WASHINGTON – Ford Motor Co. (F) on Wednesday recalled 3.8 million pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles for a cruise control switch suspected of causing engine fires. It is the fifth largest auto industry recall in U.S. history.
Ford said the recall of 1994-2002 model-year vehicles includes the company's hot-selling F-150 pickup truck (search), Ford Expedition (search), Lincoln Navigator and Ford Broncos. The company said it would start sending out recall notices to vehicle owners immediately.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (search) and the No. 2 U.S.-based automaker have been investigating complaints of engine fires linked to the switch.
NHTSA has received more than 550 complaints of engine fires from the cruise control switch. There have been allegations of three deaths in cases cited in news reports or lawsuits in Iowa, Georgia and Arkansas.
The affected vehicles include: 1994-2002 model F-150s, 1997-2002 Expeditions, 1998-2002 Navigators and 1994-1996 Broncos equipped with factory-installed speed control.
"We have a solution that fixes the problem and we're confident that this is going to be the right remedy," said Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley.
Ford said its inquiry found that brake fluid could leak through the cruise control's deactivation switch into the system's electrical components, leading to potential corrosion. The corrosion could lead to a buildup of electrical current which could cause overheating and a fire.
Dealers will install a fused wiring harness to act as a circuit breaker in the system. The company said the harness would cut off electrical current to the switch if the current increases.
The concerns over the engine fires led to a recall in January of nearly 800,000 vehicles from the 2000 model year.
The Ford F-series truck has been the best-selling full-size pickup for nearly three decades. In July, when the company offered its employee discount to all buyers, Ford's F-series set a record for the highest monthly sales of any vehicle since the 1920s with total sales of 126,905 trucks, or an average 4,880 each day for the 26 sales days that month.