Falling Ford Pickup Tailgates Draw Federal Safety Probe

Falling Ford Pickup Tailgates Draw Federal Safety Probe

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Government regulators opened an investigation this week into why some Ford heavy-duty pickup truck power tailgates are falling open.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into the problem, which affects 2017 Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks. 

Ford issued a technical service bulletin in October 2017 that warned dealers of a possible water leak that could affect the wiring harness that operates the power liftgate. A service bulletin has instructions from automakers to its dealers on how to handle a problem with their vehicles.

The investigation covers 54,400 trucks, according to NHTSA, and could lead to a recall.  

NHTSA reported that it received a complaint from an F-250 owner from Oxnard, Calif., saying his tailgate had fallen open 16 times between November 2016 and May 2017, often while he was hauling cargo and pulling a trailer.

In his complaint, the owner said that his Ford dealer blamed him for accidentally pushing the tailgate button on his key fob, which the owner said wasn’t possible. The truck owner ultimately disconnected the wiring to the power tailgate himself, according to the complaint he filed.

The agency says five complaints have been filed so far.

On Ford owner websites such as ford-trucks.com, consumers reported that they resorted to using ropes and bungee cords to keep their tailgates secured. One pickup owner found his tailgate open against his garage door and then again after driving. Inside his tailgate, he found his wiring harness connector was full of water.

A Ford spokeswoman declined to answer specific questions from CR about the consumer complaints, the potential safety defect, or why the company hasn’t recalled the pickups.

“We take the safety of our customers very seriously,” Elizabeth Weigandt, the Ford spokeswoman, said in an email. “Whenever a safety-related defect is identified, Ford takes quick action. We will cooperate with NHTSA on their investigation, as we always do.”

A NHTSA spokesman, Derrell Lyles, declined to outline a timetable for the agency’s investigation or its next steps. “Once the investigation is over, the conclusion will be posted to the site,” he said in an email.

This is a preliminary evaluation, the first step in NHTSA’s investigation process. Automakers often recall vehicles during this stage if they come to agreement with federal investigators about a problem.



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