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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating reports of braking issues in 2007-09 Ford Fusions and Mercury Milans believed to have caused three crashes.

NHTSA received 141 reports of “sudden, unexpected increases in stopping distance” believed to have been caused by problems in the anti-lock braking system hydraulic control unit. In some of the reports, the brake pedal would go “soft” after the ABS engaged while braking on slippery, rough or uneven surfaces.

Drivers reported the brake pedal “going to the floor” in some instances, and the brakes required increased pressure by the driver to stop the car.

“In some cases the driver is unable to stop within their desired stopping distance,” according to the NHTSA investigation, which was opened Dec. 20. “Complainants have also reported going past the expected stopping points for stop signs or red lights, some have reported being out into the flow of traffic before being able to bring the vehicle to a stop.”

Ford Motor Co. in a statement Tuesday said, “We’ll cooperate with the agency on its investigation, as we always do.”

NHTSA believes the anti-lock braking system experiences an internal malfunction causing “an inability to maintain required baking pressure.”

Reports say the brakes correct themselves after some time. Some reports indicate a recurring problem, while others indicate the replacement of the ABS hydraulic control unit fixes the problem.

The NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation has associated three crashes with the brake problem. The investigation was opened “to assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequence of the alleged defect.”

The Fusion and Milan were recalled in June for defective Takata air bag inflators that can explode and throw shrapnel. Nearly 70 million air bags with defective inflators have been recalled; they were installed in vehicles from 19 manufacturers.

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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