1.4 Million F-150s May Be Recalled After Ford Investigated By NHTSA

After five owner complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation has opened an investigation of an alleged defect in Ford F-150 seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Yahoo News reports the owners claimed fires started in the trucks’ B pillars following crashes that caused the vehicles’ seatbelt pre-tensioners to be activated. Three of the trucks were totaled but the other two self-extinguished. No fatalities or injuries were reported.

Pre-tensioners lock seatbelts in place during a crash. Pyrotechnic pre-tensioners, which much be replaced after they are activated just like airbags, use small explosions to tighten loose seatbelts to protect passengers during crashes in addition to locking the belts in place. Not all pre-tensioners use pyrotechnics; others types use mechanical or electrical locking mechanisms. Pyrotechnic pre-tensioners are the most sophisticated because they both tighten and lock the belts.

The trucks involved in the report were 2015-2018 Ford F-150 Supercrew pickup trucks. The NHTSA estimated there are approximately 1,425,000 trucks with Supercrew-style cabs from those model years in the U.S.

The seatbelt pre-tensioners in the trucks were manufactured by either ZF TRW or — you know this one well by now — Takata. Takata filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after more than 100 million airbags supplied by the company were recalled worldwide by 19 automakers. Takata airbags were linked to 14 deaths and hundreds of injuries, due to metal pieces that burst into vehicle interiors when the airbag inflators exploded.

If the ODI determines a recall is necessary due to a defect in the pre-tensioners, the number of vehicles would likely grow quickly to include other automakers that use pre-tensioners from the same manufacturers.

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