Ford Cruise Control Fires
Ford Cruise Control Recalls
In the 1990s, the cruise control feature became popular on many new models of vehicles, including Ford cars, trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. Unfortunately, it also came with a number of glitches that gave rise to serious safety concerns. Starting with vehicles from the 1992 model year, it was determined that the control switches in millions of Ford vehicles posed potential fire hazards. Following a series of recalls during the 1990s, Ford continued to recall vehicles with the defective switches well into the 21st century.
However, just because Ford issued recalls, this does not mean that all of the defective switches have been replaced. Not everyone pays close attention to the news, and many people simply ignore recall notices because they expect the vehicles they purchase to function as intended. As a result, even though 2007 was the last model year in which defective switches were installed, numerous Ford vehicles with hazardous control switches remain on the road to this day.
How & Why Control Switches are Causing Fires
Basics of Ford’s Cruise Control Devices
The cruise control switches at issue cost Ford about $21. Manufactured by Texas Instruments, they are installed under the hood – attached to the brake master cylinder on one end and connected to the cruise control on the other. The cruise control switches are wired through the same electrical circuit used to power vehicles’ brake lights. Due to their design and location, all that separates the brake fluid from the switches’ electrical components is a thin film barrier.
The Placement of Ford’s Cruise Control Switches Can Lead to Fires
According to federal law, the electrical circuit controlling a vehicle’s brake lights must be powered at all times so that the brake lights will function even if the car is turned off. Since Ford wired the cruise control switches together with the brake lights, the cruise control switch is powered at all times. This creates the potential for disaster: a continuously-powered switch sitting right next to a reservoir of flammable liquid.
Each time a driver applies the brakes in a vehicle with one of these defective switches, it puts vacuum pressure on a seal in the switch. Over time, this can cause the seal to fail, allowing brake fluid to leak into the switch – which causes corrosion. This corrosion can then cause the switch to overheat and ignite a fire. Since the switches are continuously powered, fires have been known to occur up to several days after the vehicles were last driven.
Ford Cruise Control Fires are Damaging More than Just Vehicles
As a result, fires have been starting not only on the roads, but in parking lots, driveways, and even garages as well. Some victims’ houses have caught fire while they were asleep upstairs. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks Ford cruise control fires, it is widely believed that the number of reported incidents is far less than the actual number of fires that have occurred.
Timeline of the Ford Cruise Control Recall and Affected Vehicles
Ford Issues Nine Recalls Over Defective Cruise Control Switches in Eleven Years
The Ford cruise control recall has now been ongoing for 16 years. Here is the sequence of events, dating back to the first recall in 1999:
- May 13, 1999: 279,000 vehicles recalled.
- January 27, 2005: 738,490 vehicles recalled.
- September 7, 2005: 3.8 million vehicles recalled.
- July 27, 2006: 1.2 million vehicles recalled.
- March 1, 2007: 155,000 vehicles recalled.
- August 2, 2007: 3.6 million vehicles recalled.
- February 1, 2008: 225,000 vehicles recalled.
- Finally, on March 18, 2010 Ford announced that it was recalling an additional 4.5 million vehicles across its Form, Lincoln, and Mercury brands. This brought the total number of recalled vehicles to 14.3 million.
In addition, according to an August 13, 2008 article published by The New York Times, Ford had to do a “recall on the recall,” which affected approximately 225,000 vehicles. This was required because dealerships had been improperly repairing vehicles with new wiring harnesses that failed to provide the proper protection against corrosion and overheating.
Ford Models Recalled Due to Faulty Cruise Control Switches
The following is a complete list of the Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models that have been recalled:
- 1993-2003 Ford F-150
- 1993-2003 Ford F-250
- 1993-2003 Ford F-350
- 1993-2003 Ford F-450
- 1993-2003 Ford F-550
- 1993-2002 Ford Super Duty
- 2001 Ford F-150 Supercrew
- 2002-2003 Lincoln Blackwood
- 2003-2004 Ford F-150 Lightning
- 1992-1997 Ford Crown Victoria
- 1992-1997 Lincoln Town Car
- 1992-1997 Mercury Grand Marquis
- 1993 Ford Taurus SHO
- 1993-1998 Lincoln Mark VIII
- 1994 Mercury Capri
- 1993-1996 Ford Bronco
- 1997-2002 Ford Expedition
- 1998-2001 Ford Explorer
- 1998-2001 Mercury Mountaineer
- 1998-2002 Lincoln Navigator
- 2000-2003 Ford Excursion
- 2001-2002 Ford Explorer Sport
- 2001-2002 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
- 1992-1993, 1997-2002 E-150
- 1992-1993, 1997-2002 E-250
- 1992-1993, 1997-2002 E-350
- 1994-1996 Ford Econoline
- 1996-2002 Ford E-450
RVs and Motor Homes
- 1995-2002 Ford F53 Motor Home
Warning Signs in Ford Vehicles
If you have one of these vehicles, you should seek to find out if it has been repaired pursuant to the recall. Your local dealer should be able to help you determine if the corrective wiring harness has been installed. If it has not, you should have your vehicle serviced under the recall as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the following are all potential warning signs that the cruise control switch in your Ford vehicle may be defective. If you notice any of these issues, you should seek help right away:
- Your cruise control is not working properly
- You notice brake fluid leaking in your engine bay
- You have a blown fuse near the switch
- The fuse for your cruise control cannot be opened
Ford Announces Separate Fire-Related Recall in 2012
In the Winter of 2012, Ford announced that it was recalling nearly 90,000 Fusion sedans and Escape SUVs due to an overheating issue that has caused at least 13 vehicles to catch fire. This was actually the fourth separate recall for the newly-released Escape model – and the third involving a serious risk of fire. In this instance, the problem stemmed from a defect that was causing the vehicles to overheat and leak fluid in the engine bay. Earlier in the year, Ford had recalled approximately 20,000 units for fire risks relating to coolant leaks and cracked fuel lines. Together, the recalls affect almost half of all Escapes sold in the United States in 2012.
Of course, all of this comes after what was previously one of the largest automotive recalls in U.S. history: Ford’s 1996 recall of 7.9 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches that caused vehicles to catch fire while sitting in park.
What to Do if Your Vehicle has Caught Fire
If you have experienced a vehicle fire, there are certain steps you need to take to help your claim. First, contact your insurance company to report the incident. Also, be sure to preserve the physical evidence of the fire so that your claim can be established. Be sure to take plenty of photos. You should also report the fire to the NHTSA. Finally, you should call Zehl & Associates toll free at 1-888-306-3636 to speak with one of our lawyers about your cruise control switch defect claim.
We have recovered over $1 Billion in compensation for our clients, including more than $50 million specifically for victims of Ford’s defective cruise control switches. Our firm is also responsible for the #1 largest auto accident verdict in the history of the State of Texas.
Speak with a Ford Cruise Control Defect Lawyer for a Free Consult: 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here
If your Ford vehicle has caught fire resulting in personal injuries or damage to your home or other property, the experienced Texas personal injury attorneys at Zehl & Associates can help you fight for maximum compensation. Contact us online to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.