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NHTSA adds front suspension to Ford Windstar investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a probe and subsequent recall into excessive rust issues on the rear axle housing of the 1998-2003 Ford Windstars and now the NHTSA has taken it one step further, adding the front suspension to the list of corrosion concerns for the aging Ford minivans.

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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

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Andrea Sadocha (not verified)    May 4, 2011 - 4:43PM

I have a 1999 Ford Windstar that I just brought in for the rear axel recall early this week. I got a phone call saying the subframe is cracked and completely rusted so it is no longer safe to drive. Ford did give me a rental car for five days but will buy the car back from me as it is unsafe to drive.

Disapointed (not verified)    January 24, 2012 - 8:13PM

My Virginia 2002 Windstar had its rear axle replaced at no charge to me due to a visable crack. At the same time the dealer installed four bolt on front cradle braces. One of the right side braces was installed so close to the exaust pipe that it made a terrible rattle. The dealer then worked on it some more and screwed up the wheel alignment(steering wheel crooked) but did not stop the rattle. Since then a loud clunk developed in the left front end when making a right turn. An independent garage found a loose motor mount bolt! The clunk is now gone but the rattle from the right side brace hitting the exaust pipe remains. Who is going to be responsible damages(exaust fumes in the cabin) when the brace rubs a hole in the exaust pipe??