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Ford F-150 seat belt fires spark federal investigation

Autoblog logo Autoblog 8/10/2018 Nick Kurczewski
a car parked in front of a truck© Provided by AOL Inc.

Seat belts are there to save lives but, in the case of 2015-2018 model year Ford F-150 trucks, the trusted safety device could be to blame for vehicle fires immediately following a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating reports that seat belt pretensioner systems fitted to Ford's hugely popular pickup truck might be at fault in five fires, three of which completely destroyed the affected vehicles.

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According to this summary, available online at NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation, the potential culprit could be seat belt pretensioners manufactured by two automotive suppliers, ZF TRW and Takata. The latter of the two, Takata, is still embroiled in a massive recall over tens of millions of faulty airbags, which have caused hundreds of injuries and more than 20 deaths globally.

This seat belt investigation covers Ford F-150s manufactured from 2015 through the current model year. Following an accident in which the pretensioner becomes activated, it has been reported that fires soon began in the B-pillar, where the safety system is located.

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A seat belt pretensioner itself is there to help cinch down a seat belt during a crash, to pull the occupant firmly into the seat and offer better protection and less movement during an accident.

For the moment, this is not a recall and Ford F-150 owners can continue to use their vehicle. But the potential number of affected trucks is staggering when you consider the F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for decades. Ford sold nearly 900,000 units of the F-150 last year. Any potential recall, if one is issued by the NHTSA, could encompass millions of vehicles.

Thankfully, while several trucks have been destroyed or severely damaged, there have been no reports of injuries directly related to the F-150's seat belt pretensioner system.

Recall watch: The latest automotive safety recalls (Provided by AutoNXT)

2002-05 Lexus SC; 2002-05 Toyota Sequoia; 2003-05 Toyota Corolla, Tundra; 2003-07 Pontiac Vibe: Manufacturer: Toyota Motor Engineering & ManufacturingNumber of vehicles affected: 169,481Report Date: December 12, 2018Issue: Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing (Toyota) is recalling certain 2002-2005 Lexus SC and Toyota Sequoia, 2003-2005 Toyota Corolla and Tundra, and 2003-2007 Pontiac Vibe vehicles. These vehicles are equipped with certain air bag inflators assembled as part of the passenger frontal air bag modules used as original equipment or replacement equipment. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger frontal air bag, these inflators may explode due to propellant degradation. An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.Solution: Toyota will notify the Toyota and Lexus owners. General Motors will notify the Pontiac Vibe owners. Depending on the vehicle model, dealers will replace the front passenger air bag inflator with an alternate inflator or replace the air bag assembly that includes an alternate inflator, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 14, 2019.Contact: Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371, Lexus customer service at 1-800-255-3987 or Pontiac customer service at 1-800-762-2737. Toyota’s numbers for these recalls are J0A (Zone A Toyota), J0B (Zone B Toyota), J0C (Zone C Toyota), JLI (Zone A Lexus), JLJ (Zone B Lexus), and JLK (Zone C Lexus).

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