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Ford finds software fix for engine fire problems

Image: Ford Fusion
Ford's new 2013 Fusion faced two recalls this month.Ford Motor Co.

Ten days after announcing the recall of nearly 90,000 Escape crossovers and Fusion sedans, Ford has announced it has come up with a fix to prevent potential engine fires in those vehicles equipped with the maker’s popular 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine.

Ford acknowledged it did not have a solution in hand when the recall was announced earlier this month but it stressed the urgency of a problem that had been linked to more than half a dozen vehicle fires after their engines overheated and spilled coolant onto hot engine or exhaust components. 

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The fix comes in the form of a software update that will better manage engine operations during what Ford described as “a unique overheating condition that could occur under unique operating conditions.” While the fix appears to be simple to implement, Ford has advised owners not to drive their vehicles until dealers can make the necessary repair.

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“We remain absolutely committed to continuously improving and providing the highest-quality vehicles to our customers. When a potential issue is identified, we act promptly on behalf of our customers, as we did this time,” said Raj Nair, Ford Group Vice President, Global Product Development. 

The overheating problem appears to occur under an unusual situation where coolant pressure drops precipitously.  The maker says some motorists have had warning messages, such as “Engine Power Reduced to Lower Temps” or “Engine over temp, stop safely,” flash on the vehicle’s information screen prior to a fire.  Others have said their instrument clusters sounded a chime and illuminated a red light.

Only vehicles with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine are affected by the recall.

The incident is nonetheless a serious setback for two of Ford’s most important vehicles – both completely updated for 2013. It is, in fact, the fourth recall for the new Escape, three of which were related to potential fire problems.  

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The Fusion, meanwhile, faced news of a second recall last week, this one due to headlamps that could lose focus and/or brightness over time.

Making matters worse, the hybrid version of the new Fusion – as well as the Ford C-Max Hybrid – has come under investigation by the EPA to see if its fuel economy rating is accurate. Last week, Consumer Reports magazine issued a study indicating the two hybrids fell notably short of the 47 mpg rating the EPA previously granted the vehicles.  

This story first appeared on The Detroit Bureau.