but the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica continues to have a following. For this model, the automaker claims it offers “street smarts,” but many people consider it to be the corner bully instead. It holds customers hostage with the faulty electrical system, defective powertrain, poorly running engine and non-functioning air bags.
Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019 2021 2022
Problems with the Electrical System
Modern vehicles have an electrical system running to every part, which can be a good or bad aspect depending on how things work.
Here’s one Edmunds review that shines a light on the problems. “I have a Chrysler Pacifica Limited. It’s had one issue after another. Electrical issues, infotainment screen freezing, fuel pump failed, issues with sliding doors, and the latest is the compressor on the A/C is bad. It’s unbelievable how many times I’ve had to take it to the dealership for repairs. I love this van as far as the interior features and comfort but it has not been reliable and I’ve spent hours taking it on for repairs.”
Beyond this, there is a recall that affects over 300,000 vehicles. NHTSA Campaign Number 20V191000 talks about a software error that allows the rearview camera image to remain on the screen even when the vehicle is not in Reverse. This can be distracting, possibly leading to an accident. If the automaker were smart, they would simply claim that this screen is another aspect of the entertainment features.
Complaints to the NHTSA about Electrical System Problems
2020 Pacifica owners are reporting lots of error codes and safety issues caused by the electrical system. Here are some extracts from the complaints.
One of the first complaints is from the owner of an electric and gas hybrid vehicle. “While driving the vehicle at highway speeds, the vehicle goes completely dead. There is no power to accelerate, no power steering, reduced braking.”
Despite the dealer installing a new electrical inverter, the malfunction recurs. The reported error code is “service charging system.”
After his wife experienced the malfunction while driving with her child in a one-lane express lane, where people travel fast highway speeds, he took the minivan to the dealership. “It is extremely dangerous for the people in the vehicle and for cars around the stalled vehicle. Thankfully they did not get struck.”
Other Error Messages
Another complaint reports a service charging system message followed by “put in park to start” as the van decelerated. While he could stop the van, he couldn’t turn it off and the gears wouldn’t move. He wasn’t able to put it in Park. Eventually, it was towed to a dealership. But they couldn’t duplicate the issue or find error messages.
“I have found that this is not a unique situation and the exact thing has happened to many other Pacifica owners. Unfortunately, I do not believe this is the last time this will happen. I am TERRIFIED to drive this van. I would guess a battery, electrical, or computer issue, only because of the many messages on the dash and the inability to turn off the vehicle.”
A complaint that reports the complete failure of the electrical system says it started with the display screen warning “the vehicle will shut down soon. Suddenly everything started turning on and off, (and) the transmission disengaged. The motor started racing with all electrical components turning on and off and suddenly everything shut off. All vehicle components were rendered useless.”
The dealership was unable to jump-start the vehicle because there was no power at all. They found that the auxiliary battery had failed and that the Power Control Unit (PCU) was the issue. After repairs, the vehicle, which was less than a year old with 9,338 miles on the clock, was not charging so they replaced the PCU.
Error messages mentioned in other complaints include:
- Stop Safely, Vehicle Will Shut Off Soon
- Service Charging System
- Battery Conditioning Leave Ignition in Run
2020 Chrysler Pacifica Complaint Summary
|Complaint Category||Number of Complaints|
|Unknown Or Other|
|Vehicle Speed Control|
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking|
The transmission is a critical aspect of the powertrain. When it shifts properly, the ride is smooth. Otherwise, any commute becomes cumbersome.
According to a complaint shared on Edmunds. “The transmission on the Pacifica is awful. Hard shifts (and I mean really hard!) are common occurrences and started while it was new. Problems with the electrical system and the automatic doors not closing correctly. My first and last Chrysler.”
Even the automaker knows there is trouble with the transmission. Service Bulletin #S2018000008 talks about the engine surging and a turbo under boost condition after performing an update to the Powertrain Control Module. It might be that Chrysler simply wants to provide further entertainment for young passengers by allowing them to believe they are at the amusement park.
Complaints to the NHTSA about Transmission Problems
Most transmission problems seem to be linked to electrical and battery problems. Here’s an example:
“While driving at freeway speed a check engine light came on followed by ‘service electrical system’ then limp mode which limits the vehicle to 40mph. Very dangerous on the freeway. Luckily we made it off the freeway but the vehicle locked itself in park gear and began to make loud grinding noises with wipers going on randomly. This happened in a busy intersection. Car was inoperable (and) had to be towed. Would not roll so flat bed tow was not possible.
“Dealer says the 12v battery was bad and it also needs a new transmission. If a 12v battery caused this to happen, this is a serious problem that could lead to a bad accident. Many more accounts of this online and (on) YouTube.”
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Problems with the Engine
Along with the transmission, the engine must be running at full force to create the power needed to move. Yet, this is one more defective part of the Pacifica.
This NHTSA complaint made in February 2020 states, “The contact owns a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica. The contact stated that the vehicle experienced uncontrolled acceleration for 20 seconds, the Check Engine warning light illuminated, the brake pedal was losing the ability to hold the vehicle, the engine revved up to 7000 RPM and there was a ticking noise coming from the engine after the vehicle cool down. The vehicle was restarted and was driving to [dealership] but was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 200.”
While Chrysler doesn’t want to acknowledge any sort of problem that is this dangerous, the company did tread on shallower issues with Service Bulletin #18-089-19. This communication talks about a small EVAP system leak that could affect performance. Taking all of these defects into account, it might seem like the better “street smart” idea would be to ride a bike instead.
More Recent Complaints to the NHTSA about Engine Problems
This NHTSA engine complaint logged in January 2022 states: “I was sitting at a traffic light when an alarm went off. The message came up that read “Auto/start stop not available” my car automatically went into Park on its own, the emergency brake came on and a warning light came on. I had to turn off the car and restart it. I was in very busy traffic. The light remained on until I was able to get home. It was a holiday weekend so I could not take (it) to (a) service station and it is my only vehicle. I turned the car on the next day and everything was fine. This happened 3 months ago as well. The engine has not been stopping I noticed at a traffic light now.”
Another complaint made in July 2021 states: “Vehicle shut off (the) engine and directed driver to shift to park while driving at full speed on (an) interstate highway. After coasting to (the) emergency lane and shifting to park, the vehicle restarted. The vehicle is currently at the dealership.”
Air Bags Problems
Finally, a look at the air bags leads to further concerns. After all, this system is designed to keep the occupants protected during an accident. With many families trusting the Pacifica, this is the one aspect no one wants to fail.
Yet, according to this NHTSA review, it did. “The contact rented a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica. The contact stated that while driving 70 mph, crashed into two deer. There were no reported injuries. The driver’s and passenger side air bags failed to deploy. A police report was filed. The vehicle was towed to the Dallas Ft. Worth airport. The local dealer and manufacturer were not contacted. The failure mileage was 3,100.”
It would be “street smart” for this customer to avoid Pacifica rentals in the future. Even the automaker wants nothing to do with this complaint and has not addressed any air bag problems. It must be a touchy subject. Maybe the Pacifica should be outfitted with plush pillows around the entire cabin, just in case.
Complaint to the NHTSA about Airbag Problems Causing Injury
In October 2020 a Georgia resident was injured after the airbags in her 2020 Chrysler Pacifica failed to deploy.
“My wife was stationary at a red light with my daughter in the second row. A car approached the light and slammed into the back of her car. (I don’t think they were slowing down). She then hit the vehicle in front of her. The airbags did not deploy and the seatbelt did not fully engage. As a result, she hit the steering wheel causing fractures, a concussion, and a minor brain bleed.”
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