The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation last month into about 420,000 Ford pickup trucks. The probe was based on dozens of driver complaints in the past year claiming the vehicles’ brakes failed while driving. Four of the incidents resulted in collisions blamed on the defect. NHTSA said it has received 35 reports, a majority of which were made during the last seven months, that brake pedals in Ford Motor Co.’s popular full-size 2013 and 2014 F-150 trucks failed. The complaints said the pedals went straight to the floor when pressed, resulting in a “complete loss of brake effectiveness.”
In addition, drivers claimed that brake fluid has been unexpectedly low or even gone to empty with no visible leakage coming from the master cylinder reservoir. NHTSA says that several mechanics have said the problem is due to brake fluid leaking into the brake booster. The agency said: “A preliminary evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect.”
As part of the investigation, NHTSA has asked Ford to provide a great deal of information by the 20th of this month regarding quality control during the trucks’ design and production, including testing data and field reports, along with any consumer complaints and communications from dealers concerning the issue. Reportedly, the four reports of crashes caused by the brake defect did not result in injury. Two of these reports are set out below:
• One complaint in August was from a driver in Hemet, Calif., who said his 2013 truck experienced a total brake failure while backing out of a parking spot. Unable to stop the truck, he crashed into a concrete wall. A service technician subsequently diagnosed the problem as brake fluid leaking into the brake booster, but later informed the driver that although the parts needed to be replaced, at a cost of $800, there was a nationwide backorder for them and it would be five weeks until the truck could be repaired.
• A second driver complaint from July said the brakes in that driver’s truck would consistently drift to the floor when pressed in traffic, eventually leading to a rear-end collision with another vehicle, despite the driver’s having serviced the truck multiple times.
The new NHTSA investigation comes only a few months after the agency said it was deepening a probe into possibly defective brakes in Ford F-150s from 2011 and 2012. Following a preliminary investigation launched in June, NHTSA said Ford received almost 400 complaints over increased brake pedal effort being required to stop the trucks, leading to extended stopping time. Ford has also given the agency information regarding seven incidents of crashes or fires, resulting in one injury, and nearly 6,500 warranty claims, all stemming from the brake pedal issue. NHTSA said that brake problem was caused by corrosion to a standard electric vacuum pump booster, which provides power assist for braking and is intended to provide a “consistent brake pedal feel,” damage that can lead to total loss of electric vacuum pump function.
Ford’s F-150 was also the subject of a 2013 NHTSA investigation over complaints that the truck lost power when accelerating at high speeds, a potential danger when a driver attempts to pass other drivers on a highway. In 2014, the agency ultimately decided against a recall of 400,000 trucks potentially affected with the problem, after Ford went ahead and addressed the problem on its own.
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