Federal safety regulators are investigating Ford F-150 Supercrew pickup trucks after receiving driver complaints of a potentially defective seat-belt assembly that starts fires during or immediately after a crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) said it received five reports from Ford F-150 owners that the seatbelt pretensioners, which regulate slack in the seatbelt and lock in place during a crash, stated fires in the “B pillar” that houses the belt.
Although no injuries or deaths were reported, three of the Ford F-150 trucks were completely incinerated by the seatbelt fire. The other two trucks were extensively damaged.
“The truck went up in complete flames in a matter of minutes and is a complete loss,” one of the F-150 owners told NHTSA, according to Consumer Affairs.
In its description of the problem, NHTSA said that “during a crash, deployment of the seat belt pretensioner may result in a fire inside the B pillar at the seatbelt floor anchor.”
According to Digital Trends, Ford uses “pyrotechnic pretensioners” in the seatbelts of the affected Ford F-150s.
“Pyrotechnic pretensioners, which must be replaced after they are activated just like airbags, use small explosions to tighten loose seatbelts to protect passengers during crashes in addition to locking the belts in place,” Digital Trends explains. “Not all pretensioners use pyrotechnics; other types use mechanical or electrical locking mechanisms.”
The allegedly defective parts were made either by German supplier ZF TRW or the notorious Japanese auto parts maker Takata, which filed for bankruptcy last year after recalling more than 100 million dangerously defective airbags.
The seatbelt fire hazard affects model year 2015-2018 Ford F-150 Supercrew pickups. No recall has been announced at this point. However, if NHTSA determines a recall is needed for safety reasons, Ford would have to recall about 1,425,000 of the trucks.