Millions of cars are recalled every year by auto manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a wide variety of reasons. According to the NHTSA, a recall is issued when the agency "determines that a vehicle, equipment, car seat, or tire creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards". However, before officially issuing a recall, there is a screening and exhaustive investigation of the safety defect conducted by the NHTSA or the automaker.
Once a specific threshold is reached in consumer complaints regarding the same problems with the same vehicle model, the NHTSA in conjunction with the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) begins a Screening and/or Petition Analysis to establish if an investigation is warranted. If a vehicle model requires further evaluation, it enters a two-phase investigation to undergo a Preliminary Evaluation and Engineering Analysis. This approximately spans anywhere from 4 months to 1 year or more.
Over the course of the aforementioned time period, the agencies post monthly status updates of the vehicles under investigation. It is through dissecting this data that we are able to locate the status of a particular vehicle model and the safety defect being analyzed. The list includes a wide range of reported issues from exhaust odor to airbags potentially disabling during a crash. It also provides the date that the investigation was opened and whether or not it has been officially closed.
So what does it mean to have a car that might be recalled? It means that your particular vehicle is currently in one of two investigatory phases and an imminent determination could be made as to whether or not to initiate a recall. There's no need to be alarmed yet, however, there's significant value in educating yourself on potential safety defects you may not be aware of. We compiled a list of 25 vehicles currently under the investigatory microscope of the NHTSA and ODI. Did your vehicle make the list?
23 2017 Super Duty F-250 And F-350
Ford's F-Series trucks are well known as one of America's best selling vehicles. However, due to its recall history, some say Ford stands for 'Fix Or Repair Daily'. The 2017 Super Duty F-250 and F-350 received several complaints alleging that the tailgate opens uncommanded while the vehicle is in motion.
According to the ODI, Ford has acknowledged the issue, finding water intrusion in the wire harness as the root cause. The agency also notes that consequences of an uncommanded tailgate opening include the spilling of unsecured contents from the truck bed, as well as damage to other equipment and vehicles.
22 2013-2016 Range Rover And Range Rover Sport
Land Rover's full-sized SUV as well as its sportier sibling are a marque of the brand and arguably some of the most distinguishable vehicles on the road. The automaker submitted a Defect Information Report (DIR) describing a defect condition in the electronically controlled door latch systems, according to the ODI.
In addition, the vehicles received numerous complaints and reported incidents regarding doors opening inadvertently while the vehicle was in motion. This malfunction affects all doors including the tailgate. One minor injury was reported, however, the consumer did not seek medical care.
21 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
Volkswagen's Tiguan was redesigned completely for the 2018 model year. This crossover is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. However, this new model wasn't without its fair share of issues. During New Car Assessment Program tests conducted by the NHTSA, the agency discovered a seat belt webbing failure.
According to the ODI, in the course of the tests, the driver's seat belt webbing completely separated where the webbing looped through the seat belt latch tongue. The ODI is currently assessing the seat belt separation issue and the potential for it to occur in everyday real world use.
20 2013 Nissan Altima
The Altima is Nissan's tried and true mid-sized sedan that slots between the Sentra and Maxima. According to NHTSA, the vehicle has received several complaints alleging the rear lower control arm assembly, also known as a lower spring link, fractured at a connection point to the vehicle chassis.
The cause of the reported break and separation is due to corrosion. Consumers allege the failure caused a loss of suspension at the rear of the vehicle. It may also affect the alignment of the rear wheel on the affected spring link. At least three failures occurred while the vehicle was being driven at roadway speeds.
19 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris
Mercedes makes the list with their light commercial van available as a standard cargo van or with multiple rows to accommodate passengers. Both options were included in the many complaints and reported incidents submitted regarding an engine compartment fuel leak, according to the NHTSA.
Some affected consumers indicated that the problem occurs in cold ambient temperatures, either during engine warm-up after a cold start or after the vehicle has been parked and turned off. Dealerships identified the issue as a leaking low-pressure supply hose that feeds the engine-mounted, high-pressure fuel pump.
18 2012-2013 Kia Forte
The ODI is currently aware of crashes involving 2012-2013 Kia Fortes in which the airbags did not deploy during serious collisions. Fatalities have been reported stemming from a potentially faulty Airbag Control Unit. Kia's parent company, Hyundai is aware of the issue but has not identified a remedy.
At this time the ODI is evaluating if other manufacturers using the same or similar units from the same supplier are experiencing issues. According to the NHTSA, the agency is aware of a prior recall where similar electrical failure appeared to be the root cause of airbag non-deployment during frontal crashes in another manufacturer's vehicle.
