Ford's extensive recall history for a variety of vehicle issues is very well documented and widely known to most people. However, it does not appear any of that information has tarnished their reputation or caused a decline in popularity, as the automaker continues to post year over year revenue increases. This is why Ford remains America’s top-selling car brand for the ninth consecutive year and its F-Series was crowned again as the country's favorite truck.
Over the last two decades, the automaker has been extremely successful at masterfully shaking off any negative headlines regarding customer complaints about their beloved pickup truck lineup. Even as the problems continued to pile up, the company focused on the design and produced some of the most visually stunning, fuel efficient, and technologically advanced pickup trucks on the market during the aforementioned time period.
This strategy has worked out well for Ford thus far as they were able to capitalize on the US consumer vehicle taste shifting towards crossover SUVs and pickup trucks. Equally, their public relation and marketing efforts have helped to highlight the strengths of their vehicles and keep the spotlight off of any reliability concerns. With those concerns out of sight and out of mind, consumers increasingly disregard reported problems when contemplating a purchase.
In this list, we explore some of the common issues reported to the NHTSA about Ford's pickup trucks since the turn of the century. Even though this data is readily available for anyone to view, it's still ignored by owners and prospective buyers alike.
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22 Air Bag Deployment
Ford has logged quite a few complaints about airbag deployment issues and airbag sensor malfunctioning. This issue is definitely one of the scariest for a consumer to discover about their vehicle especially if the discovery is after a fatal accident.
Luckily malfunctioning airbags did not contribute to any deaths and Ford issued a recall to remedy the issue. Although the automaker's reputation took a hit from the emergence of these complaints, it hasn't changed the level of support for their trucks.
21 Suspension Problems
To live up to its image as a tough, off-road capable vehicle, the suspension installed on any Ford pickup truck needs to be top-notch. However, it shouldn't come as a surprise that numerous complaints have been received about the automaker's front suspension systems.
Upon further inspection, the affected model years contained weak leaf springs along the front of the vehicle that required a complete spring replacement. In addition, trucks with twin-axel suspensions were also susceptible to cupping with the front tires, which required the same remedy to fix.
20 Excessive Vehicle Noise
Most pickup truck owners enjoy the roar of a powerful V8 engine but that's about the only noise any owner would find acceptable. Consumer complaints received about Ford's trucks include many about excessive noise originating from the rear of the vehicle.
The noise has been described as resembling a chattering sound, usually occurring during soft turns after driving the vehicle at high speeds. The root cause has been identified as either an insufficient friction modifier or a faulty Traction-Lok differential. Some have been able to remedy the issue by changing out the rivets on the frame for bolts.
19 Frozen Door Handles
Ford pickup owners in colder weather environments got more than they bargained for after discovering that the door handle latch was susceptible to freezing. In subzero temperatures, the latch will often fail to engage with the door striker, making it difficult to enter the vehicle.
This issue is reported to also cause the door to fly open while the vehicle is in motion. But if that's not frightening enough, on occasion the door has also been known to freeze shut and lock the driver inside. Ford issued a recall to address the problem.
18 Gasket Leaks
Leaks of any type are one of the worse problems to experience with any vehicle. It is even more critical when its a leak from the head gasket of your pickup truck. Consumers have reported instances of engine oil accumulating in the exhaust system of certain Ford F-150s.
The smell of burning oil emitting from the engine usually confirmed to owners that a significant leak was occurring. Replacing a pan gasket is a relatively affordable and easy fix for any handy individual that knows his or her way around under the hood of a truck.
17 MyFord Touch Reliability
When Ford's MyFord Touch system works, it does so flawlessly and effortlessly. However, when it does not, it can be not only frustrating but an absolute headache to navigate. Users have complained that early versions were unreliable and often stopped working unexpectedly.
In addition, pickup owners have reported various performance issues including frequent unresponsiveness and difficulty using in colder weather. Due to persistent issues with the system, Ford's user satisfaction dipped dramatically and has yet to fully recover.
16 Rough Running Engine
Certain Ford F-150 models have been reported to run rough while the engine is idling. This normally occurs when the exhaust gas recirculation sensor malfunctions due to the accumulation of carbon in high mileage trucks.
This issue can also occur if the mass airflow sensor becomes clogged which requires one to clean or replace the sensor to rectify. Experts recommend the latter option as it is relatively affordable. Improper sensor cleaning will most definitely cause much more expensive problems down the line for the owner.
15 Spark Plugs Breaking
Spark plug problems have plagued several Ford pickup trucks over the years and it just happens to be one of the more consequential issues to make the list. The complaints detailed difficulty removing spark plugs that were stuck and even situations where they broke off completely in the process.
When the tips of the spark plus break off, leaving the remainder lodged in the cylinder, it creates an even more expensive problem. The extraction process is arduous and even the most skilled mechanic will run into trouble completing it.
14 Corrosion Problems
When your motto is "Built Ford Tough," it will certainly come as a surprise to any consumer that experiences any degree of corrosion on their truck. The hood of Ford's F-150 received a large number of complaints from customers in the early 2000s regarding unexpected corroding.
In addition, the trucks have also gotten complaints about fuel tank straps corroding. This caused the tank to drop off as well as create disconnections between the tank and the fuel line. Ford did issue a recall for affected models for this issue.
13 Power Window Components
Ford has received its fair share of complaints about the lackluster quality of its window hardware components. The issue specifically occurred with the power regulators in the door windows. The failure would cause the window pane to either become stuck, drop down into the door or simply make an unpleasant grinding noise.
