Ford is recalling about two million of its F-150 pickup trucks after receiving multiple reports of the explosives-activated seatbelt pretensioners starting fires inside the vehicles.
The recall, announced Sept. 6, covers certain 2015-2018 Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab F-150 models. According to Ford, the problem stems from the pretensioners at the base of the seatbelt on both the driver and front passenger seatbelts.
The pretensioner mechanisms in the recalled models rely on small explosives that ignite during a crash, forcing the seatbelt to tighten and restrain the occupant. Some pretensioners, mainly in older vehicles, rely on a spring mechanism to perform the same function.
“Ford’s investigation found that some front seat belt pretensioners can generate excessive sparks when they deploy,” the automaker said in a statement, adding that the sparks could ignite the surrounding insulation or carpet, resulting in smoke and/or fire.
Ford said it has received 17 reports of such incidents in the United States, resulting in smoke or fire but no injuries. Another six reports of Ford F-150 fires linked to the faulty pretensioners have occurred in Canada, also without injury.
According to Ford, most of the affected F-150s are in the U.S. Canada has more than 339,000 of the trucks. Mexico has nearly 37,000.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started investigating the seatbelt-related fires after receiving five reports of them from F-150 drivers. Two of the pretensioner fires resulted in local damage and self-extinguished. The other three fires completely consumed the vehicles, resulting in a total loss.
According to the Associated Press, one U.S. driver reported that they struck a deer that ran in front of the truck, deploying the airbags. Shortly afterward the driver noticed a fire had broken out near the seat belt. The occupants were able to exit, but the F-150 truck “went up in complete flames in a matter of minutes and is a complete loss.”
The F-150 trucks affected by the recall include:
- 2015-18 Ford F-150 vehicles built at Dearborn Assembly Plant, March 12, 2014, through Aug. 23, 2018;
- 2015-18 Ford F-150 vehicles built at Kansas City Assembly Plant, Aug. 20, 2014, through Aug. 23, 2018.
Ford said it is providing repairs to the seatbelt pretensioners at no charge to the owners.