WASHINGTON — Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday announced a voluntary recall of 4.3 million 1986-1988 cars, trucks and vans to correct problems that could cause engine or fuel system fires.
The recall, the auto industry's largest since 1981, covers 2.3 million cars and 1.8 million light trucks with fuel-injected engines across Ford's product line, including the popular Mercury Sable and Ford Taurus line as well as Aerostar vans, company officials said.
Another 200,000 Econoline vans were recalled in a separate action so that a heat shield can be installed to prevent the fuel tank from overheating, causing gasoline to spurt out when opened.
The company said the recall follows 222 reports of engine fires caused by a failure of couplings used to connect fuel lines. The government said it also has received nearly 100 complaints, including 16 regarding fires, stemming from the tank overheating problem in the Econoline vans.
"We're glad Ford is recalling the cars. They're definitely a hazard on the road," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.
The consumer group had raised concern about engine fires in some of the vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began a formal investigation into the fuel line coupling problem last May after receiving numerous complaints about fires from Ford and Mercury owners.
Ford said the action involving the fuel line couplers covers the 1986-88 Ford Escort, Taurus, Mustang, Thunderbird and LTD Crown Victoria; the Mercury Lynx, Sable, Capri, Cougar and Grand Marquis, and the Lincoln Continental, Mark VII and Town Car.
Other vehicles covered by the recall are the F-series and Ranger trucks, the Bronco and the Bronco II and the Aerostar and the Econoline vans.
Ford officials said the owners of these cars should return them to their dealers so that a plastic retaining clip can be installed over the coupler for protection in case the coupler separates.
The recall is the largest since General Motors Corp. in 1981 recalled 5.8 million cars because of a bolt problem, Ditlow said.