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Ford Recalls 660,000 Explorers To Fix Roof Rail Problem

Ford continues with its policy of recalling vehicles to fix problems before any regulators can act. It is a responsible policy that should keep customers happy. This time the automaker has recalled about 660,000 Explorers to fix problem-troubled roof rails.


Ford has sold its vans and SUVs with roof rails for the longest time. Indeed, when I drove my Ford Windstar van some 20 years ago, I liked the fact that the automaker had installed them.

Roof Rail Covers Part Of The Deal

I never asked for them. The roof rails came as part of the deal. It made carrying and tying down things like outboard roof cargo storage pods relatively easy. Even in 2000, we used a lockable pod to keep our valuable items out of sight. However, for someone to get the items that we stored up there on the roof during our vacations would have been nearly impossible as they didn't have our keys. And, to try to get the pod off the van would have equally impossible.

Meantime, the ongoing Takata safety recall, the largest in history, has continued to plague automakers like Ford. Recently Ford recalled 2.6 million vehicles as part of the Takata recall.

That aside, the roof rails came in handy when we wanted to move things like mattresses when we moved. And, when the holidays came around, it made it easy to lug things like trees and other things – gifts, bikes, rockers, and all the rest – from either our relatives or to our home. The rails on the Windstar were quite convenient.

Ford has included roof rails for at least the last 35 years on its vehicles. Now, the automaker has announced a safety recall to fix problems with them. Ford has issued a safety recall for certain 2016-2019 Explorer vehicles for roof rail problems.

The automaker noted in a release today that roof rail covers could become detached from the vehicle while driving. This creates quite a hazard for others on the road. Imagine driving behind an Explorer that has a roof rail cover problem. Suddenly, the rail becomes loose and detaches itself from the vehicle. Any vehicle traveling behind the Explorer could face a problem with having a roof rail cover smashing down through the windshield.

Potentially A Big Problem

As you can see, this situation would leave the drivers following the Explorer with potentially lots of front-seat damage. Even worse, if the roof rail cover smashes through the windshield, it could injure the drivers and/or passengers of trailing vehicles.

The affected Explorer models include base and XLT trim levels, Police Interceptor, and Explorer Sport models. The roof rail covers are silver or black. The recall affects 620,483 models in the U.S. and its territories, 36,419 in Canada, and 4,260 in Mexico.

Ford says that it has not heard of any crashes or injuries caused by this problem.

Ford will begin contacting customers late next month. Dealers will inspect the roof rails and secure them with plastic push pins. Dealers will also replace any damaged rail clips, and roof fail covers as necessary, free of charge.

Customer Contact Numbers Listed

The Ford reference number for this recall is 21S22. Owners may contact Ford customer service at 866-436-7332. Customers may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236. Or, customers can log onto the agency's website at Ford's reference number for this program is 21S22. The NHTSA reference number is 21V316.

Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise that I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not too many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in venues including Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, and others. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.