Aston Martin has initiated a recall of about 1,953 DB9’s and DBS’s from model years 2004 through 2008 that were sold in the United States. In just the right combination of unlikely circumstances the right side seat (passenger side) can impinge on the main battery feed cable, possibly wearing it out and could cause a short potentially leading to a fire. My DB9 happens to be one of the cars caught up in the recall, so I thought I would take the time to share what I’ve learned.
“Unlikely”, “Can”, “Possibly”, “Could”, “Potentially”. It’s really unlikely it would happen to your car, but the mere fact it could means you should follow up and get your car fixed to maintain its value (and your personal safety).
What’s the Problem specifically?
There is a big thick red battery feed cable that runs from the battery compartment under the right hand rear seat to the cabin fuse box in the right hand floor area. This cable sneaks along the bottom edge of the transmission tunnel just above the floor, and passes along the left edge of the passenger seat. It is hidden under the carpet (see photo).
It is possible that if your passenger seat has lost its calibration (likely due to a battery disconnect or dead battery), the seat frame could be adjusted down and further back than designed, and it could bump into a spot on the carpet where the battery cable is routed underneath.
If this is done many times, it could start to break/crack/wear out the insulation of the battery cable (see photo). If that were to occur, you can imagine that all sorts of bad things could potentially start to happen. This is a main battery feed line, and the battery can put out 990 Amps of 12VDC power, enough to do a lot of damage. Aston says what’s likely to happen is that it will start to short to the frame of the seat. Electricity will follow the easiest path to ‘ground’ (back to the negative 12VDC pole of the battery), and this will likely flow through the specific ground wire built into the passenger seat wiring harness. Since there is no fuse (this is a short after all), more current than the ground wire can handle will flow causing the ground wire to heat up like a toaster element. It will eventually start to smoke as the plastic jacket of the ground wire melts off. [Hmmm, where there is smoke there is usually ….] Ultimately so much current will flow through the wire it will actually turn molten (melt) and finally break. It’s during this phase there is a potential for a fire. After the wire breaks, the short circuit stops (hopefully). Your wiring harness is damaged and who knows what else will go on as the still energized seat frame seeks a new path to ground. Bad none-the-less. There is no risk of you being electrocuted, this is DC power and it doesn’t work the same as AC.
Which Cars are Affected?
Aston Martin says there are 1953 vehicles being recalled in the US. More specifically:
- 1950 Aston Martin DB9’s with height adjustable passenger seats produced between July 2004 and July 2006. Note that is only through 2006, not 2008. [My car is a December 2004]
- Just 3 (three!) Aston Martin DBS’s with height adjustable power seats produced between June and July 2008 (just 2 months).
One question comes immediately to mind, why does this only apply to the US models? The realist in me thinks its likely because there is no other country in the world with enough leverage over them to force them (Aston Martin) to do something about the issue (because recalls are expensive and bad press). And wouldn’t that mean that all the DB9’s of the same vintage and configuration sold to other countries would have the exact same potential problem? Or would it only apply to all LHD models (so Canada and other countries have the same issues)?
Aston does note in the documentation that it does NOT apply to other Aston Martin models since the cable is routed in a different way.
What should you do about it?
Simple – follow Aston Martin’s instructions on what they want you to do. I’ve included their official documentation further down, but in summary:
- Contact your local Aston Martin dealership service department and tell them you are wondering if your car is caught up in the recall. They will ask you for your VIN number.
- If it is affected, they will want you to bring your car to the dealership for a free of charge repair. Doesn’t matter if your car is in warranty, the repair is free. Make an appointment with them so they can be sure to have the repair parts in stock when you arrive.
- They will inspect the cable. If there is any minor wear they may opt to wrap the cable with an extra protective layer. If there is major wear, they may opt to replace the cable, etc.
In all cases they will fit a “Routing Block” that will more exactly fix the position of the cable, and act as a bump stop to further protect it (see photo).
- If there is no damage to the cable, then fitting the Routing Block should only take them 30 minutes according to Aston Martin’s own service guide.
I called and have scheduled my appointment to have the car done. It should be noted that my local dealer told me they would need the car for 2-3 DAYS and when I complained, they said they could manage in 5-6 hours! A sign that the service rep has no idea what the repair entails. Didn’t instill me with any confidence.
One of the contributors to the issue is a seat that has lost its calibration. Calibration is the seat movement sensors knowing where the extent of the front/rear travel and up/down travel (it forgets these ‘limits’ when the power is completely lost). Aston Martin seems to imply that a properly calibrated seat cannot be moved back far enough to impinge on the battery cable (makes sense). You can check out my article on how to calibrate your seats here.
Checking it yourself
There is no mention of any risks in inspecting it yourself, and I couldn’t resist. Let me be clear – THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTION FOR FOLLOWING ALL OF ASTON MARTINS PROCEDURE. I am just curious and wanted to know if my car was about to burn up the next time I adjusted the passenger seat all the way back.
- To get access to the area you have to get the passenger side seat out of the way enough to work in the rear floor area.
- I raised the seat all the way ‘Up’
- I moved the seat all the way forward
- I tipped the seatback all the way forward.
- You want to be able to pull up a small portion of the transmission tunnel carpet. To do this, you have to first pull back a small portion of the carpet on the rear wall beneath the seat squab. Just tug slowly at the top right edge, its just held in place with a strip of Velcro.
- Once you can see the bottom corner of the transmission tunnel carpet, gently pull it up to reveal the battery cable and its mount.
- I didn’t want to mess with the mounted cable, only have a look at it. I just got in close to look for any signs of wear. None found, looks new (see photo below).
- I put the carpet back and readjusted the seat.
Peace of mind established.
The Official Word
I was able to track down a few official documents relating to the recall if you are interested:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an official Safety Recall number 17V-795 on December 11, 2017. Its an interesting short read that it includes the chronology of the discovery of the issue in June 2017. It lays out when Aston planned to tell the dealers (December 12, 2017) and the owners (early February 2018).
I never received an official notice from Aston Martin, the dealer network had never properly updated the main database with my ownership information (see below for how to fix this). I actually learned about the recall through a reader of this blog leaving me a comment. I then Googled “Aston Martin DB9 Recall” and discovered this Autoweek news article about it released December 28, 2017.
According to plan, Aston Martin sent out letters to the owners on record in early February 2018. As mentioned, I never got one. When I called my dealership to book my appointment I asked if they could forward the letter to me anyways, and they did. Here is a copy of the letter. In it Aston Martin outlines exactly what they want you to do. If you never got the letter and own a DB9, you should read this.
Once I knew the official Aston Martin recall number RA-18-0026 I started to Google search this. I wanted to find the actual factory instruction for the dealers to follow hoping it would detail the issue and repair process. It didn’t take long to track down Aston Martin Recall Action RA-18-0026. Definitely worth a read as it includes more details on the issue and the repair process.
What if you aren’t the Owner of Record?
In the letter to owners they included a discussion of what to do if you aren’t listed as the proper owner (keeper) of the car. They included a “Change of Ownership Form US Only” to remedy this (download it here). I filled it in, and emailed it to email@example.com as instructed along with a short blurb that I was the current owner, my VIN and could they please update me as the current owner of this car. The next morning I had a polite email back from Aston Martin Client Services saying they had taken care of it. Cool!
Hopefully you found this informative. Now go call your Dealer and get the issue addressed!