Chrysler is recalling 278,000 pickup trucks and SUVs to fix a problem that can cause the rear axles to lock up unexpectedly.

The recall covers many Ram 1500 pickups from the 2009 through 2012 model years, as well as Dodge Dakota pickups from 2009 through 2011. Also included are Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs from 2009, according to AP reports.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a nut in the rear axle can come loose due to a missing adhesive patch. If that happens the axle can lock and cause drivers to lose control.

Chrysler will install a retainer to keep the nut in place starting next month.

It's the second recall for the same problem. Last October the company recalled about 44,000 Rams and Dakotas.

And despite the setback, Chrysler is said to be a rising star.

The No. 3 U.S. automaker made $1.7 billion last year thanks to big gains for its much-improved cars and trucks, and it's expecting profits to reach $2.2 billion this year.

It's a big improvement over 2011, when Chrysler earned $138 million. And it's even more remarkable considering that Chrysler was in bankruptcy and living on taxpayer loans just three years ago.

AP says the improving U.S. economy is one reason for Chrysler's success. Auto sales in the U.S. -- where Chrysler sells three out of every four of its vehicles -- rose to a five-year high of 14.5 million last year. They could climb to 15.5 million or more this year, most industry analysts say.

But Chrysler rose even faster than average, with its U.S. sales up 21 percent versus 13 percent for the industry. That's because new or recently revamped products like the Dodge Dart small car, Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee are putting Chrysler back on buyers' shopping lists after years of quality concerns and flagging demand. Sales of the Chrysler 300 sedan nearly doubled in 2012; so did sales of the tiny Fiat 500.

Chrysler also made more on every car it sold. Customers paid an average of $29,630 for a Chrysler vehicle last year, up about $1,000 from the year before, according to auto pricing site TrueCar.com.