The NHTSA has received almost 350 complaints about the engine cradle area of the 1998-2003 Ford Windstars exhibiting excessive rust and corrosion with the worst cases including cracking of the engine cradle leading to three accidents. When Ford recalled these same Windstars earlier this year over rust concerns on the rear axle assembly, the replacement parts were not yet available but along with the announcement of the extension of the NHTSA probe into the rust issues, Ford announced that the new rear axle parts should be available for installation early in 2011. This investigation applies to the exact same minivans recalled in August, so just shy of 494,000 vehicles are affected.
Like the rear axle recall, this new portion of the investigation applies to those Ford Windstar minivans located in the “salt belt” – 21 states where road salt is used to fight icy road conditions and unfortunately, road salt also causes iron and steel to rust as accelerated levels. The state of Utah was also included after the initial rear axle recall and we can assume that those vehicles are also included in the extended portion of the Windstar rust investigation.
According to the Detroit News, the 1998-2003 Windstar front suspension concern is not just related to the water and road salt that comes off of the road but there is also an air conditioning line located above the section of subframe alleged to be the problem area. Ford Motor Company has been actively investigating complaints of front subframe rust since July after receiving 87 complaints and with that number growing quickly over the past few months, the government has stepped in the lend a ‘helping hand’ to Ford in the investigation.
Should the NHTSA find that there is a significant safety risk pertaining to the front suspension and engine cradle area, we can expect a new or revised recall announcement for those who own the problematic vehicles. This issue does not seem to carry the severity of the rear axle concern but Ford has gone so far as to put Windstar owners in rental cars if the corrosion and rust damage to the rear suspension is severe enough and for those with only minor signs of rust, Ford is repairing those vehicles free of charge.
Source: Detroit News