— More than 1.4 million Ford F-150 SuperCrew trucks are under federal investigation after reports of seat belt pretensioners causing fires in B pillars during crash events.
In a crash, seat belt pretensioners help to secure an occupant in their seat quicker than the blink of an eye. They pull the occupant into a seated position in an effort to ensure the occupant makes proper contact with the airbag.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it has received five reports about fires that occurred during crashes of 2015-2018 Ford F-150 SuperCrew trucks.
"I rear ended another vehicle at around 35mph. The front airbags deployed. Within 2 minutes we noticed that the truck was on fire. The fire originated at the bottom of the driver side b pillar. Myself, one witness, and one law enforcement officer all saw where the fire started. The truck front and cab were totally burned up within 5 minutes."
"During a head on collision the airbags attempted to deploy though did not, instead the drivers pillar airbag system caught fire, melting through the seatbelt sending flames up the side of the drivers seat, which prevented the fuel disconnect system from engaging as well it did not dial 911 from the connected phone as it should have after the crash."
Another F-150 driver said they were driving when a deer ran into the driver-side of the truck and caused the side curtain airbag to deploy. The driver pulled over and called 911, and about 10 minutes later the driver started the F-150 engine and the real problem was discovered.
"While attempting to start the vehicle, the passenger went to remove a purse from the back passenger side seat and noticed a fire on the bottom of the post between the front and rear door and where seat belt restraint is located. Immediate evacuation was needed and a second 911 call was placed. The truck went up in complete flames in a matter of minutes and is a complete loss."
NHTSA received another report that came not from the driver but from the investigating officer for the F-150 crash.
"I am investigating officer not vehicle owner. Observed that post moving 2 car intersection crash and airbag deployment, b-pillar started on fire, melting seat belt, most of b-pillar and parts of curtain and side airbags. Fire put itself out. Owner was not injured but concerned. Heat appeared to have melted seat belt through, air bags were burnt."
One more complaint occurred from a crash just a few months ago as the F-150 was making a left turn when it was hit by another vehicle.
"There was a collision damage sustained to the right bedside of the vehicle caused by the vehicle due to vehicle impact. In addition, all airbags deployed and a fire started in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Farmers insurance hired a 3rd party investigation company and concluded that the damages are mainly due to manufacturing defects with airbag and electrical system."
NHTSA says two fires went out on their own while three trucks were completely destroyed by the fires. Safety investigators know the reports claim the fires occured inside the B pillars, and the government knows the seat belt pretensioners are made by two companies: ZF TRW, and Takata.
However, NHTSA doesn't know the order of events that cause pretensioner fires in the B pillars.
The 2015-2018 Ford F-150 investigation will attempt to answer that question and determine if a recall of 1.4 million trucks should be ordered.
CarComplaints.com has owner-reported complaints about the model year trucks included in the seat belt pretensioner investigation: