U.S. probes Ford Fusion cars over steering wheels that may detach

It pays to carry a pair of Vice Grips if driving a Ford Fusion to steer if the wheel falls off
It pays to carry a pair of Vice Grips if driving a Ford Fusion – to steer if the wheel falls off

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday it was opening a preliminary investigation into 841,000 Ford Motor Co. vehicles over concerns the steering wheels may get detached while the cars are in motion.

The auto safety agency said it was investigating 2014-2016 model Ford Fusion cars after three reports of steering wheel bolts becoming loose, including one completely detaching as a driver attempted to turn into a gas station.

Ford said in an emailed statement Friday it was cooperating "with the agency on its investigation, as we always do."

A preliminary investigation is the first step in NHTSA's process. An engineering analysis would be the next step in a process that could lead to a recall, although sometimes NHTSA closes such probes without requiring any action.

Steering wheel recalls are rare but not unprecedented.

In 2011, General Motors recalled 2,100 Cruze cars because the steering wheel could detach. GM also issued a separate recall for about 150 Buick Encore SUVs in 2013 to address steering wheels that could come off.

Last week, Ford said it was recalling 1.34 million 2015-17 Ford F-150 and 2017 Ford Super Duty trucks in North America to add water shields to side door latches at a cost of $267 million. The recall came after authorities in Canada asked Ford for answers in March after four reports of doors opening while people were driving.

Ford has now recalled more than 5 million vehicles for varying door latch-related issues since 2016, but the company said the issue in last week's door-latch recall was different from prior ones.

The company has previously disclosed plans to spend $935 million on other recalls announced since August 2016.

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