NHTSA Defect Investigations for the 2003 Ford Windstar

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 Windstar, both ongoing and closed, are listed below:

  1. INVESTIGATION: ENGINE COMPARTMENT FIRES

    NHTSA Preliminary Evaluation #PE08035

    • Status:
      CLOSED
    • Date Opened: May 13, 2008
    • Date Closed: September 17, 2008
    • Recall: No recall issued

    Component(s): Electrical System
    Electrical System:Wiring
    Vehicle Speed Control

    Summary: ODI has received 134 consumer complaints, 285 manufacturer complaints, and 137 manufacturer warranty claims alleging incidents of engine compartment fire in model year (MY) 1995 thru 2003 Ford Windstar vehicles.two of the ODI complaints allege the fires caused structural damage to the complainant's home.of the 134 ODI complaints, 36 allege the fire occurred while the vehicle was parked, 72 allege the fire occurred while the vehicle was running and 26 of the complaints do not specify if the vehicle was running or not.further review of the ODI complaints shows that 72 allege that the speed control deactivation switch (scds) caused the fire and 10 allege that the scds leaked brake fluid on to the ABS module resulting in the fire.there were 52 that did not identify a cause or that identified miscellaneous other causes.ODI has also received 89 complaints ( not counted in this resume) alleging that the scds developed a brake fluid leak.thirteen of these complaints say that the leak at the scds resulted in braked fluid reaching the ABS module.this PE has been upgraded to an engineering analysis (ea) to further evaluate the cause of the fires and assess the scope, frequency, and safety consequences of the alleged defect.

  2. INVESTIGATION: Front Subframe Corrosion Failures

    NHTSA Preliminary Evaluation #PE10026

    Component(s): Structure:Frame And Members
    Suspension

    Summary: The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has identified 346 complaints to ODI and Ford alleging fracture, cracking and or excessive corrosion of the front subframes in model year (MY) 1999 through 2003 Ford Windstar vehicles.Approximately 97 percent of these complaints (334) involve vehicles that have been operated in Salt Belt states, which make up approximately 60 percent of the subject vehicle sales in the United States.The front subframe, sometimes referred to as the engine cradle, is a structural component of the Windstar vehicles that carries the engine, transaxle, steering rack and certain front suspension components (e.g., lower control arm).For complaints with sufficient information to identify the location of the failure, most describe problems with the rear mounting bracket for the front passenger-side lower control arm with some related to the rear body mount attachment located in the same general area of the subframe (right-rear section near the front passenger wheel).The remainder of the reports allege fracture of the front subframe at other or, most often, unspecified locations.Almost all of the complaints that specified the side of the vehicle indicated that the problem occurred on the right/passenger side (106), with only a few indicating the left/driver side (2) or both sides (3) were affected.Ford and several complainants attributed the right-side failures to the routing of the air-conditioning lines above the front subframe on that side of the vehicle, further noting that condensation has been observed dripping onto the front subframe in the area of the affected components (the A/C drain tube is also located on the right side, near the front subframe).ODI has identified 93 complaints related to lower control arm attachments, including 80 that appear to involve complete separations.All but one of these involved vehicles from Salt Belt states.All three crash incidents appear to be related to lower control arm separations, including one road departure into a road-side sign resulting in a totalled vehicle and a lane departure into another vehicle.Almost half of the ODI complaints related to control arm separation occurred at speeds greater than 20 mph and about a quarter occurred at highway speeds.Three-quarters of these complaints allege experiencing difficulty controlling the vehicle and about 40 percent appear to have resulted in departures from the intended lane of travel.Testing by both Ford and NHTSA have demonstrated that lower control arm separation from the rear attachment bracket results in significant toe out of the affected wheel, which affects the driver's ability to control vehicle direction.According to Ford, moderate braking improved vehicle controllability by reducing the amount of toe out, possibly explaining incidents that did not allege a loss of control.ODI's analysis of complaints related to the rear body mount identified 41 complaints (ODI only).These complaints generally report experiencing progressively worsening noise concerns when turning, accelerating or braking.Although, some of the complaints that appeared to involve a complete separation of the body mount alleged difficulty steering, the effects on vehicle control from this failure mode do not appear to be as great as those resulting from control arm separation.However, ODI is seeking more information regarding two complaints which alleged that body mount failure resulted in disconnection of the steering wheel from the steering rack (one occurred during vehicle service).This investigation has been upgraded to an Engineering Analysis (EA10-007) for subject vehicles sold or currently registered in Salt Belt states to further assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences of the alleged defect in these vehicles.ODI will continue to gather information about vehicles outside the Salt Belt as well.

  3. INVESTIGATION: Front Subframe Corrosion Failures

    NHTSA Engineering Analysis #EA10007

    Component(s): Structure:Frame And Members
    Suspension

    Summary: In a January 26, 2011 Defect Information Report, Ford Motor Company (Ford) notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it will conduct a safety recall to address corrosion related fractures in the front lower control arm rear attaching brackets and body mount attachments at the rear of the front subframe in approximately 425,288 model year (MY) 1999 through 2003 Ford Windstar vehicles manufactured from April 1998 to July 2003 and either sold or currently registered in the following high corrosion (Salt-Belt) states:Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin (NHTSA Recall No. 11V-030, Ford Recall No. 11S16).According to Ford, separation of a front lower control arm rear attaching bracket may result in a lower control arm separation and separations of both front subframe rear body mounts may result in separation of the steering intermediate shaft.Either condition could result in diminished vehicle directional control, increasing the risk of a crash.Dealers will inspect the lower control arm rear attachment flanges and the rear body mount sections of the subframe on the right (passenger) and left (driver) sides of the vehicle.Owners of vehicles that pass the inspection will be notified when to return for installation of reinforcement brackets to extend the durability of the front subframe assembly in affected areas in the presence of corrosion.Owners of vehicles that do not pass inspection, but can be repaired, will be offered transportation until parts become available.Repurchase offers will be extended to owners of vehicles that cannot be repaired with the reinforcement brackets.This investigation is closed.

