Ford Recalls 550K Trucks Over Transmission Malfunction Risking Crashes

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In a major operation, Ford is pulling back more than 550,000 of their best-selling pickup trucks from the American market. The F-Series vehicles, famous for their wide acceptance and popularity stateside, have developed an alarming flaw where the truck’s transmission can abruptly shift into first gear on its own, irrespective of speed.

This disconcerting malfunction plagues models specifically from the 2014 production batch. In a set of documents released Tuesday, Ford elucidated that this involuntary gear downshift could potentially lead to drivers having no control over their vehicles, subsequently amplifying the likelihood of crashes.

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The recall follows a March investigation initiated by U.S. auto safety regulators. They were responding to allegations that over half a million Ford pickup trucks from 2014 could haphazardly downshift to a lower gear, thereby creating a hazardous driving environment that sharply increases the threat of collisions.

As per the investigation documents, the root cause of the problem has been traced to a failed connection between a transmission speed sensor and the powertrain control computer. The functionality of this connection could be hampered by corrosion or issues with connector pins.

In response to the situation, Ford dealers plan to upgrade the powertrain control software for the affected vehicles, entirely free of charge to owners. Notifications about this planned action should arrive by early July via mail.

Ford issued a statement on Tuesday, stating it aims to have repairs available to all affected users by the third quarter of this year. Owners will have the comfort of using mobile servicing or accessing pickup and delivery services at associate dealerships.

From the documents posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Tuesday, it is clear that Ford has received 396 warranty and field reports on the issue, and 124 complaints, targeting a total of 482 trucks.

Further, Ford has claimed cognizance of 130 official complaints with 52 of those suggesting that the rearmost wheels locked up or drivers lost total control of their trucks. Two of such cases include reported injuries, with one potential crash being attributed to the problem.

It seems that before these pickup trucks experience a downshift, a malfunction light appears on the dashboard. In some instances, the normal signals can be regained while the truck is in motion, facilitating normal driving. In other situations, drivers may be forced to halt and restart their engines to reset the transmissions.

Ford postulates that less than 1% of the recalled vehicles would face this issue. The NHTSA asserts that they began their probe in March, based on complaints about the unexpected downshifts in the trucks’ automatic transmissions.

The agency is also contemplating if these trucks could have been a part of previous recalls for the same problem. Since 2016, the company has issued recalls for affected trucks and other vehicles from production years 2011 and 2012, expanding the recall in 2019 to cover additional vehicles from 2011 to 2013. These recalls amounted to approximately 1.5 million vehicles.

NHTSA and Ford are working conjointly to answer the questions raised from the investigation.