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Own A Ford Truck? Beware Spontaneous Combustion

Last night our entire neighborhood was awoken around 1:30AM by the sounds of fire engines, sirens blaring, racing down our quit street. Two houses down a car parked in the driveway was engulfed in a ball of flame. The car was a Ford Expedition and the resulting fire left all of the assembled neighbors a bit confused. How and why does a car just catch fire in the middle of the night for no apparent reason?

This morning a little Google research indicates that it's an all too familiar occurrence. From a February 2006 article at Consumer Affairs:

Despite a massive recall announced in September, Ford trucks are continuing to catch fire and burn -- some of them covered by the recall, some not.


The September 2005 recall involved an estimated 3.8 million Ford trucks from the 1994-2002 model years; it included the Ford F-150 pickup as well as the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator and Ford Bronco SUVs.

But the recall is moving slowly. Ford says replacement parts are not yet available. Meanwhile, trucks continue to burst into flames and -- in many cases -- Ford representatives stonewall the affected consumers despite the recall, according to reports filed with ConsumerAffairs.Com.

Adding fuel to the flames, recent fires suggest additional Ford trucks are afflicted by the flaw that led to Ford's reluctant and long-delayed recall.

A read of these consumer nightmarish experiences was particularly instructive, as collectively it pretty much described what happened in to our neighbor last night.

If you own a Ford truck you definitely should think twice about parking it in a garage, and possibly about whether it's worth the risk of owning...


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Comments (25)

Holy Crap! Christmas mornin... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Holy Crap! Christmas morning was started in my neighborhood by my neighbor two doors down having his F150 burnt to a crisp. I didn't realise it was happening a lot...wow...wait until I tell him...

I would wait for the report... (Below threshold)
Rick13:

I would wait for the report from the fire department. Maybe he just owed someone money!

I'm glad my ord Ranger isn'... (Below threshold)
BrianOfAtlanta:

I'm glad my ord Ranger isn't on the list. I had a friend whose Bronco 2 had a fire in the dash back in the late 80's. Another recall.

I work in accident reconstr... (Below threshold)
sanka:

I work in accident reconstruction, specifically in fire causation. We have had a few of these cases come through our offices. Not only do people lose their trucks, but often their houses and lives. If you own a Ford truck, heed the recall warnings on this, there are very real consequences.

I've got a 93 F150. Been he... (Below threshold)
wave_man:

I've got a 93 F150. Been hearing this since I bought the truck. Replacements are $20, but in short supply right now.

Has anyone checked to see i... (Below threshold)
Hal Duston:

Has anyone checked to see if Dateline had cameras in the vicinity?

Has anyone checked... (Below threshold)
kbiel:
Has anyone checked to see if Dateline had cameras in the vicinity?

They no longer use incendiaries to make up the news. They've moved on to trying (unsuccessfully) to make incendiary situations.

A guy I know used to refer ... (Below threshold)

A guy I know used to refer to his Ford Explorer as the Ford Exploder. Now I know why.

Unfortunately, it is a real... (Below threshold)
_Jon:

Unfortunately, it is a real risk.
In summary, it's a switch that links the cruise control to the brakes. Fluid could leak out and start the fire.
In defense of Ford, there is a slim chance of it happening and most trucks are too big for garages anyhow.
Even sadder, however, is that the switch is common to many, many vehicles - not just Ford. Any vehicle that uses that design of monitoring brake pressure to determine if the cruise control should be cancelled is at risk. It is my understanding that design was chosen because GM had a patent on the all-electronic design. So the other manufacturers came up with an alternative.

Interestingly, Ford & GM are going to cross-license their Cruise Control (GM) and Intermittent Wipers (Ford).

Thankfully, I've got a Ford... (Below threshold)

Thankfully, I've got a Ford Ranger, and without cruise control, but it's good to get a little publicity on this. Thanks.

In summary, it's a... (Below threshold)
In summary, it's a switch that links the cruise control to the brakes.

Heh. My '96 Bronco has the cruise control wand but it doesn't do anything. I wonder if it had been disabled by a previous owner due to the recall?

Though, strangely enough, my previous Bronco -- an '81 -- also had cruise control parts but they were disconnected when I got it.

On Auagust 16,2003, our 199... (Below threshold)
Dave Norman:

On Auagust 16,2003, our 1998 Ford Expedition caught fire in our driveway, even though the engine was off and the keys were not in it. The fire was so hot it liquified the aluminium head and melted engine parts into our driveway. It also caught our house on fire. Ford denied any responsibilty or defect, claiming it must have been caused by poor maintenance. They have spent well in excess of $50,000 on lawyers defending a $25,000 claim, despite the recall and over 618 Expedition and F-150 fires. Their response is even worse than the problem with the Explorer rollover, and they wonder why people don't buy Wm. Clay Ford's "The New Ford Motor Company" advertising campaign.

