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U.S. Auto Safety Expands Probes into Ford Windstar Corrosion

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On: Mon, Dec 27, 2010 at 12:47PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

U.S. Auto Safety Expands Probes into Ford Windstar Corrosion

The latest automotive news from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is that federal safety regulators are expanding the probe of Ford Windstar minivans for corrosion. These complaints are all coming from states with harsh winters that use salt to melt snow on the road. For folks in places like California, Texas, and Florida, there isn’t an issue with this type of corrosion.

The investigation is targeting some 550,000 Windstar minivans made between 1999 through 2003. The NHTSA posted on their website that its engineering analysis of these vehicles has reached an “advanced stage of its ongoing investigation.”

Ford is taking the matter seriously and has already recalled over 600,000 of these minivans that were sold throughout the United States and Canada. The corrosion from the road salt has been shown to cause problems for the rear axles with some extreme cases of these axles actually breaking. Imagine something as sturdy as a minivan axle actually breaking apart because of salt.

The NHTSA is also widening its investigation to include inspection of the front axles as well. Additionally, Windstar owners have complained about the routing of air-conditioning lines on their minivans which also appear to be corroding from the salt. To date, there have been only three crashes and one injury related to this matter that have been reported to the agency.

Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said the company is cooperating with the NHTSA investigation. “We are working with the government on their investigation of the front subframe,” Sherwood said. James Vondale, the Ford safety director, told the NHTSA that the “failure rate for the Windstars is particularly low when considering the age of the vehicles (some have been in service for up to 12 years) and the tens of billions of miles they have accumulated.”

This hasn’t been the only problem lately for the Ford Windstar. Back in October of 2009, Ford recalled over a 1.7 million Windstars because of a government investigation that discovered a risk of fire because of defective cruise control deactivation switches.

Ford let its dealers know that they would buy back some of those damaged Windstars if the axle corrosion is an issue. For the rest of the car owners, Ford expects to have replacement axles standing by in the beginning of 2011.


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