Ford is recalling 1.3 million cars in the United States for steering wheels that can break off from the column, the company announced Wednesday.
Loose bolts attaching the wheel to the column can lead to complete detachment of the wheel, Ford said. This issue has led to at least two accidents and one injury, as cited by Ford (a USA Today review of owner complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows at least 45 similar incidents of steering loss within the past few years). A total of 1,301,986 units of the 2014–2018 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ are affected, although Fusion models built at the Flat Rock, Michigan, plant after February 29, 2016, are not affected. However, all Fusion and MKZ sedans built at the Hermosillo, Mexico, plant through March 5 of this year are included. Dealers will install a new bolt that is longer with “more robust thread engagement” and also fit a “larger nylon patch” that is supposed to secure the bolt in place. Manufacturer filings with NHTSA were not yet made available, so the defect history and estimated repair dates are unknown at this time.
In addition, manual-transmission Fusion and Focus models (with the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and turbocharged 1.0-liter three, respectively) have clutches that can prematurely wear, fracture, and possibly leak transmission oil and start a fire. Ford said it is “not aware of any fires, accidents, or injuries.” The 2013–2016 Focus and 2013–2015 Fusion are affected, with a total of 5357 cars in the United States. Oddly, Ford is recommending two separate fixes. Fusion owners will get a new clutch, while Focus owners will receive a software update that is supposed to monitor clutch slip and warn the driver of a needed replacement.