Ford Again Recalls F-150 and Super Duty Pickup Trucks for Second Repair over Engine-Block Fire Risk

Clifford Atiyeh
Photo credit: Ford

From Car and Driver

UPDATE 4/10/19: Ford is recalling 131,068 of these previously recalled trucks in the U.S. for a second repair. The first repair method, described below, was not sufficient, according to a statement from the company. Ford said it knows of at least two fires (one in Canada) that occurred relating to the engine block heater after the vehicles received a successful repair. Since new parts will not be available until the third quarter, according to a NHTSA filing, the interim fix is to cut off the prongs of the block heater plug and glue a silicone cap over the connector. Going forward, any owner who brings in an affected truck for repair will receive this interim fix until parts are available.

Ford is recalling 410,289 late-model pickup trucks in the United States to fix engine block heaters that can short, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Including trucks in the Canada market, the recall totals more than 874,000 F-150 and Super Duty models. It involves 2015–2019 F-150 models and 2017–2019 Super Duty (F-250, F-350, F-450) and Chassis Cab (F-550) trucks.

The problem involves the engine-block heater, which can allow water and other contaminants to intrude into the splice connector. If this connector corrodes, it may trip a circuit when plugged into a local electrical outlet. Or, worse, it can spark, melt, and catch fire. Ford said it knows of at least three such underhood fires in Canada since September, each on a 2017 model. No injuries or accidents have been reported, and no fires have been reported in the United States. Ford said 463,793 trucks are affected in Canada.

The origin of the fault is as simple as electrical grease. Prior to November 17, Ford didn’t apply dielectric grease-a silicone lubricant that acts as an insulator and blocks moisture-to the block heater connectors on gasoline models. The automaker did apply grease starting after October 24, 2017, on diesel models, according to the NHTSA report of the recall. The automaker had also modified the connectors and in some cases rerouted the wiring. On the recalled trucks, Ford installed the wiring too close to the ground in areas without underbody shielding and had female connectors "angled upwards at a 45-degree (or greater) angle," NHTSA reported, thus making it likelier for an electrical short, according to the filing.

Dealers will squeeze grease onto the connectors starting in January. If the cable is damaged, owners must come back a second time for the replacement cable to arrive.

The F-series has been under several recalls and investigations this year. Back in April, Ford recalled the 2018 model for potential rollaways due to a transmission defect. In June, a small number of 2018 models had fuel and oil leaks. Then in September, Ford recalled more than 1.6 million trucks for fires that could start in the B-pillars. In October, NHTSA announced it is investigating F-250 and F-350 pickups for faulty tailgates.

This story originally published on December 21, 2018.

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