Ford recalls 2M F-150s due to seat belt fire risk

Keith Laing
The Detroit News
Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Ford is recalling about 2 million F-150 pickups, 2015 through 2018 model years, in North America because the seat belts can cause fires.

Ford Motor Co. is recalling nearly 2 million F-150 pickup trucks in North America, including 1.6 million in the U.S., because of a seatbelt flaw that can lead to fires.

The Dearborn carmaker and the National Highway Traffic Administration said the recall, which was announced on Thursday, follows an investigation that revealed some front seat belt pretensioners can generate excessive sparks when they deploy.

Ford said the recall covers vehicles that were made in the 2015 through 2018 model years. The company said it includes approximately 1,995,776 vehicles in North America, with 1,619,112 vehicles being located in the United States, 339,884 in Canada and 36,780 in Mexico.

NHTSA said Thursday that it launched an investigation of the F-150 after it received five complaints from vehicle owners that alleging fires involving the pickup’s seatbelt pretensioner. Three of the vehicles the agency received complaints about were destroyed by fire, while two were able to be extinguished. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Ford said it is aware of 17 reports of smoke or fire in the United States and six in Canada. The company also said it is not aware of any accidents or injuries as a result of the problem.

“When sufficient sparks are present, gases exhausted inside the lower portion of the B-pillar by the pretensioners may ignite,” Ford said in a statement. “If this gas ignites, components behind the B-pillar such as insulation and carpet may subsequently catch fire.”

One driver of a 2018 Ford F-150 SuperCab whose identity and location where not released by NHTSA complained to the agency on Aug. 30 about the vehicle’s seatbelt catching fire after a front-end collision.

“While driving at an unknown speed, the contact was involved in a front end collision. The air bags deployed. There were no injuries. A police report was filed,” the agency said in a summary of the complaint. “Upon inspection, the police noticed that the front driver side seat belt was on fire. It was not disclosed how the fire was extinguished. The vehicle was towed to a collision shop; however, the contact did not disclose if the vehicle was destroyed.”

Another 2018 SuperCab driver in Milo, Mo. complained in April about the sideboard of the pickup catching fire after a collision with a deer.

“While driving 55 mph, the contact crashed into a deer and the driver’s side floorboard caught on fire,” the agency said in a summary of the complaint. “The air bags deployed. A police report was not filed. No injuries were sustained. The contact's wife extinguished the fire. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where the contact was informed that the seat belt pretensioner was the cause of the fire. The vehicle was repaired.”

Ford said its dealers will remove insulation material from the B-pillar trim of the F-150’s seatbelts, remove remnants of wiring harness tape in the B-pillar area, and apply heat-resistant tape to the carpet and its insulation. It said dealers also will modify the back interior panels of Regular Cab F-150s.

Ford said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the recall is estimated to cost the company about $140 million, which will be reflected in its third quarter 2018 results. The company said its full-year 2018 adjusted earnings per share is expected to remain in the range of $1.30 to $1.50.