The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into a request from a North Carolina consumer protection group to investigate an alleged headlights defect in Ford Motor Co. Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis cars. NHTSA will evaluate a petition from the North Carolina Consumer Council Inc. (NCCC) to investigate an alleged headlights and exterior lighting defect in about 520,000 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis cars, model years 2003 to 2005. The consumer protection group claims that a defect in the lighting control module, which powers headlights, causes the headlights to turn off while driving, pointing to more than 600 consumer complaints filed with NHTSA over the headlights, including seven crashes.
The petition, which was in October of last year, sent cites a consumer complaint received by the NCCC about a 2005 Mercury Grand Marquis that a Ford dealership diagnosed with a failed lighting control module. It was stated that the car couldn’t be fixed at the dealership since there weren’t any available parts. The headlights hadn’t been working for the past four months, according to the petition. The NCCC said in the petition that NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation had investigated the alleged defect in the car models in November 2008 and closed the investigation four months later, saying that no defect had been identified. That was rather surprising since there were 306 complaints to the agency and 2,000 warranty claims. The petition stated:
Ford’s own admission is that the lighting control modules contained defective solder joints on the printed circuit board.
According to the petition, the complaints registered with NHTSA indicate that the headlights’ failure rate increases with the age of the car and that the alleged defect doesn’t seem to apply to model years after 2006. The NCCC said that Ford had extended the warranty for the lighting control module in the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis models to 15 years or 250,000 miles. However, the NCCC said in the petition that Ford dealerships are reporting that replacement lighting control modules haven’t been available since May. The NCCC said that Ford customer representatives aren’t able to help or say when the replacement parts will be available. Vehicle owners with failed lighting control modules continue to drive their unrepaired vehicles, according to the NCCC.
In its last investigation, NHTSA found that in the 2,000 warranty claims over headlights failure linked to allegedly defective solder joints in the lighting control module, about 12 percent specifically claimed that the headlights failed during driving. The regulatory agency also concluded that a slightly higher warranty rate for Crown Victoria models used by police departments was because the headlights in those cars were left on longer. According to NHTSA the average warranty rate for headlights failure in 2009 was just .05 percent. NHTSA concluded that headlight failure didn’t affect other lighting functions, such as parking lights and emergency flashers.
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