Two words: Fight Club - it'... (Below threshold)

Two words: Fight Club - it's all there.

It isn't my intent to disco... (Below threshold)
_Jon:

It isn't my intent to discount the dollar amounts on your lawsuit, but those lawyers are already on the payroll. It may have been $50,000, but it was $50k that would have been spent anyways.
Also, insurance companies worked out several years ago that any claim over $12,000 is worth fighting - no matter the cost.

The specific failure point is a switch that monitors brake fluid pressure and activates when the pressure increases (e.g. The driver presses on the brakes.) This switch is a "clamp around" design in that it is round, like a small pop-can (but smaller), with a brake line on one end and a wire connector on the other.

There are two failure-models associated with the use of this switch:
As wear occurs, the clamping lip weakens and the brake fluid can leak out around the seam. Unfortunately, this switch is directly over an engine part that gets hot and is surrounded by flammable elements. Brake fluid is *highly* flammable. Even a warm exhaust can cause ignition of leaking fluid. However, the placement of the switch, manifold, and combustibles varies between vehicles and options on vehicles. So two nearly identical trucks may not have the same problem - it can depend upon the position of the layover loom or movement when the air filter is replaced for maintenance.

The second failure model is internal to the switch itself. This is a Texas Instruments item. (They are not highly rated in terms of quality, but they are trying to keep their toe in the business and expand - so they are cheap.) With age, the internal cylander wears and fluid can seep around it at make direct contact with the contacts at the other end of the switch. Because this wire has power regardless of the vehicle's ignition position, it is "hot" and a seeping fluid can cause a short. The resulting over-heated wires can cause a fire.

In both cases, the faulty unit (e.g. the switch) is destroyed in the resulting fire.

The fault is not entirely TI's - they built the switch that was spec'd. Given costs, one can understand why Ford uses this part. It has reached end-of-life on *millions* of vehicles without incident. The cost to ensure every part that could conceivably result in an issue would survive it's entire life cycle would result in cars the average buyer couldn't afford.

Realistically, we all accept risk with every product we purchase at the price we purchase it for.

In the above-mentioned cases, Ford should just bite the bullet and quietly settle with the owners if the vehicle is within a certain time frame. Beyond that, they should issue a life-cycle directive indicating that this is a wearable part and should be replaced every X miles.

[None of this information is confidential - all is available via public sources.]

As for the comment regarding Explorer - it really is an issue of the driver reacting incorrectly. I have seen the test videos. If the driver follows common sense behaviors, the vehicle remains safe - even in adverse conditions (water, turning, overloaded, etc.). But I have seen the same tests result in disaster with smaller cars (not even trucks) when the wrong actions were taken.
[The tests consisted of using a vacuum tank to suck the air out of a tire, simulating a rapid loss of pressure.]

Junior is a good man. His heart is in the right place. Fixing his company is a task that no person may be able to accomplish. But no auto company has anything more in mind than making a profit. With Junior's name on the wall, he has a strong motivation to do what he feels is right. Which is a lot more than can be said for a company that isn't a family-run business.

Thanks for letting me post.

MY 2002 F-150 BURST INTO FL... (Below threshold)
LISA WILLIS:

MY 2002 F-150 BURST INTO FLAMES IN MY CARPORT ON SEPT 22,2005. TOTAL LOSS OF TRUCK, HOUSE, AND ALL
CONTENTS. I RECEIVED A RECALL NOTICE ONE WEEK AFTER THE FIRE. FORD TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY. EVEN THOUGH TRUCK WAS SEVERELY BURNED, SOMEHOW THEY SUPPOSEDLY REMOVED THE CRUISE AND HAD IT XRAY'D AND FOUND NO MALFUNCTION. I HAD NO PREVIOUS PROBLEMS WITH THE TRUCK. PLEASE DON'T THINK THIS COULD NOT HAPPEN TO YOU.
WE WERE LEFT HOMELESS FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AS THIS HAPPENED THE DAY BEFORE HURRICANE RITA HIT LA.
MAYBE ONE DAY ENOUGH PEOPLE WILL GET TOGETHER TO FIGHT FORD. FOR NOW THEY KEEP DISMISSING US ONE AT A TIME.

This is real!! My 1995 Ford... (Below threshold)
Sam Eastman:

This is real!! My 1995 Ford F-150 XL had been sitting in the parking lot at work for over 6 hours when I got a call that my truck was on fire. Fortunately, the fire department was just next door, and they were able to save it from getting into the cab, but the entire front end is melted down, especially on the driver's side, just above the wheel. I had gotten the recall, but was in the process of moving, and didn't get a chance to act on it yet. I called Ford, and they took my information, and told me that a Consumer Affairs rep would contact me in writing in 7-10 business days. From what I have read so far, I don't hold out much hope for compensation, and since no one and nothing else was damaged, no class action lawsuit will represent me. But I do have several offers for a few hundred dollars for the parts!
ACT ON THE RECALL!!!!

