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Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it is recalling 423,000 Fords, Lincolns and Mercurys because the electric power-steering assist can fail while driving, make them more difficult to steer.

Four minor crashes are linked to the problem, Ford said, but no one has been injured.

The following vehicles are being called back: 2011-13 Ford Taurus and Flex, and Lincoln MKS and MKT; certain 2011-12 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles; and some 2011 Mercury Milans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in October opened an investigation into 938,000 models of the Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and 2010-11 Mercury Milan after reviewing 508 complaints of steering issues in the vehicles and reports of four crashes.

“In some cases, the condition was corrected by turning the vehicle off and restarting. However, many reports indicate the condition returned again after restart,” NHTSA said.

Ford said the vehicles can have a problem in the electrical connection in the steering gear that might result in the loss of electric power steering assist while driving. “If this happens, the steering system defaults to manual steering mode, making the vehicle more difficult to steer, especially at lower speeds. This could result in the increased risk of a crash,” Ford said.

The recall includes 393,622 vehicles in the United States, 25,195 in Canada and 3,997 in Mexico.

Dealers will perform one of two service fixes, depending upon whether certain diagnostic trouble codes are present. They will either update software for the power steering control module or replace the steering gear.

Separately, Ford is recalling 19,500 new 2015 Ford Mustangs with a 2.3-liter engine in North America because high underbody temperatures can cause fuel leaks and parking brake problems.

Ford says extended exposure to higher underbody temperatures could degrade the fuel tank and fuel vapor lines, which could lead to a gasoline leak and fire. Extended exposure to heat also can degrade parking brake cable seals and cause the parking brake to malfunction.

Ford is not aware of any accidents, injuries or fire. Dealers will replace the fuel tank shield with a new shield with better insulating capability, install thermal patches on the fuel tank and parking brake cable, and install thermal wraps on fuel vapor lines.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com

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