NHTSA Closes Investigation into Allegedly Defective Ford Throttle Bodies
While no recall has been issued, affected owners are eligible for reimbursement and get an automatic extended warranty
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has closed its investigation into allegedly defective throttle bodies in an estimated 1.6 million model year 2009-2012 Ford Escape, 2010-2013 Ford Fusion, 2009-2011 Mercury Mariner and 2010-2011 Mercury Milan vehicles.
Investigation Started from NCCC Petition
In a letter dated August 30, 2012, The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) petitioned the NHTSA to initiate a defect investigation of alleged electronic throttle body (ETB) failures resulting in engine stall or surge while entering traffic from a stopped position or while driving at highway speeds in model year 2005 through 2012 Ford Escape vehicles.
On February 21, 2013, the NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened a Preliminary Evaluation to investigate these allegations. In addition to the Ford Escape, model year 2009-2013 Ford Fusion, Mercury Mariner and Milan vehicles were added to the Preliminary Evaluation. Model year 2005-2008 Ford Escape vehicles were ultimately not included in the investigation.
Ford Identifies a Problem with Electronic Throttle Bodies
During the investigation, Ford identified a condition in subject vehicles equipped with 2.5L and 3.0L engines that may result in a sudden reduction of engine power. According to Ford, the ETB internal motor contacts may develop a high resistance material buildup condition on the commutator, resulting in intermittent electrical connectivity and reduced engine power. When this condition occurs, the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) or Wrench light will illuminate and the vehicle may enter a limited 'limp home' mode. Ford's trade name for the feature is Failure Mode Effects Management (FMEM) mode. In this mode, engine power and vehicle speed are reduced, while full function of the power steering, power braking, lighting, and climate control systems are maintained.
ODI's complaint analysis indicates that the predominant failure mode involved reduced motive power associated with the limited limp home mode with engine speeds limited to approximately 900 RPM. Analysis of warranty claims provided by Ford identified 59,807 claims related to ETB replacements and approximately 50 percent of claims are associated with diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) P2111, "Throttle Body Stuck Open", and P2112, "Throttle Body Stuck Closed".
According to Ford, the ETB control strategy provides the driver with three FMEM modes that allow varying degrees of vehicle mobility depending on the severity of the fault detected. DTCs associated with stuck open or closed throttle valves are designated the highest failure severity resulting in engine speeds limited to high idle corresponding to the limited limp home mode. Vehicles are not likely to unexpectedly stall as a result of this condition, but drivers may characterize the reduced functionality as a stall, even though their vehicle may still has motive capability. Other FMEM limp modes may result in reduced engine performance but will maintain vehicle speed above 20mph.
Computer Software and Mechanical Components Updated
During the investigation, Ford and its suppliers, Delphi and Igarashi, updated the powertrain control module (PCM) software to include a throttle body motor cleaning cycle during key-on and modified the ETB internal motor components design, surface finish and material composition to improve durability.
Extended Warranty Issued
Additionally, Ford developed a remedy procedure and issued a special Customer Satisfaction Program extending the ETB warranty coverage and instructing dealers to update the powertrain calibration to improve vehicle performance in the event that intermittent electrical connectivity of the throttle body motor contacts occurs. The program extends the warranty coverage for up to 10 years of service or 150,000 miles from the warranty start date of the vehicle. All affected vehicles are eligible for the program through January 31, 2015 regardless of mileage.
Owners of the affected vehicles will be contacted by mail to take their vehicle to a Ford dealer who will reprogram the PCM to the latest calibration. Owners that have already paid for repairs relating to the electronic throttle body will be eligible for a refund.
This is good for consumers
"While we were ultimately hoping this investigation would lead to a recall, we accept Ford's explanation of the defect, and are pleased with their decision to issue the extended warranty," said NCCC President Sandra Bullock. "While we feel that it took entirely too long for Ford to appropriately address the issue, considering the nearly 60,000 warranty claims submitted involving the electronic throttle body, the most important thing is that the consumer has emerged victorious, and the 1.6 million Ford and Mercury owners impacted by this very serious problem can have their vehicles repaired at no cost to them."
NCCC is urging all owners of the affected Ford Escape, Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Mercury Mariner vehicles to take full advantage of the extended warranty program and have their vehicles serviced as soon as possible, particularly those that exceed the 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty coverage allowances.
For additional information on the extended warranty or the refund process, owners should contact Ford toll-free at 800-392-3673 and reference Consumer Satisfaction Program 13N03.
What Can NCCC Do For Me?
We regret that we are not able to offer any specific guidance for consumers experiencing this issue. The investigation is now closed (see updated information below) and the time limits for the extended warranty has expired for many vehicles. You may success with filing small claims actions through a local court or by hiring a private attorney.