NHTSA Expand Investigation Into 708,000 Ford Vehicles Over Engine Failures

NHTSA Expand Investigation Into 708,000 Ford Vehicles Over Engine Failures
Ford Motor Co. displays a 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck at the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. September 17, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Oct. 2 it was expanding its investigation into 708,000 Ford Motor Co. sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks built with a faulty valve that could lead to catastrophic engine failures.

The agency says that under normal driving conditions vehicles without warning may experience a loss of power due to catastrophic engine failure related to a potentially faulty valve in 2.7 L and 3.0 L EcoBoost engines.

The investigation includes vehicles from the Ford Bronco, Edge, Explorer, and F-150 and Lincoln Aviator and Nautilus model years 2021 and 2022.

NHTSA began a preliminary evaluation in July 2022 into 25,000 vehicles after receiving complaint letters from three consumers petitioning for an investigation over the 2021 Ford Bronco 2.7-liter engine.

The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation(ODI) found that Ford received 328 customer complaints, 487 warranty claims, and 809 engine exchanges relating to the vehicles. No crashes or injuries were reported.

The agency is now upgrading the probe to an engineering analysis.

“During the investigation,” NHTSA said, “multiple contributing factors were identified which can lead to the fracturing of the intake valves in the subject engines.”

Ford acknowledged that a fractured intake valve can result in catastrophic engine failure and a loss of motive power. The company noted that a vehicle typically requires a full engine replacement following a valve fracture.

Ford told ODI the defective valves were manufactured out of an alloy known as “Silchrome Lite” that can become “excessively hard and brittle if an over-temperature condition occurs during machining of the component.”

Ford said a design change in October 2021 changed the intake valve material to a different alloy. The company added that defective intake valves generally fail early in a vehicle’s life, and most of the failures have already happened.

The automaker said in a statement Monday that it’s working with NHTSA to support the investigation.

The safety regulator will evaluate failure rates for the affected engines and review the effectiveness of Ford’s manufacturing improvements designed to address the problem.

Following the preliminary evaluation, the NHTSA will either conclude the investigation or proceed to the next phase. If they find a safety-related defect, the agency may implement a recall.

Although no official recall has been issued for this investigation as of October, Ford leads the auto industry in recalls overall. In 2023 alone, the company issued 44 recalls, affecting 4.6 million vehicles.

Separately, the Mustang Mach-E was previously investigated for a similar problem. The electric crossover had potentially defective contactors on the high-voltage battery that could overheat after DC fast charging. This may lead to a loss of power and increase the risk of an accident.

Quality Control Fixes

Ford CEO Jim Farley admitted that quality control is a major concern and has promised to prioritize fixing these issues, Ford Authority reported.

“Fixing quality is my No. 1 priority,” he said at a meeting for the Ford Retired Engineering Executives group. “It is the most important initiative in the whole company. And it’s going to take several years. We didn’t lose it in just one or two years. Until we fix quality, nothing else matters.”

Reuters contributed to this report.