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Ford Replacing Defective Tire Valve Stems, But Issues No Recall

Apr 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Ford Motor Company's recent decision to send letters to customers warning them that tire valve stems on 26 different Ford models could be defective has come under criticism.  According to, at least one car safety expert contends that Ford should have issued a recall over the potentially deadly valve stems.

The Ford tire valve stems have the potential to crack.  In such a case, they could cause a tire to deflate or rupture, resulting in a crash.  According to, the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated the faulty Ford valves last year.

The valves in question were made by a Chinese company, Topseal Automotive. The NHTSA launched its investigation after it received 37 complaints of faulty valve stems.  At least 23 of those reports involved one valve that was “severely cracked or cracked and leaking” according to NHTSA. In 11 of the complaints, the tire lost inflation and had to be replaced after being damaged. Several accidents, including some that resulted in fatalities, were blamed on valve stem failures.  

The NHTSA closed its probe earlier this month.  However, the agency said in a statement that "the closing of this investigation does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist".  According to the NHTSA, owners of affected Ford vehicles are eligible for a free dealer inspection. Any valve showing evidence of  cracking will be replaced free of charge.

Ford will send letters to more than 1 million vehicle owners informing them of the free inspection and replacement program.   The letters should go out in May, said.  

According to the report, vehicles eligible for valve inspection and replacement include:  some 2007-2008 model year MKZs, Escapes, Mariners, Expeditions, F150s, Montegos, Sables, Focus, Crown Victorias, Grand Marquis, Rangers, Edges, MKXs, Navigators, Fusions, Milans, Mark LTs, Five Hundreds, Taurus, Mustangs, Sport Tracs, Mountaineers and Explorers; some 2007 model year Freestars and Freestyles; and some 2008 Ford Taurus Xs.

Ford is also warning vehicle owners to maintain proper air pressure in their tires and examine the valve stems for any sign of fatigue or damage, the said. The company has also added valve stem inspection to its recommended tire maintenance suggestions and to its "Multi-Point Inspections" performed by dealers.

But one tire expert told that  Ford's actions are inadequate.  "This is a problem that should have ultimately led to a recall," auto safety expert Sean Kane said.  "Ford should have stepped up and issued a formal recall to replace these valve stems because it is a safety-related hazard."

Kane pointed out that under normal circumstances, valve stems don't fail for many years.  "These are not old cars. That is what is so unusual," he said.

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