Needless to say, this problem required the affected components to be replaced. Ford hasn't issued a recall for this problem as of yet. If it does occur, hopefully, it does so while the consumer is still under the automaker's warranty.
12 Loud Ticking & Knocking Noises
Ticking and knocking are two noises from under the hood that can indicate there's an issue present that requires immediate attention. The issues stem from the cam phaser in F-150 pickup trucks detailed in the numerous customer complaints received.
It is speculated that at the time these issues were being reported, certain Ford dealers claimed that the noises were normal and were not indicative of a bigger problem. In these instances, the consumer ignored the noises and later experienced engine failure as a result.
11 Alternator Belt Problems
The alternator belt on certain F-150 model years received a large number of complaints. Customers noted strange and unusual sounds from the engine bay that they described as high-pitched chirping or squealing. Some would say it's the sound of the vehicle crying out for help but either way it is definitely a noise that cannot be ignored.
The sounds are an indicator that the pulley for the air conditioner or the power-steering is in need of urgent adjustment. For the sake of everyone's ears, please get this one fixed ASAP.
10 Automatic Transmission Problems
Ford pickup trucks have received complaints regarding the TR/MLP sensor or Manual Lever Position sensor, which is a switch mounted on side of the transmission. A faulty sensor can result in the transmission falling out of alignment or cause the engine to flare while shifting the truck into fourth gear.
Other engine flare-ups have been reported on other model years. Drivers discovered the issue while shifting the truck between the second and third gear. Ford attributes the issue to distorted valve plates.
9 Issues With Ball Joints
Ford pickup trucks have been reported by the consumer for their unreliable ball joints that are said to be vulnerable to water exposure. Once exposed it creates significant safety issues for the driver of the vehicle and potentially for other drivers on the road.
The fix for this issue requires a complete replacement. Ford hasn't issued a recall for this but if you own an affected model, it's worth being aware of this issue if you plan to take the vehicle off-roading or through large pools of water.
8 Hard Starting
There isn't anything worse than getting into your pickup truck and experiencing issues with getting it to start. Many owners have experienced this through no fault of their own as it is due to faulty harness wiring in the power control module in the affected vehicles.
Complaints received detail unexpected stalling, hesitation and failure to start-up. This problem has also occurred in isolated F-150 model years but in these instances, it was due to a stuck idle air control valve that caused the engine to crank and fail to start.
7 Gear Shifting Problems
Ford issued a recall for a transmission issue that affected pickup trucks with its 10-speed gearbox installed. It was a wise call as this issue presented a significant safety risk to a driver's ability to control his or her vehicle.
The automaker intended for the gearbox to keep the vehicle in the same gear, regardless of the shift-lever position but in affected models, this certainly did not occur. Instead, the feature caused the gearshifts to disengage from the transmission, rendering the pickup incapable of shifting while in motion.
6 Unreliable Seat Cooling
Complaints have poured in about F-150s that are dealing with a failure to cool equipped seats properly. Some have frustratingly detailed that the seats will cool initially for a few minutes and then suddenly stop without any prompting. Other allege that the function only works on the base of the seat and not the back.
Reports revealed that the cause of the issue stems from the hose that provides airflow to the seats frequently coming undone, leading to the inconsistent experience that owners were witnessing.
5 Unexpected Loss Of Power
Complaints of loss of power due to Electronic Throttle Body (ETB) malfunction have been so great that the replacement parts were on backorder for several weeks at a time. F-150s were experiencing an error called "limp mode," in which the ETB would stop reading, causing the truck to abruptly lose momentum.
Experts say trucks that receive this error should not be driven until the failed ETB is able to be replaced for safety reasons. Hopefully, the parts are in stock and you're not stuck waiting weeks to drive your truck again.
4 Brake Problems
Ford pickup trucks have received complaints about various braking systems issues, including premature brake wear, brake squealing and failing while driving just to name a few. Enduring any of those is not only scary as a driver but presents an undeniable safety risk.
Although this is a rather severe issue, according to data from the NHTSA, only one crash has been documented due to a brake-related problem. Luckily it was not fatal and I hope that consumers continue to take urgent, rectifying action upon realizing that their braking system isn't functioning correctly.
3 Rear Window Malfunction
The power rear-sliding window defroster in Ford's pickup trucks have previously been reported by several customers to have an electrical failure. Two contact tabs located on the window pane and assembly are to blame for this issue.
Once this problem presented itself, it usually extended to the heated side-view mirrors, if equipped, as it is a part of the rear window defroster circuit. Ford has not issued a recall to address the malfunction and a fix would require the replacement of the entire window.
2 Unsafe Seat Belts
As we all know, seat belts are designed to keep drivers and passengers safe in the event of an accident. This is why it's extremely important to get it right the first time because we all don't always get a second chance. Ford, unfortunately, had to issue a large recall to fix the seat belt assemblies on multiple pickup truck models.
Affected vehicles were serviced to properly weld seat belt buckles into position as they were prone to become loose and not provide an adequate level of restraint in the event of a crash.
1 Extensive Recall History
Topping this comprehensive list of things Ford pickup truck owners choose to ignore is the biggest siren that should cause the most alarm and that's their extensive complaint and recall history. As you can see from reviewing this list, customer complaints about Ford pickup models are very robust, encompass all aspects of the vehicle and haven't shown any signs of slowing down.
However, the automaker's trucks are the perfect combination of beauty and ruggedness, which make them so enticing, it causes people to overlook past quality concerns. This is one of the key reasons Ford has continuously held the title of America's best selling pickup truck.
Sources: YouTube, CarComplaints, RayBucks, NHTSA, F150Forum & BlueOvalForums