NHTSA Investigating Steering Defect in Ford Sedans

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a preliminary investigation into safety issues related to the steering systems of Ford sedans. The issue was raised after concerns over safety issues regarding steering shafts on about 500,000 Ford vehicles.

Ford Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and Marauder sedans from model years 2004 through 2007 may be affected by these steering issues. The steering problems are related to degrading heat shields on these Fords. According to NHSTA, the heat shields may rust and impede proper steering as time passes. NHTSA was made aware of the issue after five customer complaints were submitted about steering concerns.

So far, there is no formal recall, but one may be issued if the investigation determines that this problem is a wide concern. Ford has thus far said that it will cooperate with NHTSA investigation and has declined further comment.

Rust Problems with Ford Sedans

The inciting incident for this investigation occurred in April, 2014. A 2004 Crown Victoria rolled over after the steering locked. The resulting accident in the Detroit area caused neck and lower back injuries to the driver. According to the driver, the heat shield was found underneath the car after the accident, and it had apparently rusted off. The problem was attributed to salt corrosion.

In the other complaints received by NHTSA, drivers stated that steering had become very difficult to control, to the point that “bodily force” was required to turn the steering wheel. These problems may also be attributed to rusting problems.

In the agency’s official announcement of the preliminary investigation, NHTSA voiced worries over a “separation of the lower steering column shaft from the upper steering column shaft resulting in a loss of steering control.” The investigation will look into how big of a problem this may be, and if the defect is attributable to design flaws or simple wear and tear in less than optimal conditions.

This is not the first rust-related problem reported for these vehicles. Over 300,000 Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis sedans were recalled in August 2013 in states where salt was heavily used on roads. A defect in these vehicles could corrode the lower intermediate shaft. This eventually could cause a collapse of the upper intermediate steering shaft at a serious risk to the driver. This recall was a result of another NHTSA investigation sparked by 22 customer complaints to the agency.

NHTSA is now conducting an independent engineering analysis to determine if there is a harmful defect. In several months, NHTSA should make recommendations based on the outcome of the analysis or possibly issue a recall.