17 2010 Ford Fusion
Ford's mid-sized sedan, the Fusion, has racked up a few complaints specifically relating to the 2010 variant and its potential power steering assist failure. In many instances, the loss of power occurred while driving without warning. The automaker is aware of the safety defect and has taken steps to address the problem.
According to the ODI, further analysis of complainant data found that there's an increased likelihood of failure as the vehicle ages. ODI has also identified a large number of complaints alleging crashes resulted from this issue. Many of the accidents were low-speed impacts with curbs or roadside objects.
16 2015-2016 Ram 2500
The 2500 series pickup by Ram is a popular choice among owners due to its consistent heavy duty track record and durability. It joins the list due to the ODI identifying complaints alleging the steering system failed on a number of 2015-2016 models. Most consumers discovered the failure while the vehicle was in operation.
According to the ODI, once separation occurs, turning the steering wheel has no effect and there is no way for the driver to control or maintain the direction of the vehicle. In one complaint, the driver reported the failure occurred during a left-hand curve on a highway, traveling at a speed of 65 to 70 MPH!
15 2013 Jaguar XF
Jaguar's XF is a performance machine with the legacy and credentials to match, however, the brand is known for reliability issues. The ODI has received complaints alleging vehicle rollaway from a parked position in this model year. All affected models are equipped with an electronic rotary transmission switch to make gear selections.
Filed reports that the unintended motion occurred after the driver switched the transmission gear selector to Park with the engine running and after the operator exited the vehicle, according to the ODI. Applying the parking brake prior to exiting the vehicle should be used to prevent unintended vehicle movement.
14 2015 Polaris Slingshot
The Slingshot by Polaris is a three-wheeled vehicle and the 2015 model year was the first edition to be released. The NHTSA is evaluating this model year for a seat belt retractor failure. In one documented incident, this failure occurred during a crash resulting in fatal injuries to the driver of the vehicle.
According to the ODI, the agency received copies of pictures from the accident with the failed seat belt and seat belt retractor. The images show the seat belt retractor shattered and the internal components outside of the retractor body. It is believed that the failure allowed the driver to be partially ejected during the crash.
13 2013 Ford Escape 1.6L GTDI
Ford's Escape was completely redesigned for the 2013 model year, fully embracing the crossover trend by departing from its long-time boxy exterior. Several owners of this vehicle reported to the ODI that the vehicle will suddenly stall, often without warning and while driving at various speeds.
For now, the defect has only affected Escape models equipped with a 1.6L GTDI (turbo) engine. According to the ODI, complainants allege stalling was caused by overheating of the engine resulting in a delayed or unsuccessful vehicle restart. The agency is evaluating further to determine how widespread the issue is.
12 2006-2012 Lincoln MKZ
The 2006-2012 Lincoln MKZ shares its platform with the Ford Fusion of the same model year. This translates to both brands at times experiencing similar issues due to shared system components. In this case, it revolves around the braking system and consumer concerns regarding extended braking distances.
According to the ODI, complaints received allege that after an ABS braking event, usually caused by applying the brakes on a slippery or uneven surface, the pedal depressed towards the floor and the distance in which the vehicle stopped increased beyond what was expected by the driver.
11 2015-2016 Freightliner Cascadia
The Freightliner Cascadia hauls many of the goods that we consume every day. It has been through complaints received by the ODI that the 2015-2016 model year vehicles contained a defect that affected the electrical power distribution. Specifically, the issue was identified as originating from the Powernet Distribution Box (PNDB).
According to the ODI, field reports allege that the defect resulted in a disruption or loss of electrical power to the PNDB itself and other electrical circuits, thermal events originating at the PNDB, and/or vehicle fire. There has not been any documented accidents or injuries as a result of this defect.
10 2016 Dodge Durango
As one of Dodge's most powerful crossover SUVs, the Durango leads the pack in storage space and speed with the Hemi V8 engine equipped. However, vehicles equipped with the electronic rotary control for gear selection has amassed its fair share of consumer complaints due to an unexpected vehicle rollaway.
The NHTSA has documented allegation claiming that the vehicle was moving while the shifter indicated that it was in the Park position. A few instances allege that the vehicle was in motion while others indicate the engine was turned off. Reports also detail accidents and injuries that occurred due to unintended movement.
9 2009 Nissan Murano
Nissan's 2009 Murano has received a voluminous amount of complaints regarding unexpected, extended braking distance. Further evaluation by the ODI found the issue stems from the failure of the hydraulic control unit and improper operation of an internal control valve.
