Dearborn, Mich. – Sept. 19, 2017 – Ford Motor Company has recalled more than 250 vehicles possibly equipped with defective steering gear heat fasteners, according to documentation submitted to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The campaign affects 2017 Explorer sport utility vehicles and Taurus sedans, as well as Police Interceptor sedans and utility vehicles. Ford estimates that 80 percent of the vehicles referenced in the recall contain the defective features.
Affected vehicles likely contain steering-gear heat fasteners that have not been properly coated with a corrosion-resistant finish. As a result, moisture may corrode these and other nearby metal fixtures, possibly leading the heat shield to detach completely from the steering gear. This may expose the steering gear assembly to higher than expected temperatures, which triggers thermal protection mode. In this scenario, steering assist functionality decreases while the gears cool. While not overtly dangerous, this situation could affect vehicle maneuverability and increase the likelihood of an accident. However, Ford has not received any field reports connecting the defective heat fasteners to any injuries of accidents.
Drivers operating vehicles with defective heat gear fasteners that have caused steering-gear overheating and activated thermal protection mode will hear audible chimes and see an engine warning on the dash cluster.
Timeline of Events
In May 2017, a worker at the ITW Shakeproof Group, Ford’s steering-gear module supplier, noticed that the gear heat fasteners on one assembly approved for shipment happened to be black in color. The employee reported the issue to his superiors who notified Ford. The automaker’s plant on Chicago, which was responsible for producing the vehicles equipped with steering gear modules from the Shakeproof Group, stopped shipments immediately. Engineers at the facility then launched an investigation.
Ford determined that the supplier had sent over steering-gear modules with the wrong fasteners, which were not properly coated to protect against corrosion. The car manufacturer brought this evidence in front of the Critical Concern Review Group on May 23.
Over the course of June and July, personnel from the engineering department analyzed the black fasteners to see if they succeeded in retaining vehicle heat shields. Ford also began reviewing plant assembly and shipment records to determine if vehicles had left the facility with the steering gear modules featuring these fixtures installed.
In August, the Ford Field Review Committee examined both reports from the engineering team, as well as the production and shipment logs for the Chicago assembly site. On Aug. 21, the group concluded that a voluntary safety recall was necessary. The automaker informed dealers of the recall action Aug. 29.
Ford has directed dealers to replace black steering-gear heat fasteners in affected models with properly coated models, free of charge. The car company began notifying owners via first-class mail Sept. 11. Those in need of more assistance can contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332 using the recall identification code 17S23, according to a recall notification letter from the NHTSA. Owners can also connect directly with the NHTSA via the agency’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at (888) 327-4236.