Ford Motor Co. has issued four more recalls affecting just less than 1.4 million vehicles for a range of safety vulnerabilities, most notably potential electrical problems in Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles that can cut off their power steering. The largest of the four recalls comprised 915,000 Escape and Mariner SUVs worldwide — 741,000 in the U.S. — from model years 2008-11 that contain torque sensors with an electrical connection prone to failing.
If the sensor is interrupted, the vehicles’ power steering assist can fail, causing them to revert to manual steering and making them more difficult to control, according to Ford’s announcement. Although drivers can still steer, more strength is required, purportedly increasing the risk of accident. So far, the automaker says it knows of five accidents and six injuries linked to the defect. The report indicated that Ford knew of a possible problem in the component as early as 2009, but decided not to conduct a recall.
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) never launched a formal investigation, Transport Canada, the country’s auto safety agency, had begun probing the issue in 2011, eventually prompting the May 30 recall in both countries. Ford said dealers will either update software in the vehicles’ power steering module and instrument cluster module, replace the torque sensor or replace the steering column depending on which diagnostic code surfaces when they are brought to dealers for repairs.
Separately, Ford recalled 196,000 Ford Explorers from model years 2011-13 for an electrical issue in the steering gear that can also cut off power steering assist. The issue had been under scrutiny from both U.S. and Canadian regulators as well. Again, Ford said in a filing with NHTSA that it noticed more warranty claims than usual related to the steering component, but decided against a recall. NHTSA opened an investigation in 2012, and Ford subsequently issued a recall. Dealers can fix the component by upgrading software for the power steering control module or replace the steering gear, Ford said.
The third recall affects 196,000 Ford Taurus sedans for a vulnerability in their license plate lamps that can allow water inside. In areas that regularly use road salt, the lamps can corrode, causing a short circuit and potentially a fire, according to the automaker. The recall only applies to vehicles in 20 states and the District of Columbia that employ high levels of road salt to combat winter weather conditions.
Lastly, the automaker called back 82,500 floor mats on some Ford Fusions, Mercury Milans, Lincoln Zephyrs and Lincoln MKZs that it said can obstruct the accelerator pedal if installed improperly.
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