NHTSA investigating alleged safety defect in Ford F-150 trucks

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Five consumers have filed complaints saying that the seat belt pretensioners caught on fire, causing major damage to their vehicle

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation of an alleged issue with Ford F-150 seat belts.

According to complaints submitted by five Ford F-150 owners, the seatbelt pretensioners (which gradually prepare seat belts to restrain passengers) started fires in the pillar that houses the belts either during or immediately after a crash.

No injuries or fatalities related to the seat belt pretensioner system have been reported, but several trucks have been totaled or severely damaged by the alleged defect.

"The truck went up in complete flames in a matter of minutes and is a complete loss," an owner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told NHTSA.

In its description of the problem, the NHTSA said: “During a crash, deployment of the seat belt pretensioner may result in a fire inside the B pillar at the seatbelt floor board anchor.”

The trucks involved in the reports were 2015-2018 Ford F-150 Supercrew pickup trucks. A recall has not yet been announced. However, if the agency’s investigation report reveals an issue with the seat belts, Ford would have to recall about 2 million of their Ford F-150 trucks.

Ford says it is cooperating with investigators.

Possibly manufactured by Takata

The NHTSA says that the seat belt pretensioners in the trucks were manufactured by either ZF TRW or Takata. In 2017, Takata filed for bankruptcy after more than 100 million of its airbags were deemed faulty and recalled worldwide.

Takata airbag inflators would explode when deployed, sending shards of metal into the vehicle cabin. Takata airbags were linked to more than a dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries. The NHTSA has previously called the Takata airbag recall “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”

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