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Christopher Smith

Ford Fumbles Fuel Fire Fix, Feds Find

Ford isn't having the best year when it comes to recalls. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investing the automaker. It's not about a potential vehicle problem, however. The investigation pertains to Ford's proposed fix to a problem.

On March 8, Ford issued recall number 23S16 (NHTSA recall number 24V-187) for a potential fuel leak. Escapes from the 2022 model year and Bronco Sports from 2022 through 2023 fall under the recall, which covers 42,652 vehicles all total. The the automaker says a fuel injector could crack on models using the 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine. If this happens, a fuel leak could develop in the head and potentially start a fire. Documents at the NHTSA state Ford is aware of five engine compartment fires and 14 warranty replacements of faulty injectors.

Gallery: 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Black Diamond Off-Road Package

Given the nature of the problem, one might think a straightforward fix would be to inspect and replace fuel injectors. But that's not part of Ford's current plan. Instead, recall 23S16 states the following:

"Dealers will update the engine control software to include fuel injector leak detection and install a drain tube, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in April 2024. Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332."

Additional documentation at the NHTSA provides a more detailed description:

"An updated engine control software will be installed to detect a pressure drop in the fuel rail, provide instrument cluster messaging to the customer to seek service, invoke a strategy to disable the high-pressure fuel pump, derate engine power output and reduce temperatures of possible ignition sources in the engine compartment.

A drain tube will also be installed to allow fuel to drain from the cylinder head drain hole, away from surfaces which may initiate combustion, to the ground below the vehicle."

Now, the feds are asking whether the automaker is taking enough steps to adequately address would could be a very dangerous situation. NHTSA Action Number RQ24008 was opened on April 11, identifying the aforementioned recall and stating it does not call for the replacement of cracked fuel injectors. The notice concludes by saying "ODI is opening the Recall Query (RQ) to evaluate the adequacy and safety consequences of the remedy described in recall 24V-187."

Ford's recall takes steps to help prevent a fire should a leak occur, but makes no mention of preventing leaks in the first place. Furthermore, the recall specifically refers to the drain tube directing fuel "to the ground below the vehicle," which may or may not raise eyebrows from an environmental standpoint.

We contacted Ford seeking comment on the recall and NHTSA's investigation. We'll update the post if additional information becomes available.

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