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Ford Recalls 1.68M SUVs

Some police cars also affected

Aug 9, 2003 | Newsday

Ford Motor Co. is recalling 1.68 million SUVs and a smaller number of its controversial Crown Victoria police cars for a variety of potentially dangerous defects.

The SUVs include certain Ford Explorers, Explorer Sports, Explorer Sport Tracs and Mercury Mountaineers built between 1998 and 2002.

Most are being recalled based on more than 1,200 complaints of defective driver's seat bolts that might crack, causing the seat's back to recline suddenly when the vehicle is moving.

Of those vehicles, 499,988 produced from 1999 through 2001 also are being recalled to check for prematurely worn cables that might prevent the cruise control system from disengaging under certain circumstances.

Ford, which announced the SUV recall Friday, says it has 14 reports of cable failure, but it knows of no accidents or injuries resulting from either problem. Consumers can call 1-866-436-7332 to learn if their vehicles are involved.

The police vehicles, whose recall was announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are among 29,946 2003 Crown Victoria sedans used in law enforcement and taxi service and equipped with heavy-duty two-piece wheels produced between Aug. 18, 2001, and Sept. 22, 2002.

Ford says welds holding the wheels' halves together might crack, causing rapid loss of air from the tires. "It's not a blowout," said Ford spokesman Glenn Ray in Dearborn, Mich., "but we don't want to take any chances." Ford said it had six reports of cracks, none of which involved injuries.

Since 1983, 14 police officers have died in crashes when their Crown Victoria police cars were struck from behind and their gas tanks ruptured and erupted in flames. Ford last year designed a shield to help prevent suspension bolts from puncturing the car's tanks in crashes and a trunk organizer with tiedowns to help prevent heavy items such as shotguns from puncturing the tanks. The changes are being retrofitted to older models and have been incorporated in new ones.

Earlier this week, the company announced it would offer a fire suppression system as an option in Crown Victoria police cruisers beginning with 2005 models.

Crown Victorias are widely used by police departments, including New York State's, Nassau's, Suffolk's and New York City's, especially since 1996 when General Motors discontinued the Chevrolet Caprice. Suffolk has 284 2003 Crown Victorias, although not all have been placed into service yet, a spokesman said. In Nassau, a department spokesman said almost all of its Crown Victorias are older than 2003 models. City police say they have more than 1,600 Crown Victorias including some 2003 models.

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