Lilburn, Georgia – Sept. 10, 2018 – Ford Motor Company is recalling almost 2 million F150 Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab vehicles equipped with driver and front passenger seat belt pretensioners capable of creating “excessive” sparks, which could lead to a fire, according to a Ford company press release.
Affected vehicles include:
- 2015-18 Ford F-150 vehicles built at Dearborn Assembly Plant, March 12, 2014 through Aug. 23, 2018
- 2015-18 Ford F-150 vehicles built at Kansas City Assembly Plant, Aug. 20, 2014 through Aug. 23, 2018
Of the nearly 2 million affected vehicles, over 1.6 million are located in the U.S., with the rest registered across Canada and Mexico.
Seat belt pretensioners, like many other vehicle safety devices (such as airbags), are triggered by a tiny explosive that allow only a split second to elapse between a collision and deployment of the safety feature. The explosive itself is set off by a crash, and in the case of seat belt pretensioners, the feature design allows the seat belt to instantly tighten to provide more protection for the seat occupant. The seat belts work in tandem with the airbags to reduce the likelihood of injury, securing the driver and passenger in position and limiting excessive movement.
However, Ford’s investigation found that some front seat belt pretensioners in specific F150 Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab vehicles can generate excessive sparks when they deploy. If sufficient sparks are present, it is possible for gases exhausted inside the lower portion of the B-pillar by the pretensioners to ignite. Once the gas ignites, components behind the B-pillar (including insulation and carpet) can subsequently catch fire and may lead to the destruction of the entire vehicle.
Timeline of Events
As Consumer Reports noted in early August, the NHTSA opened an investigation into the F150 after five consumer complaints about fires were filed with the agency. It was reported that the fires began inside the pillar housing the seat belt mechanism. All five vehicles had been involved in a crash immediately preceding the start of the fires. Four incidents included airbag deployment, and three of the trucks were a total loss.
Ford claims there have been 17 reports of smoke or fire in the U.S. and six in Canada, although the manufacturer says they are not aware of any injuries or additional accidents associated with the defect. It is unusual for a recall to be issued after so few reports, but the ramifications of each incident are significant enough to trigger a recall.
According to Ford, all repairs will be provided at no cost to customers. Dealers have been instructed to remove insulation material from the B-pillar trim, remove remnants of wiring harness tape in the B-pillar area, and apply heat-resistant tape to the carpet and its insulation. Dealers have also been instructed to modify the back interior panels of Regular Cab vehicles.
F-150 owners should not stop using their seat belts, according to the automotive safety engineer at Consumer Reports, as all major incidents have occurred only after a crash, and most after a crash severe enough to deploy the airbag in the vehicle. The risk of injury from not wearing a seat belt is deemed much higher than that of a potential fire following a severe crash.
There are approximately 1,995,776 vehicles in North America affected by this recall. Of these, 1,619,112 vehicles have been identified as being registered in the U.S. and its federalized territories. An additional 339,884 are currently in Canada and 36,780 in Mexico.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. The Ford reference number for this recall is 18S27. Owners may also connect with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration through the agency’s toll-free Vehicle Safety Hotline at (888) 327-4236 The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 18V568000. The recall is expected to begin Sept. 24, 2018. Ford had no additional comment beyond their press release.