In May 2014, Ford Motor Company issued a recall for the 2011-2013 Ford Explorers for a defect in the power steering system.
The affected vehicles may experience an intermittent connection in the electric power steering gear, which can cause a loss of the motor position sensor signal resulting in a shut-down of the power steering assist. If the SUV experiences a loss of power steering assist it will require extra steering effort at lower speeds, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.
Not unlike the Toyota and GM vehicles which were knowingly sold with defects, the 2011 Ford Explorer was also released for sale to the public with this known deficiency. The following is a direct quote from the Ford Owner's Manual, page 284.
"Your vehicle is equipped with an electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) system. If your vehicle loses electrical power while you are driving (or if the ignition is turned off), you can steer the vehicle manually, but it takes more effort. Under extreme usage conditions, the steering effort may increase. This occurs to prevent overheating and permanent damage to your steering system. If this should occur, you will neither lose the ability to steer the vehicle manually nor will it cause permanent damage.
"Warning: When an electronic error is detected, the message POWER STEERING ASSIST FAULT will be displayed in the message center. If this happens, stop the vehicle in a safe place, and turn off the engine. After at least 10 seconds, reset the system by restarting the engine...With the message displayed, the steering assist is turned off, making the vehicle harder to steer."
Unfortunately, our family has personal experience with this recall. We had not checked the recall history of this vehicle before purchase, and first became aware of the problem when my wife was driving at a speed of 25 mph through town. The power steering suddenly stopped working, and the power steering assist fault message appeared on the dashboard. I certainly wouldn't consider driving 25 mph in town as "extreme usage conditions" as mentioned in the Owner's Manual. We have also experienced this same problem when backing up from a complete stop as well as while driving 70 mph on the interstate. The system does reset if the vehicle is stopped and restarted, but this is not always convenient or immediately possible while driving amidst other traffic at highway speeds.
We took our Explorer to the Ford dealership for evaluation and the recall repair, only to be told that the software to fulfill the May recall was not yet available to the dealership repair departments in July 2014.
All of this has left us wondering, are these yet more profit-driven choices made by automotive manufacturing company executives made at the expense of public safety? Let's hope this recall is early enough to prevent the injuries and tragic loss of life suffered by individuals and families prior to the GM ignition switch recall.
New York Daily News, "Ford Recalls 1.1 Million SUVs for Power Steering Defect," May 29, 2014.
Related Article: GM Under Fire for Slow Response to Fatal Vehicle Flaw