Posted on Friday, October 12th, 2018 at 1:36 am
Owners of F-150 trucks manufactured between 2015 and 2018 were last month recalled as a result of a seat belt pretensioner fault. The fault could potentially cause a fire in combustible material inside the vehicle if not dealt with.
One might wonder just how a seat belt could set an F-150 alight. Ford trucks are a common sight on Texan roads, as they are elsewhere across the U.S. and Canada. It is the Regular and SuperCrew cab models that have been recalled, which number around 2 million in the U.S. with a third of a million more in Canada and around 34,000 in Mexico.
This is not the first time that a supposed safety feature has caused a problem. Vehicle owners have already witnessed several recalls of air bags over the last few years, so what’s wrong with these seat belts?
The defect in the pretensioner
Apparently, it’s a malfunction in some of the pretensioners fitted. A pretensioner, for anyone who isn’t aware of its existence, is a small component fitted under the seat belt clip which contains a small explosive device. If pressure is suddenly put on it as might happen during a crash, the explosive device lets off a charge which causes the belt to tighten on the wearer. Similar, but not identical small explosive devices are part of the airbag system, causing the airbag to expand when there is a crash situation. The explosives are thought to increase the response time when there is a crash. In the case of the airbag it ensures that the airbag inflates in the split second that is available before the passenger or driver flies forwards. The same applies to the seat belt, except that the tightening of the clip holds the wearer more firmly in one place.
The malfunctioning components have been observed letting off smoke when they shouldn’t be. Only around 20 have been definitely observed to be faulty, but this is enough for Ford to make the call to recall all trucks fitted with this type of pretensioner. The main fear that Ford has is not so much the smoke let off from the pretensioners, but the fact that there have been some sparks seen emitted as well. The recalled vehicles are being refitted with better insulation in the back cab panels and the B-pillar and carpet just in case some of the sparks set off a fire in the cab. This could cause serious burning injuries as well as a severe headache in terms of personal injury claims for Ford itself.
Ford and the NHTSA have asked F-150 owners not to meddle with the pretensioners or the insulation themselves, even if returning their vehicle seems a hassle. The modifications are done free.
Takata involved again
2015 to 2017 Ford trucks of the type recalled had pretensioners fitted manufactured by Takata, a company involved in the largest vehicle recall in U.S. history. By the time all vehicles with defective Takata made Alpha air bags have been recalled, over 70 million will have been involved. To jog the memory of those who weren’t involved in the Takata recall, but heard about it, the defective air bags exploded on inflation causing nasty burns to anyone sitting behind them.
Luckily, this time around, no-one has yet been injured by pretensioner faults as far as the NHTSA is aware. Ford truck pretensioners are now no longer made by Takata. The 2018 model truck parts are now made by a German company, ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
If you have any questions about a vehicle recall, especially if you think you have noticed a defective part, talk to a defective part attorney at our San Antonio Lawyer’s office here in San Antonio. The contact number is 833-210-4878.