Federal auto regulators are investigating Ford F-Series pickup trucks in response to driver complaints that the power tailgates on some 2017 models can openly unexpectedly while driving, posing a safety hazard.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation says it has received five complaints about the tailgate problem. The reported defect potentially affects thousands of 2017 Ford F-250, F-350, and F-450 Super Duty models.
NHTSA authorities are looking into the “scope, frequency and safety consequences of the alleged defect.” The agency says that a power tailgate that lowers unexpectedly could cause cargo to fall out of the truck bed, creating a potentially deadly road hazard.
According to Auto Blog, one of the Ford pickup truck owners who submitted a complaint said the tailgate had dropped on its own 17 times while the vehicle was traveling 65 mph, damaging the tailgate and the trailer. Other owners reported similar problems.
“Initially, Ford blamed customers for accidentally pushing the tailgate opening button on the keyfob, but it has since issued a service bulletin in October 2017,” Auto Blog reported.
According to NHTSA, Ford’s Oct. 16, 2017 service bulletin “acknowledged the issue and finds water intrusion in the wire harness as the root cause.”
The tailgate defect, which some of the Ford drivers used bungee cords to correct, also makes the backup camera inoperable.
No safety recall of the Ford trucks has been issued. However, if NHTSA and the automaker determine a recall is needed, it could affect about 300,000 Ford F-Series Super Duty models. Ford’s sold about 897,000 2017 F-Series pickup trucks, making it the most popular vehicle in the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
NHTSA has recently investigated other reported defects in Ford F-150 pickups. One probe of fires stemming from seat belt pretensioners led to a recall last month of 2 million F-150 trucks. Another probe of brake failure defects in certain F-150s led to a 2016 recall, but drivers say the problems persist, even in newer models.