Almost 500,000 Ford Escapes Being Recalled

Escape Recall Spurred by Sad Death of Arizona Teen

The Ford Escape for model years 2001 to 2004 is being recalled because of a faulty design that could cause unintended acceleration. Photo (c) Ford

Almost half-a-million Ford Escapes were recalled because of potential problems with unintended acceleration, which apparently can be real in some cases.

That last line is a reference to the unintended acceleration problems that Toyota had. That involved true phantom acceleration as in cars that mysteriously accelerated when no true cause was ever shown.

Ford has identified a reason for the acceleration problems in the 2001 to 2004 Ford Escape, which is why the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched its recall.

According to the NHTSA recall notice #12V353, the potential number of Ford Escapes affected by the recall is 423,634. It's only for models with the 3.0-liter, V6 engine. Four-cylinder engine Ford Escape models are not affected by the recall.

The Mazda Tribute, the kissing cousin of the Ford Escape during the same time period, is also subject to a similar recall with a like number of vehicles, according to AutoMD.com. That recall on a percentage basis is actually probably much larger.

The mechanical demon in this instance is the speed control. According to NHTSA, on V6 engines and speed control manufactured from October 22, 1999, through January 23, 2004, there was inadequate clearance between the engine cover (that hard plastic found on most engines now where once there was nothing between the engine and the hood) and the speed control cable connector.

In terms of the legalese of a recall notice where things "could" be bad as opposed to "will" be bad, this problem could result in a struck throttle when the accelerator (what most mortals call the gas pedal) is fully or almost-fully depressed.

This risk exists regardless of whether or not speed control (cruise control) is used.

When does that happen? It could occur when you are accelerating onto the highway or passing another car. Also, sometimes the speed control (or cruise control) can accelerate hard when climbing hills. Any situation where you nee fast acceleration could result in the stuck accelerator.

Here is the official pronouncement of doom and gloom from NHTSA: "A stuck throttle may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop or slow the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death."

According to the Detroit News, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week said it was investigating Escapes and related Mazda Tributes after receiving 99 complaints, including reports of 13 crashes, nine injuries and one fatality - a 17-year-old girl who died in January in Arizona. Sixty-eight of the complaints were for Escapes."

ABCTV15 in Arizona investigated the sad story of Saige Bloom from Payson, Ariz. As the station reports on its website, "The problem described by Ford is what the ABC15 investigators uncovered under the hood of 17 year-old Saige Bloom's 2002 Ford Escape last month. Ford's recall announcement cites the accident in January of this year and the investigation of her car in June. The Payson teenager was driving the Escape for the first time in January when the vehicle accelerated out of control. Saige avoided hitting any other cars until she clipped a grey sedan. Her vehicle flipped three times and she was thrown from the car.

Saige died in a hospital hours later."

The ABC15 website has a way drivers might be able to avoid problems if the unintended acceleration occurs. It says, If drivers do experience a stuck throttle, Fords tells us that they should "firmly and steadily apply the brakes without pumping the brake pedal, shift to neutral, steer the vehicle to a safe location, shut the engine off and place the transmission in "park" after the vehicle is safely stopped." Of course the same is true with the Mazda Tribute, too.

According to NHTSA, "Ford will notify owners, and dealers will repair the vehicles by increasing the engine cover clearance, free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin on, or before, August 6, 2012. Remedy parts are expected to be available in mid-August 2012. Until then dealers will disconnect the speed control cable as an interim remedy, if parts are not available at the time of an owner's service appointment.

Owners may contact Ford at 1-866-436-7332.

"Ford's recall campaign number is 12S37. Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to SaferCar.gov

Don't buy a used Ford Escape (or used Mazda Tribute for that matter) until the recall work has been done. Up to 3% of used cars a year are sold without recall work being done, which could represent about 1 million used cars or more annually.