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May 17, 2005 | In its ongoing investigation of fires linked to faulty cruise control shut off switches in Ford vehicles, CNN is reporting that despite the fact that Ford is aware of 16 million 1992 to 2003 vehicles at risk, only slightly over one million have been recalled.

The switch in question only costs $20.57, yet is already being linked to 559 fires reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Many of these fires have completely destroyed the vehicle and, in one case, an entire house burned down when the family car caught fire while parked in the garage.

The fires are spontaneous and often occur when the ignition switch is off and the key removed. This is because Ford designed the switch to remain on or “hot” at all times. When a crack develops in the film separating the brake fluid from the electrical circuit, the leak will cause a fire.

Since May 1999, Ford has recalled a total of 1,071,000 vehicles in two separate recalls. CNN reports, however, that a document it has obtained shows Ford is aware that it installed a total of 16 million of the switches between 1992 and 2003 in the following vehicles:

•    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

In March 2005, the NHTSA opened an expanded investigation into more than 3.7 million of these vehicles. Ford, however, has chosen not to recall all of the vehicles arguing that the switch has performed well for years in most vehicle models. As a result, Ford has limited their recalls to those models “with an increasing fire rate report.” A recent recall notice was clear as to the risk, however. 

Ford stopped using the switch last year in favor of a new design.

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