A mysterious case of police officers losing control of their squad cars has been solved, leading to the recall of 355,000 Ford Crown Victorias -- including the Police Interceptor version -- Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Cars.
The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration started looking into the problem a year ago after learning of cases of the steering going out on certain types of police cars. Part of the probe included a field inspection of vehicles in the Montgomery County, Md., police fleet garage near the agency's headquarters.
The recall includes all Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Town Car vehicles from the 2005 through 2011 model years, not just the Police Interceptors.
It affects cars registered or originally sold in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Severe corrosion can seize the lower intermediate shaft in the steering system of these vehicles, the agency said. That can cause the upper intermediate shaft to collapse and the steering column lower bearing to separate. The car will then lose the ability to steer, risking a crash.
Ford that that many drivers of cars with the problem will first observe a change in feel, with the steering becoming notchy, stiff and binding. Most affected drivers have taken their cars to the dealer to have the problem checked out prior to any loss of steering function, the automaker said.
Ford said it is not aware of any reported accidents or injuries related to this problem.