Ford Motor Co. is recalling over 660,000 2016-2019 model year Explorer sport utility vehicles over the suspect roof rails the company initially claimed were probably fine. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration got involved last year, following a string of complaints of the rail cover loosening and sometimes being jettisoned from the vehicle, and recommended the automaker bring them in for repairs.
But Blue Oval felt that was unnecessary, claiming the odds of one decoupling were extremely low and likely to be battened down before anything happens. Besides, they’re just fiddly little pieces of trim and unlikely to do much damage. Obviously, opinions have changed since then with documentation from the NHTSA confirming Ford is moving ahead with the mostly voluntary recall.
A report, first shared by Reuters, verifies that Ford’s Critical Concerns Review Group was informed in May of 2020 — immediately after the NHTSA made its inquiry to the automaker. At the time there were 11 reports of detaching or loosening rail covers. Ford launched an investigation that wrapped in August of 2020, suggesting that the component was of low risk and would likely be noticed rattling long before it ended up flying off the car. However, Ford did extend its warranty to cover the issue for 10 years or 150,000 miles before this year’s recall was made.
The automaker met with regulators again in April. While Ford maintained that continued research showed the risks were low, especially in regard to heavier, plated roof rails, the NHTSA still wanted a recall. A compromise was reached and the recall now pertains exclusively to rail covers that have been painted silver or black. It looks like the thinner, plastic sleeves don’t stand up as well to the thermocycling created by direct sunlight — which is what Ford’s blaming their failure upon.
Customers will be receiving notifications from the manufacturer starting June 28th and can schedule an appointment to have their potentially warped rail covers replaced free of charge.
[Images: Ford Motor Co.]