The move marks the third recall for burning 1.6-liter turbocharged engines in the new Escape, a cornerstone of Ford's plans to lure buyers with smaller, more efficient vehicles. The previous two recalls earlier this year had been triggered by a lose coolant cap that could spew engine coolant and a weak gas line. Ford also told owners in the gas line recall to stop driving, but vowed to fix that within two weeks.
Ford says no injuries have been linked to the new problem, which it didn't immediately identify. It says owners in the United States and Canada of any 2013 Escape or Fusion with the 1.6-liter engine should call their dealer immediately, and the dealer would arrange for loaner vehicles until the problem can be repaired. The issue doesn't affect owners of Fusion and Escapes with other engines.
One hint of the problems come from an October complaint to federal auto safety officials from a 2013 Ford Escape owner, who said a few days having the two previous engine fire recalls completed, their Escape broke down on the freeway and burned.
"There was a 'pop' sound in the engine area. Instantly, the accelerator had no response, the high engine temperature warning light came on, and then all warning lights, gauges, & tachometer all went dead. Luckily, we were adjacent to an exit ramp, and we coasted to a stop...Immediately, white steam came out of the engine compartment. Knowing the third recall dealt with the "risk of engine fires", we got out, and moved well away from the vehicle. Within minutes, brown, oily smoke came out from under the hood. Then flames came out from under the hood, at the windshield and out the sides of the engine compartment. Then the car burst into flames and was destroyed.
The owner added: "We feel we are lucky to be alive!"
Other automakers have ordered owners to stop driving vehicles due to safety recalls in the past, but have been able to say how long repairs might take.
After winning a reputation for better quality vehicles than its Detroit competition, quality issues have been rising on several new Ford models. The automaker has said it was missing its own targets for quality this year, and cited the high pace of new models as one reason. Given how strongly Ford has staked its future on its EcoBoost turbo engine line -- with millions of copies sold and now featured in Ford models from the Fiesta to the F-Series -- the costs from any lingering worry of engine fires could rise rapidly.
Ford says U.S. owners with questions can call 866-436-7332 and Canadian customers can call 888-222-7814.