Ford Recall: Fire in the Hole

Ford Motor Company claims that it is unclear whether its cruise control switches are the fault for over 560 reported fires and explosions in Ford vehicles. Many of these fires broke out when the vehicles were parked in family garages, destroying homes and lives. In cases like this the numbers reported are only a fraction of what has actually occurred, but Ford claims to be doing its best to determine the cause of the fires and refuses to declare the cruise control switch at fault. Here are the facts:

More than 16 million Ford vehicles have rolled out of the lots installed with a cruise control switch that is designed not to switch off. This switch remains hot and powered, even when the car is parked. Only a thin metal sheet separates the switch from the brake fluid line, and only a little extra heat can cause the switch to combust, dripping flaming fluid over all the plastic components, resulting in a full-blown hood fire that is very difficult to extinguish. Many owners have reported explosions, both while driving Ford vehicles and after parking them.

In May of 1999, Ford issued a recall on Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and Town Car models from 1992-1993. A second recall issued in January of 2005 affected 800,000 vehicles including all 2001 F-Series Super Crews and all the year 2000 Expeditions, Navigators, and F-150 Pickups. Even these massive recalls have not solved the problem. As recently as this month reports have come in of vehicle fires in models not covered by the recall. A 1999 Expedition caught fire in a family garage after 3 Ford dealerships refused to replace its cruise control switch. Federal investigators are now looking at 3.7 million Ford trucks and SUV’s to determine the extent of the danger. This Federal investigation only covers a quarter of the vehicles that could be affected.

A Ford document obtained by CNN showed that the same or similar switch was installed in a total of 16 million vehicles, including:

Mark VII/VIII from 1994-1998

Taurus/Sable and Taurus SHO 2.3 L 1993-1995

Econoline 1992-2003

F-Series 1993-2003

Windstar 1994-2003

Explorer without IVD 1995-2003

Explorer Sport/Sport Trac 2002-2003

Expedition 1997-2003

Ranger 1995-2003

The NHTSA says that of over 560 complaints of spontaneous, non-collision fires, 253 involved unrecalled models. Some cruise control switches that combust malfunction beforehand, but many owners did not observe a problem until their trucks exploded in the garage and burned down their homes. Because the power flows to the switch when the vehicle is turned off, many of these fires broke out in the middle of the night, hours after anybody touched the Ford trucks.

Ford does not acknowledge any deaths that have occurred as a result of the fires , but Ford Motor Company is also denying the legitimacy of many claims. According to Ford, the explosions and fires in the engines of unrecalled vehicles could be anything, not necessarily the cruise control switch. Ford’s assertion is hardly comforting, because these fires have broken out enough times to reflect a solid trend. If all the reports of Ford fires are not related to the cruise control switch, then the numbers reflect a distressing trend of combustible Ford trucks.

This trend could very well be a reality, as this is not the only recent case of Fords spontaneously combusting. As recently as May of 2005 Ford announced a recall of 155,700 Crown Victoria sedans used as police cars and taxi cabs because of a fire risk. In these 2003-2005 models fires broke out when a sound insulator under the dash slipped and overheated. A few reports of fires have already been filed throughout the United States and Canada.

The long and short of it is that if you or somebody you love owns a Ford in any of these models or years, you should take it to a mechanic immediately. See a lawyer about covering the costs of such an appointment. Park your Ford on the street. If you have been injured or any of your property damaged by these dangerous exploding trucks, see a lawyer immediately. Defective product claims have a limited time period for filing and the more people who come together to prosecute these dangerous vehicles, the quicker Ford will be to accept responsibility for damages and pull the affected vehicles off our roads.