A friend of mine in Renton ... (Below threshold)
Rob:

A friend of mine in Renton WA owns a Ford F150 pickup truck that caught fire in the middle of the night, just a few days ago, when he was sleeping. By the time he woke up in the morning, his truck was completely burned. All non-metallic parts in the cab were consumed by the fire, and so were the canopy and part of a big, old tree next to his truck. It could've been worse, had he parked his truck in his garage. How and why does a truck just catch fire in the middle of the night for no apparent reason? The Renton Fire Department claimed the fire occured because of a "spontaneous combustion". In other words, they blaimed the fire on my friend. Apparently, many Fire Departments are unaware how often fires are started by Ford trucks.

My husbands car was one tha... (Below threshold)
Tracy Garner:

My husbands car was one that burst in flame and it was parked at home. Thank God it wasn't parked inside the garage.

Recently we received a check for $46.00 for a settlement.

Please email me and let me know if there is an attorney that I could have a consultation regarding this case.

I just lost my 1997 Ford F-... (Below threshold)
Greg DeDamos:

I just lost my 1997 Ford F-150 to a fire that started in the engine compartment. Luckly no one was hurt! I was on vacation in Las Vegas at Excalibur Hotel & Casino. The fire is still being under investigation by my insurance co. Don't

My 1994 Ford Ranger caught ... (Below threshold)
joe:

My 1994 Ford Ranger caught fire and burned last night. I had been using a lot of brake fluid and the battery would die if I did not drive it at least every other day. This had been going on for years. It does not have cruise control but I wonder if the leaking brake fluid had something to do with it. Luckily it was in the driveway.

That switch never needed to... (Below threshold)
SR:

That switch never needed to be a hydraulic component, and someone at Ford clung to the design for many years after the first failures. Kapton was a wretched choice of material, (the USAF removed thousands of feet of it from fighters-it fails in AIR, let alone under brake fluid!) and a mechanical switch actuated by the brake pedal would have avoided the problem entirely. Check out fordtrucks.com and other similar sites for pics and owner experiences.
I will never reconnect my deactivation switch, because a fusable link does not solve the inherent problem with the idiotic design! I bid at dealer auctions, and there are in impressive number of fried Fords whose burn patterns (when there is enough left to leave a pattern) totaled by fire. Decent vehicles, but if your CAR or TRUCK has a hydralic switch of this style on the master sylinder is is subject to leakage and fire. Disconnect it and look into the switch with a bright light. The website photos will show you what a failing switch looks like.

My 2002 Expedition burst in... (Below threshold)
allan:

My 2002 Expedition burst into a ball of flames in front of my office this week for no reason at all. I have had my car into the dealership and thought the switch was corrected. Obviously not. These cars are dangerous and owners should consider getting another safer vehicle. Fords response was miserable.

My car burst into flames in... (Below threshold)
broshep:

My car burst into flames in the parking lot of my high school as students watched in amazment.Out a car as it as totaled,I now walk around school during lunch in humiliation because of Ford. Damn you Ford, damn you to hell.

On 1-27-08 at approx. 3:00 ... (Below threshold)
Dwight Billingsley:

On 1-27-08 at approx. 3:00 AM , my wife and I were awakened by a loud explosion outside of our rural home. I went to investigate and found my 2000 F250 on fire. Initially the flames were coming from the drivers side front wheel area. I immediatley called 911 and fire crews were dispatched to my location. Fire crews arrived approx. 15 minutes later but the truck was fully engulfed at the engine area and inside the cab. Fire fighters quickly extingushed the fire but the truck was completely destroyed with the exception of the bed and rear axle and wheels.
The truck had been parked where it burned since around 7:00 PM the previous evening and the outside temp. was around 30 degrees.
After doing research on this particular truck and engine fires that were being investigated, I found that this ahs been an ongoing problem for Ford Motors. I have never reieved any type of recall notice or TSB notification about the fire dangers with the cruise control suspected. Although I purchased the truck used , Ford Motors still has an obligation to track the VIN and current owners of such problems. Now I sit with no transportation and after reading other alike horror stories concerning insurance , I feel this is going to be a long road to replace my truck. Repair is out of the question.
My truck was the 4 door Lariat Edition 4 X 4 with a 7.3 diesel, approx. mileage 145K.
Anybody with simular truck and experience please post.

Last night my husband's Dod... (Below threshold)
Jen:

Last night my husband's Dodge Diesel Ram 3500 burst into flames at 5:30 AM. We awoke to an explosion. The car had been parked since 8:15 the previous night. The whole front cab and engine area were engulfed. The car is totalled. My car next to it caught on fire too. The FD put them out in the nick of time. Any experience with Dodge?




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