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Ford recalls 2 million of its top-selling F-150 pickups because of fire risk

Ford said the seatbelt system used on some F-150 models “can generate excessive sparks when they deploy,” which could lead to a fire.
by Paul A. Eisenstein /
Ford F-150 pickup trucks on a sales lot on May 10 in Miami.Joe Raedle / Getty Images
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Ford is recalling nearly 2 million of its popular F-150 pickups because of a seatbelt problem that could result in smoke, and possibly even a fire, inside the vehicle.

The F-150 is part of Ford’s broader F-Series line-up of full-size trucks that collectively make up the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., with demand growing sharply over the last several years.

The problem involves a device known as a pretensioner, which uses a small, pyrotechnic charge, much like those found in airbags. But, in this case, they are designed to cinch a passenger’s seatbelt tight when a crash is detected to reduce the risk of injury or death.

Unfortunately, according to Ford, the seatbelt pretensioner system used on some F-150 models “can generate excessive sparks when they deploy.”

Complicating matters, gases created by the pretensioner “may ignite,” Ford said in a statement, adding that “if this gas ignites, components behind the B-pillar, such as insulation and carpet may subsequently catch fire.”

The B-pillar is the post that separates a vehicle’s front and rear doors.

Ford sells an F-150 about every 30 seconds.

Ford says it is aware of 17 reports of smoke or fire in F-150s sold in the U.S., and another six involving trucks sold in Canada. It also noted that it did not know of any accidents or injuries caused by the defect.

Of the total 1.995 million pickups covered by the recall, 1.619 million were sold in the U.S.; North America is the primary market for the F-150, though some of the trucks are shipped to Latin America, the Middle East and a handful of countries elsewhere.

The vehicles involved in the recall include those 2015 to 2018 model-year pickups produced at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan, plant from March 12, 2014, to Aug. 23, 2018, as well as those assembled at a plant in Kansas City from Aug. 20, 2014, to Aug. 23, 2018.

The automaker will send out a recall notice to owners in the coming weeks and will make repairs at no charge. In a federal regulatory filing, it estimated the service campaign will cost it about $140 million.

The F-Series has not only been the best-selling truck in the U.S. for the past three decades, but the most popular vehicle overall. Demand totaled 896,764 last year, with Ford selling one of the pickups, on average, every 30 seconds. The trucks also make up Ford’s most profitable product line, according to company data.

The F-150 is just one of the vehicles recalled because of the risk of fire in recent days. Earlier this week, Toyota announced it was recalling more than 1 million hybrids worldwide due to a wiring defect, including about 200,000 Prius hybrids sold in the U.S.

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