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Park outdoors: Ford recalls SUVs due to engine fire risk

Detroit — Ford is asking the owners of 350,000 vehicles in to take them to dealers for repairs in three recalls, including about 39,000 that should be parked outdoors because the engines can catch fire.

Ford says in government documents posted Thursday that it doesn't know what's causing fires in some 2021 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, which it expects will affect around 1% of vehicles.

But the company says fires can happen even while the engines are off. Ford has reports of 16 fires under the hood, 14 in rental company vehicles. One person was burned. It's recommending that the SUVs be parked outdoors and away from buildings. So far it hasn't developed a repair for the fires, which appear to start at the back of the engine compartment on the passenger side.

Of the 16 fires, 12 happened while the SUV engines were turned off, Ford said in a prepared statement. The company says it has no reports of fires extending to any buildings. One fire occurred when the vehicle was parked and running, and three happened while driving, with customers "reporting a burning smell and smoke from the front passenger engine compartment," according to documents submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Ford says it’s not instructing owners to stop driving the SUVs, although those who might not be able to follow the park outdoors instructions should contact their dealer or the company.

Ford says it’s treating the recall urgently and will use apps and mail to notify customers as soon as it develops a list of vehicle owners and addresses.

“We are working around the clock to determine the root cause of this issue and subsequent remedy so that customers can continue to enjoy using their vehicles,” Jeffrey Marentic, general manager of Ford passenger vehicles, said in a statement.

Ford began investigating fire reports on March 24. It says the fires appear to be limited to SUVs built from Dec. 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. The company says it has no fire reports from vehicles built before or after those dates.

The automaker also is recalling about 310,000 heavy-duty trucks because the driver's air bag may not inflate in a crash. 

The recall covers certain 2016 F-250, 350, 450 and 550 trucks. Dust can get into the air bag wiring in the steering wheel, disconnecting the electricity. Ford identified around 11,200 reports of the 2016 model-year vehicles with a related issue and said it is not aware of any accident or injury related to the problem.

Ford investigators said the wiring problems begin with popping or clicking noises and progress over time along a cable that first impacts control switches on the steering wheel, such as loss of radio control or horn use. If the problem is allowed to continue the airbag lamp would illuminate and the airbag may not deploy in the case of a crash.

And the company is recalling 464 electric Mustang Mach-E SUVs from 2021. A software problem can cause unintended acceleration, deceleration or a loss of drive power.

Detroit News reporter Riley Beggin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.