On October 26, 2009 Ford Motor Company recalled 4.5 million vehicles to repair cruise control deactivation switches. A cruise control deactivation switch is designed to turn off the cruise control in response to the driver applying pressure to the brakes. The switch, which is designed to remain powered regardless of whether the vehicle ignition is on or off, is located in close proximity to the brake fluid reservoir. There is a very thin membrane that separates the flammable brake fluid from the electrical components inside the switch. Numerous fires have broken out, most likely as a result of a crack the membrane between the switch and brake fluid reservoir allowing brake fluid to seep into the switch and come into contact with the powered electrical components. The switch itself is manufactured by Texas Instruments. It has been estimated that well over 500 fires have been caused by the faulty cruise control switch, many of them resulting in injury and, in some cases, death.
The Ford Windstar minivan was first sold in 1995. Ford undertook a major redesign between 1998 and 1999. The last model year for the Windstar was 2003. In spite of the large number of vehicles recalled, it is Ford’s position that the only vehicle that poses a safety risk as a result of the defective switches is the Windstar. According to the Defect Information Report submitted by Ford to NHTSA:
Ford is conducting a voluntary safety recall involving certain 1995-2003 model year Ford Windstar, 2000-2003 Ford Excursion diesel, 1993-1997 and 1999- 2003 Ford F-250 SD through F-550 SD diesel, 1992-2003 Ford E-150 through E-550, 1995-2002 Ford Explorer, 1997 and 2002 Mercury Mountaineer, 1995-1997 and 2001- 2003 Ford Ranger, and 1994 Ford F-53 vehicles equipped with the Texas Instruments speed control deactivation switch (SCDS). Ford IS making a safety-related defect determination for the Windstar vehicles. We have not made a safety-related defect determination for the other vehicles included in this recall, but are including them to avoid any future concerns related to a potential fire risk resulting from the Texas Instruments SCDS either from the agency or from our customers
This recall comes on the heels of a 2008 recall for the same problem. All included, Ford has now recalled over 14 million vehicles to install a fused harness which it believes will prevent further problems with the cruise control deactivation switch.