Less than a week after Ford issued a recall for 231,000 vehicles due to a coolant problem that has led to engine fires, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced its reviewing the action because the proposed repair may not be a viable solution to the problem.
“The agency will take appropriate action as necessary,” an agency spokeswoman told The Associated Press in a statement.
On March 29, Ford announced it was recalling vehicles equipped with 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder engines, which pose a potential fire hazard. If the coolant runs low, the engine may overheat. When that happens, the engine block can crack.
In some cases, oil will seep through that crack and catch on fire. The automaker reported 29 instances of it happening, although no injuries or deaths have been attributed to the problem. Ford’s remedy is to install a coolant sensor to inform owners that they need to add more coolant.
(Ford recalls more than 230K vehicles for coolant problem. Click Here for the story.)
However, AP asked several auto repair experts about the suggested fix and they informed the news organization that coolant shouldn’t be running low in new vehicles and wondered if the automaker was simply shifting responsibility to vehicle owners for something the automaker should resolve.
“All you’re doing is monitoring a symptom, not solving a problem,” said John Nielsen, managing director of automotive engineering for AAA. “A healthy engine doesn’t leak coolant at all. Ever.”
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Elizabeth Weigandt, a company spokeswoman, says the installed sensor solves the safety problem.
“You would stay informed as to how much coolant you have in the engine,” she said. “That would address the unique risk of the cylinder head cracking.”
The new sensor would turn on a dashboard warning light, she noted. Compounding the issue is that the sensor needed isn’t widely available. If the sensor isn’t available, Ford recommends checking coolant levels often and refilling as needed, and is providing that information in letters to owners.
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The vehicles with these engines include the 2013-2014 Fusion built at the Hermosillo, Mexico, factory, 2014-2015 Fiesta ST, 2014 Escape and the 2013-2015 Transit Connect.