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More Fords Recalled Over Cruise Control Switch, Fire Hazard

Oct 14, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Ford Motor Co. is recalling another 4.5 million vehicles over a faulty cruise control switch that can cause a fire.  According to CNN.com, this Ford recall is the eighth since 1999 involving the defective cruise control switch.  So far, a total of 16 million vehicles have been affected.

The Ford vehicles involved in this recall include:

1992-2003 Econoline vans
2000-2003 Excursion sport utility vehicles
1995-2002 Explorer SUVs
1993-1997 and 1999-2003 F-Series Super Duty pickup trucks
1994 F53 motor-home chassis
1995-1997 and 2001-2003 Ranger pickups
1995-2003 Windstar minivans
1995-2002 Mercury Mountaineer SUVs.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the cruise-control switch, made by Texas Instruments Inc., can leak hydraulic fluid and then overheat, smoke or burn.   According to a letter Ford sent to the NHTSA on October 9, the risk of fire is greatest for the Windstar.  The other vehicles being recalled  don't pose an "unreasonable risk to safety," but do have the  Texas Instrument switch.  A spokesperson for the automaker told CNN they were being recalled to "reassure customers and prevent future recalls."

According to CNN, the NHTSA is advising Ford drivers to look for warnings of possible imminent fires, including malfunctioning cruise control systems and brake lights and antilock braking system and brake light warnings on the dashboard. Difficulty in getting the vehicle out of the park mode should also be treated as a warning.

Over the past ten years, Ford has issued six recalls of cars and trucks with cruise control switches that can  develop a short circuit and spark a raging fire, usually when the car is parked and unattended. The faulty cruise control switch was also suspected as the cause of several house fires. At least three wrongful death suits have been filed as a result of such fires.

Some of the  Ford vehicles that have been recalled since 1999 include 1993-2004 Ford F150 trucks, 1994-2002 F250 through F550 Super Duty trucks with gasoline engines, and 1998-2001 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer SUVs, all of which were among the best-selling vehicles in the nation during those years.  In February 2008, Ford issued a seventh recall of  about 225,000 vehicles that had already been repaired because some wiring harnesses appeared to be defective.

Ford will begin notifying owners of the latest recall on October 26. Owners will be instructed to bring their vehicles to a Ford or Lincoln/Mercury dealer for installation of a fused wiring harness to eliminate the potential risk of fire

For additional information, owners may contact Ford at 1-800-392-3673 or NTHSA's vehicle safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or visit http://www.safercar.gov.


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