  4. INVESTIGATION: Rear Axle Cracking

    NHTSA Preliminary Evaluation #PE10016

    Component(s): Suspension

    Summary: In a letter dated August 26, 2010, Ford Motor Company (Ford) submitted a Defect Information Report notifying NHTSA that it will conduct a safety recall (NHTSA Recall No. 10V-385) to address a rear axle defect in model year (MY) 1998 through 2003 Ford Windstar vehicles built at the Oakville assembly plant from September 1, 1997 through February 28, 2003 and either sold or currently registered in high corrosion (Salt-Belt) states where the use of salt and other corrosive chemicals may be used to treat snow/ice covered roads.The following states are included in Ford's recall:Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The subject vehicles utilize a Stamped/Formed axle assembly manufactured by Benteler automotive Corporation of Galesburg, MI.According to Ford, after many years of vehicle service in the Salt-Belt states, corrosion can weaken the rear axle, making it susceptible to torsional stress.There is a risk that the combined effects of corrosion and stress can lead to cracks which, if undetected, can propagate and result in a complete fracture of the axle.A completely fractured axle can affect vehicle handling and increase the risk of a crash.To correct the safety defect, Ford will initially inspect all of the subject vehicles brought into Ford/Lincoln-Mercury dealerships for possible cracked axles.Owners of vehicles without cracked axles will be notified when to return for the installation of reinforcement brackets to extend the axle durability in the presence of corrosion.Owners who have vehicles with cracked axles will either be offered a repair or alternative transportation until parts become available. On May 13, 2010, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened PE10-016 to investigate complaints of rear axle cracking in MY 1999 through 2003 Ford Windstar minivans.Combining ODI and Ford complaint data, ODI is aware of a total 891 complaints alleging rear axle cracking in the subject vehicles.Over a third of the complaints (334) allege that the cracking progressed to a complete fracture of the rear axle, including 8 allegations of crashes resulting in 3 injuries. Approximately 57 percent of the subject vehicles (524,661) were sold in Salt-Belt states covered by Ford's recall and Ford estimates that approximately 463,000 of these remain in service.Ninety-six percent of the complaints (858) and all of the complaints alleging complete fracture were from the recall region.The action taken by Ford is sufficient to resolve the issues raised by this investigation.Accordingly, this investigation is closed.

  5. INVESTIGATION: Rear Axle Fracture Recall Scope

    NHTSA Defect Investigation #DP10005

    • Status:
      CLOSED
    • Date Opened: December 15, 2010
    • Date Closed: December 21, 2010
    • Recall: No recall issued

    Component(s): Suspension:Rear:Axle:Non-Powered Axle Assembly

    Summary: On November 5, 2010, NHTSA received a Defect Petition from the owner of a MY 2003 Ford Windstar vehicle registered in the state of New York requesting that the scope of Recall 10V-385 be expanded to include additional MY 2003 vehicles experiencing the defect condition.The petitioner initially filed a complaint (VOQ 10345125) with ODI on July 25, 2010, two days after the axle failure.The complaint was subsequently amended and the petition filed after the consumer was denied compensation and repair under the recall.ODI has identified a total of five complaints from owners of MY 2003 Ford Windstar vehicles in Salt Belt states that were built after February 28, 2003, Ford's original cutoff date for 10V-385.On November 30, 2010, Ford submitted a letter supplementing recall 10V-385 (Ford 10S13) to add certain vehicles to the program.Ford's analysis of parts and information from the field showed: 1) that the revised heat treated axle introduced in production on February 28, 2003, may still have the potential for cracks due to corrosion related stress; and 2) that vehicles operated in Utah may be exposed to the same combination of environmental factors that can make them susceptible to cracks from stress related corrosion.Based on this analysis, Ford expanded the scope of 10V-385 to include MY 2003 vehicles built after February 28, 2003 and sold or currently registered in Salt Belt states and MY 1998 through 2003 vehicles sold or currently registered in Utah.Ford estimated that approximately 29,900 vehicles in the expanded scope may currently remain in service.Based on the above amended defect report submission, the petition has become moot and is therefore denied.

  6. INVESTIGATION: ENGINE COMPARTMENT FIRES

    NHTSA Engineering Analysis #EA08021

    Component(s): Electrical System
    Electrical System:Wiring
    Service Brakes, Hydraulic
    Service Brakes, Hydraulic:Antilock
    Service Brakes, Hydraulic:Antilock:Control Unit/Module
    Vehicle Speed Control
    Vehicle Speed Control:Cruise Control

    Summary: EA08-021 is closed with Ford's actions in recall 09V-399 recalling approximately 4.5 million vehicles equipped with Texas instruments speed control deactivation switches (scds).with this recall Ford has now recalled all of the approximate 16 million Ford model vehicles that were manufactured from MY 1992 through 2003 with a Texas instruments scds.NHTSA will continue to monitor the recalled vehicles to ensure remedies installed by Ford tomitigate the potential for scds related fires are effective.the Agency reserves the right to take further action if warranted by the circumstances.see attached closing report for further details.

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