Ford recalls: Is your SUV, minivan on the list?

Ford recalls older Escape SUVs and Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey for separate safety problems. Fire and loss of power problems triggered the Ford recalls.

John Hillery/Reuters/File
A Ford Explorer leaves the Ford Motor Co. headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., in this 2001 file photo. In separate Ford recalls involving 450,000 vehicles, the automaker is preparing to alert owners of older Escape SUVs and Freestar and Monterey minivans of potential problems with loss of power and fires.

Ford is recalling some 450,000 older SUVs and minivans for rare problems that could create a sudden loss of power or a car fire.

The second problem is serious enough that if you own a 2001 or 2002 Ford Escape, the automaker suggests that you keep it parked outside to reduce the remote risk of a fire spreading to your garage or home.

“These vehicles have been on the road for 10 years,” says Daniel Pierce, safety communications manager for Ford Motor Co., which will begin sending out recall letters Jan. 23 urging Escape owners to have their vehicles checked. “In the interim, we’d recommend parking the vehicle outside of your garage.”

Some 245,000 Escapes are involved in the one recall. The other recall, triggered by a a faulty torque converter output shaft that could cause a sudden loss of power, involves all 2004 and 2005 models of Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans, nearly 206,000 vehicles. Ford plans to alert Freestar and Monterey owners by letter in the second quarter of the year.

With both Ford recalls, owners will be able to schedule an appointment with a dealer and have the work done free of charge. The Escape check and repair can be handled in a couple of hours, Mr. Pierce says. The minivan repairs can be taken care of in one day depending on when the car is dropped off.

The Dearborn, Mich., automaker is urging owners in each recall to bring their vehicles in to dealers because the torque converter problem in the Freestar and Mercury is undetectable and can happen suddenly. The corrosion that can lead to fires in the Escapes is difficult for motorists to detect.

The Escape recall was triggered by a couple reports of fires caused by a faulty cap on the brake fluid reservoir. The cap can leak, causing the fluid to spread to an electric connector of the antilock brake system (ABS) and create a possible electrical short. “In some cases, the ABS module could overheat, smoke, or catch fire,” Pierce says. Ford is not aware of any accidents or injuries caused by the reported fires.

Only 2001 and 2002 Escapes are being recalled because Ford changed to a new cap in subsequent models.

Ford was alerted to the torque converter output shaft problem in Freestar and Monterey minivans after reports of two accidents, one involving minor injuries, Pierce says. The shaft can suddenly fail, which means the engine can no longer propel the minivan forward or backward. Drivers can have the impression their in neutral as they're driving down the highway.

But power brakes and power steering are still available. “The vehicle will coast and during that time you can maneuver it safely and park,” Pierce says. “You just can’t slam on the gas.”

Owners with questions can call their local dealer or Ford’s toll-free number: 866-436-7332.

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