WASHINGTON – Ford Motor Co. recalled more than 400,000 Windstar minivans in cold-weather states on Wednesday to fix brackets and mounts which could separate from the vehicle's subframe and cause a driver to lose control.
The recall, the latest quality issue to afflict older Windstars, covered 425,288 minivans from the 1999-2003 model years sold or registered in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Ford said there had been seven crashes and five minor injuries connected to the recall.
Ford has recalled more than 600,000 of the minivans in the U.S. and Canada since August to address rear axles that can corrode and break. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has been investigating corrosion problems in the minivans from the 1999-2003 model years. The Transportation Department said Wednesday that the minivans were still under review by the agency.
The recall affects brackets and mounts connected to the front subframe, which carries the engine, transaxle, steering rack and front suspension. NHTSA said in a posting on its website that if the mounts separated from the frame, a driver could experience reduced steering control.
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The recall is limited to states where road salt is used during the winter. They include: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The minivans received increased attention after a 28-year-old Massachusetts man was killed in October when the rear axle of his Windstar cracked in half, sending the vehicle crashing into a building. The family of Sean Bowman said they were not informed of the recall by Ford until a week after the crash.
NHTSA issued a consumer advisory in November asking owners to bring their vehicles to a dealership immediately to be examined for signs of rear-axle corrosion. NHTSA said then that only about 75,000 recalled minivans had been brought to dealers.
In the latest recall, Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said the Dearborn, Mich., auto company had received fewer than 100 complaints over the corrosion issue with the subframe. "These high-mileage, older vehicles have provided dependable, safe service for tens of billions of miles," Sherwood said.
Ford said it would notify affected owners in mid-February and dealers would inspect the vehicles and install reinforcement brackets as parts become available. The company said if the vehicle does not pass inspection before parts are available, Ford would provide a rental vehicle. If a dealer determines that the front subframe cannot be repaired, the company said it would offer to buy back the minivan.
Owners can contact Ford at (866) 436-7332.