There are good reasons the expression “the wheels have come off” inspires trepidation and possibly terror. When accompanied by highway speeds, such partings can be deadly. This is why Ford has recalled nearly 129,000 2010-11 Ford Fusions and Mercury Milans. Defective wheel studs could cause wheels to come loose and fall off.
Fusions and Milans with 17-inch steel wheels recalled
The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan recall involves the wheel studs on 2010 and 2011 vehicles equipped with 17-inch steel wheels, reports the New York Times. Cars with alloy wheels are reportedly not affected. Sources indicate that the wheel studs are prone to breakage, which could potentially lead to wheels coming loose while the vehicle is in motion.
Ford filed a report online with the Highway Traffic Safety Administration Friday that characterized the nature of the self-imposed Fusion and Milan recall. The Mercury brand and the Milan were phased out in 2010.
Fractures during lug-nut tightening
Ford’s report to the NHTSA noted that the automaker first became aware of the wheel problem back in August 2010, when a number of wheel studs being tightened at its Hermosillo, Mexico, sedan assembly plant broke apart.
In its report, Ford told the safety agency that it became aware of a problem in August 2010, when some wheel studs fractured during lug-nut tightening at the plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, where the sedans are assembled.
This led to an “extensive investigation” on the part of Ford. By January 2011, the NHTSA began its own inquiry, although no recall action was taken, despite four consumer complaints of studs breaking and wheels falling off.
Ford downplays the danger
The NHTSA intensified its investigation in July, which was met with defensiveness of Ford’s part, notes the Wall Street Journal. Ford downplayed the possibility that a wheel could fly off during operation, claiming that noise or unexpected vibration would catch a driver’s attention in time for them to go to a dealership for repairs. The automaker also pointed out that the chance that all five wheel studs could break at the same time is unlikely.
According to Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel, no accidents have resulted from the defective wheel studs.