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NHTSA Defect Investigations for the 2003 Ford Explorer

The Office of Defects Investigations (ODI) is an office within the NHTSA which investigates serious safety problems in the design, construction or performance of vehicles. The NHTSA is authorized to order manufacturers to recall and repair vehicles, if the ODI finds a safety issue. NHTSA investigations for the 2003 Ford Explorer, both ongoing and closed, are listed below:

  1. SPARK PLUG EJECTION FROM CYLINDER HEAD NHTSA Defect Investigation #DP05005

    • Status:
      CLOSED
    • Date Opened: September 22, 2005
    • Date Closed: January 04, 2006
    • Recall: no recall issued

    Component(s): Engine And Engine Cooling
    Engine And Engine Cooling:Engine
    Engine And Engine Cooling:Engine:Gasoline

    Summary: On September 6, 2005, ODI received a petition requesting that the Agency investigate allegations of engine spark plug ejection in certain model year 1997 through 2004 Ford vehicles with Triton V-8 and V-10 engines.ODI received a total of 474 non-duplicative complaints on the subject vehicles where the complainant, or the dealer repairing the vehicle, reported that a spark plug detached from the cylinder and/or ejected from the engine.as of December 8, 2005, ODI is not aware of any allegations where the alleged defect resulted in a loss of vehicle control, a crash, an injury, or a fatality in any of the 10,319,810 subject vehicles.in addition, ODI is aware of only two incidents where the vehicle stalled without restart.information contained in the ODI consumer complaints and obtained from 72 telephone interviews with complainants showed the following:(1) 99% of the complaints were on MY 1997 to 2002 subject vehicles.(2) most the complainants reported hearing a loud pop while driving or upon starting up the vehicle followed by a loud, repetitive clicking or popping sound.(3) many of the complainants reported that the popping sound was accompanied by some loss of vehicle power; however, in 99% of the incidents reported, the vehicle did not stall.in the very few incidents where the vehicle did stall, most vehicles could be restarted.(4) only a small percentage of the complainants cited that they smelled gas or a slight burning smell when the incident occurred.(5) in all but a very few incidents, vehicle damage was limited to the engine.in one incident, the complaint reported that the fuel rail was damaged and replaced after one of the spark plugs ejected from the engine; however, the complainant reported that the damage did not result in any type of fuel leak or fire.in another incident, the only incident where a fire was alleged, the complainant reported that no fluid leak was observed, but that a fire resulted after the spark plug had ejected from the engine and he had restarted the vehicle and driven to another location.none of the complainants reported any damage to the vehicle hood.(6) only two complainants reported that they observed what appeared to be some drops of fuel coming from the cylinder where the spark plug had failed or on the spark plug itself; however, each of these complainants reported that there was no smoke or flames as a result of his incident.as the petitioner noted, and ODI's analysis showed, it is possible for a spark plug to detach from the engine cylinder threads in the subject vehicles.however, ODI's analysis of 474 complaints describing such incidents found only a very few alleged any safety-related consequences.none of these showed any evidence of a serious safety consequence.given the large population and relatively long exposure time of the subject vehicles, the complaint analysis indicates that the risk to motor vehicle safety from the alleged defect is very low.in view of the foregoing, it is unlikely that NHTSA would issue an order for the notification and remedy of the alleged defect at the conclusion of the investigation requested in the petition.therefore, in view of the need to allocate and prioritize NHTSA's limited resources to best accomplish the Agency's safety mission, the petition is denied.

    NHTSA: For detailed information & supporting documents, see the official NHTSA page concerning investigation #DP05005 »

  2. Vehicle Rollaway Allegations NHTSA Engineering Analysis #EA09013

    • Status:
      CLOSED
    • Date Opened: August 18, 2009
    • Date Closed: February 12, 2013
    • Recall: no recall issued

    Component(s): Power Train:Automatic Transmission:Gear Position Indication (Prndl)
    Power Train:Automatic Transmission:Lever And Linkage:Column Shift
    Steering
    Steering:Column
    Steering:Column Locking:Anti-Theft Device

    Summary: This investigation is being closed based on several considerations.By the most inclusive counting of all alleged rollaway incidents (i.e., counting all alleged rollaway incidents and assuming a singular failure mechanism), the incident rate is low, however during EA09-013, ODI identified a number of different failure mechanisms in 180 incidents related to the alleged defect.The highest rate for any particular failure mechanism, the failure of the Automatic Transmission Parking System, was 4.4/100K.The next-highest failure rate was for the BSI System, at 3.4/100K.For all identified failure mechanisms there has been a drastically declining trend including very few incidents occurring in recent years.Accordingly, this investigation is closed.The closing of this investigation does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist.For additional information regarding this investigation, see the complete closing resume in the document file for EA09-013. The ODI reports cited above can be reviewed at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchNHTSAID under the following identification (ODI) numbers:10168454, 10279630, 10280078.

    NHTSA: For detailed information & supporting documents, see the official NHTSA page concerning investigation #EA09013 »

  3. VEHICLE ROLLAWAY ALLEGATIONS NHTSA Preliminary Evaluation #PE09020

    • Status:
      CLOSED
    • Date Opened: April 21, 2009
    • Date Closed: August 19, 2009
    • Recall: no recall issued

    Component(s): Steering
    Steering:Column
    Steering:Column Locking:Anti-Theft Device

    Summary: In response to an information request (ir) letter sent by the Office Of Defects Investigation (ODI), Ford stated consumer reports of higher than expected efforts when shifting into and out of park could be a result of a groove being worn into the swing arm ramp of the steering column. The swing arm is a component bolted to the steering column that assists in shifting through the transmission gears.an engineering evaluation conducted by Ford of returned steering columns found the groove could be created over time if consumer shift more quickly from the drive or reverse to park than the brake shift interlock (bsi) solenoid pin retracts after the brake pedal is applied. In November of 2004, Ford released a redesigned bsi solenoid with a shorter pin retracting time as a serviceable component. Ford has noted the shorter retraction time significantly lessens the likelihood of bsi solenoid pin to swing arm contact even with rapid consumer shifts.Ford also issued a technical service bulletin, tsb 04-22-12, to instruct service technicians on the proper diagnosis and vehicle repair. Reviewing complaints to ODI and data submitted by Ford, ODI has identified 200 alleged incidents of unintended vehicle movement after consumers believe they have shifted the vehicle into park, resulting in 85 alleged crashes and 32 alleged injuries.in addition to the reports of alleged incidents of unintended vehicle movement, ODI has also identified 883 reports of consumers alleging difficulty or the inability to shift the vehicle into park.this preliminary evaluation has been upgraded to an engineering analysis (EA09-013) to further assess the scope, frequency and risk to motor vehicle safety of the alleged defect in the subject vehicles.

    NHTSA: For detailed information & supporting documents, see the official NHTSA page concerning investigation #PE09020 »

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