The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is exploring complaints about fires occurring in 2015–18 model year Ford F-150 pickup trucks. The fires may have been caused by the truck’s seat belts.
Ford officials say they are cooperating with the query involving more than 2 million trucks. A Ford spokeswoman said the automaker takes “the safety of our customers very seriously. We are investigating the matter and will cooperate with the agency, as we always do.”
No recall has been ordered yet.
The investigation kicked off after NHTSA received five complaints after seat belt pretensioners made by ZF-TRW or Takata were activated. Pretensioners ready seat belts to gradually restrain seat occupants. Three of the trucks were destroyed by the fires. The other two fires went out on their own.
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According to NHTSA, the fires begin in a support pillar housing the belt, but investigators haven’t yet determined the exact cause of the fires. That device uses an explosive charge to tighten the seat belt to try and provide extra protection in a crash.
No injuries have been reported as a result of the fires.
One of the complaints came from a truck owner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who told NHTSA that on July 7, a deer ran into the driver’s side of a pickup, causing minor damage. The side air bags inflated, and after five to 10 minutes, a passenger noticed a fire on the bottom of the post between the front and rear doors where the seat belts are located.
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“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 where the seat belt restraint is located” the owner wrote. “The truck went up in complete flames in a matter of minutes and is a complete loss.”
In a different incident report in February, a police officer from Wisconsin wrote about an accident he investigated. “B-pillar started on fire, melting seat belt, most of B-pillar and parts of curtain and side airbags. Fire put itself out,” he wrote.
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The B-pillar is to the side and just behind the driver and front-seat passenger. No timeframe has been set for completion of the investigation.