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Another Recall for Ford F-150 Brakes

Aug 25, 2020

The brakes on the Ford F-150 are still causing problems. On June 8, 2020, Ford Motor Company issued a safety recall of 292,311 model year (MY) 2014-2017 vehicles equipped with 3.5L Ecoboost engines. This recall was the result of an almost four-year-long investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which received numerous reports of braking problems in the F-150. According to Ford, this defect, which has caused 7 crashes and 2 injuries, is due to brake fluid loss in the master cylinder caused by brake fluid contamination that can interfere with rear cup seal function, and rolling of the rearmost cup seal. The recall states that prior to total loss of the front brakes, depending on the amount of brake fluid loss in the master cylinder, the driver may receive an audible chime, message center alert and red brake warning indicator in the instrument cluster, and may experience a change in brake pedal travel and increased pedal effort.

The First Recall

The recent recall, and the complaints and investigation that led up to it, are strikingly familiar. A 2016 investigation into MY 2013-2014 F-150 trucks led to the recall of 225,012 vehicles due to the rolling of the rearmost cup seal in the brake master cylinder, resulting in leakage from the brake fluid reservoir to the brake booster. According to Ford, “Depending on the amount of brake fluid loss from the brake master cylinder into the brake booster, the driver will experience an audible chime, message center alert, red brake warning light in the instrument cluster and may begin to experience a change in brake pedal travel and feel.”

Driver Experiences

F-150 drivers describe the “change in brake pedal travel and feel” and “pedal effort” in less technical language in their complaints to the NHTSA (2015; 2016):

“Driving at 35 mph my truck gives me a brake fluid low error message. I keep driving on to the highway. As I exit the highway I press the brakes and nothing happens. The brakes aren’t engaging.” (San Pablo, CA; MY 2016)

“While driving on the freeway, I applied my brakes and noticed no reaction and my pedal went all the way to the floor to slow the truck. I was really lucky there were no cars to my right because I would have rear ended the car in front of me. After all this I got a message for low brake fluid. I passed 6 cars till I came to a stop.” (Reseda, CA; MY 2016)

“Brake pedal went completely to the floor and vehicle did not stop until it hit a tree.” (Whitehouse Station, NJ; MY 2015)

“Driving in residential type area, downhill. Brake warning came on (40mph). Tried to stop but pedal went to floor. I said to my family to hold on we have no brakes and we’re approaching a stopped car making a left. As they were screaming in fear I stepped on the emergency brake and down shifted to first. We are lucky I knew what to do.” (Schenksville, PA; MY 2016)

Class Action

The two recalls only affect certain MY 2013-2016 F-150s but owners of models that are not covered by the recall have made similar complaints. In 2018, a class action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Weidman et al., v. Ford Motor Company, Case no. 2:18-CV-12719) claiming that the brakes on all MY 2013-2018 F-150 trucks are defective. The complaint alleges that these trucks contain Hitachi master cylinders that use single cup seal pistons to hold the pressurized brake fluid, and that the master cylinder pistons need two cup seals to prevent brake fluid from leaking and causing brake failures. The plaintiffs also argued that Ford knew about these defects, pointing to internal Ford emails that discuss the master cylinder leaks. Ford has had most of the claims in this case dismissed. Ford argued that it replaced the defective parts (with the same type of replacement part) and that the plaintiffs’ brakes had not failed again. The court agreed that this was all that the law required Ford to do. It also dismissed some other parts of the claim for more technical or procedural reasons but did not dismiss the claim of fraud, that Ford knew it was selling trucks with defective brakes, and this is still pending with the court.

It seems that Ford has not found a satisfactory solution to the leaking master cylinder in the F-150 despite that fact that this has been an issue since MY 2013.  If you are experiencing braking problems or other issues with your Ford F-150, you have rights under the law. Call us at Timothy Abeel & Associates, or contact us via our website for a free case review.

Experiencing Similar Issues?

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