The system component failure can cause extended brake pedal travel and may result in a reduction in overall braking effectiveness, according to the ODI. Numerous documented reports appear to be related to this defect, including several crash allegations, with mostly minor, non-life threatening injuries.
8 2011 Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai debuted a new design language with the introduction and launch of the 2011 Sonata. This model's exterior is radically different from its predecessor but has logged significantly more complaints. A handful of accidents have been reported where airbags did not deploy in a frontal collision.
According to the NHTSA, in a report submitted to the agency, the automaker indicates that an electrical over-stress condition of the Airbag Control Unit (ACU) component occurred in at least three crashes. Another ACU is currently under evaluation for the same concern.
7 2015-2016 Ford E-350 And E-450
The E-Series lineup from Ford offers a full range of vans and buses. The complaints received by the ODI about the 2015-2016 E-Series model years specifically reference the E-350 and E-450. Two municipalities allege that multiple vehicles in their fleets suffered from internal transmission failure while stopped and in gear.
One documented instance indicates the transmission failure occurred while transporting special needs people and another while operating as public transportation. Both occurrences required a second bus to be immediately dispatched in order to transfer passengers stranded on the roadside.
6 2008-2013 Toyota Highlander
Toyota's Highlander has a design feature that appears to be the source of consumer complaints. According to the NHTSA, the feature aims to reduce driver injury severity from impact with the steering wheel during frontal collisions. However, reports allege it caused unintended steering column separation in the 2009-2013 models.
The ODI has identified several incidents involving complete steering column separation while driving and the loss of vehicle control as a result. So far one occurrence resulted in a minor crash. Other documented complaints include the steering column dropping from the dashboard mounting brackets while the vehicle is in motion.
5 2012-2014 Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover's smallest Range Rover, Evoque, slots below the mid-range Velar. According to the NHTSA, the brand's SUV received several complaints alleging loss of brake power assist due to vacuum pump failure. Affected vehicles are equipped with 2.0-liter Gasoline Turbocharged Direct Injection (GTDI) engines.
Complainants detail the loss of brake power assist leading to increased brake pedal effort and extended stopping distance as a result. There has not been any accidents or injuries reported that are associated with this defect so far. The ODI is closely monitoring to determine the scope and frequency.
4 2006-2011 Mercury Milan
Even though the Mercury brand is now defunct, there are still thousands of their cars on the road today. A significant amount of consumers have expressed concerns about extended braking distance in the 2006-2011 Milan models. Documented reports mention crash occurrences and in some cases injuries.
NHTSA has been able to confirm stuck valves and corrosion of the zinc coated control valves as the defect's root cause. During analysis by the parent company, Ford, a gelatinous material was found inside the hydraulic control unit, preventing the control valves from properly returning to the closed position.
3 2011-2017 Ford Explorer
The 2011-2017 Ford Explorer model years, including rebadged Police Interceptors, received complaints about frequent exhaust odors seeping into the vehicle's occupant compartment. Several police incidents have been documented including one alleging physiological injury from prolonged carbon monoxide (CO) exposure.
According to the ODI, the agency has identified several consumer crash events and incidents that resulted in a number of injuries. The injuries range from unspecified to a loss of consciousness, with the majority indicating nausea, headaches, or lightheadedness from elevated CO levels in certain driving scenarios.
2 2014-2016 General Motors K2XX Platform
The complaints received about General Motors encompasses a wide range of their Pickups and SUV offerings built on the K2XX platform. Vehicles include the Silverado, Sierra, 1500 Series, Suburban, Yukon, Tahoe, and Escalade. In each case, consumers allege significant hard brake pedal effort accompanied by extended stopping distance.
The conditions are attributed to deterioration of the engine-driven brake assist vacuum pump, according to the NHTSA. There have been several incidents documented of vehicles on this platform incurring damage as a result of colliding with another vehicle or fixed object at low speeds.
1 2010-2014 Select Volkswagen Models
Many of Volkswagen's 2010-2014 vehicles contain a widespread safety defect, including the CC, Passat, Eos, Golf, GTI, Tiguan, Jetta, and Jetta SportWagen. The automaker launched a preliminary recall to address an airbag clockspring failure consumers were experiencing throughout their lineup.
After the recall, the NHTSA continued to receive complaints about the same issue, many of which presumed failure of the clockspring after receiving the recall remedy. According to the agency, this defect will prevent operation of the front driver airbag in crashes of sufficient severity requiring a manual deployment.
Sources: nhtsa.gov, odi.nhtsa.dot.gov