Ford Motor Co. is recalling as many as 3.6 million cars, truck, and vans because a switch that deactivates the speed control can overheat and catch fire according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency warns in its recall notice that the switch problem can cause a fire under the hood.

The latest recall covers 16 brands of cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks from model years 1992 to 2004.

The models include the Ford Ranger, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln Mark VIII, Ford Taurus SHO, Mercury Capri, Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, Ford Explorer Sport and Explorer Sport Trac, Ford E-150-350, Ford E-450, Ford Bronco, Ford F-150 Lightning, some models of F-Series trucks and Ford F53 Motor Home chassis.

The action brings the total number of Ford vehicles recalled for the same problem to 10.5 million since 1999 and was needed "to address customer concerns" stemming from previous recalls involving the switch, according to Ford.

None of the vehicles involved in this recall have experienced an abnormal number of fires, according to Ford. However, has received 155 complaints of fires in Ford trucks and cars since the recall last August that was supposed to remedy the problem once and for all.

In 2005 and 2006, Ford recalled nearly 6 million vehicles because of problems with the cruise control cut-off switch.

The switch shuts off the cruise control when the driver firmly steps on the brakes. The switch is located under the hood of the vehicle and is attached to the brake master cylinder on one end and wired to the cruise control on the other.

The switch is powered at all times, even when the vehicle is turned off. In some cases fluid leaking the switch could cause it to short circuit resulting in a fire, which led to the earlier recalls.

The recall will begin on August 13. Vehicle owners will have the cruise control switch, also called the speed control switch, deactivated as an interim repair. When new parts are available, which is expected to be October.

Recalled Models

Models recalled in the latest round-up include:

  • Bronco, 1993
  • Crown Victoria, 1992-1998
  • E150, 1992-1993 and 1997-2002
  • E250, 1992 -1993 and 1997-2003
  • E450, 2003
  • Explorer, 1991-2001
  • Explorer Sport, 2001-2002
  • Explorer Sport Trac, 2002-2002
  • F150 Lightening, 2003-2004
  • F150, 1993
  • F250, 1993
  • F350, 1003
  • F450m 1995-2002
  • F53 Motor Home, 1995-2002
  • Ranger, 1995-2002
  • Taurus, 1993-1995
  • Lincoln Mark VII, 1993-1998
  • Lincoln Town Car, 1992-1998
  • Mercury Capri, 1994
  • Mercury Grand Marquis, 1992-1998
  • Mercury Mountaineer, 1999-2001

Not the First Time

This is just the latest attempt to clear up a problem that has given Ford a black eye but, more importantly, caused property damage, catastrophic financial loss and an unknown number of personal injuries to Ford owners.

In 2005 and 2006, Ford Motor Co. recalled more than 10 million of its trucks but as many Ford owners learned, the recall wasn't massive enough.

Shelton's Fried Ford

On Friday, April 6, 2007, at around 850 in the evening, my 18-year-old daughter had gotten into our 1994 Ford Explorer, cranked it up, turned on the heater, backed up in the driveway, and called my wife complaining about smoke coming out of the air conditioning vents, 1994 Ford Explorer owner Shelton of Parrish, Fla., wrote

"She said something was glowing from under the right front of the car. She got out of the car while it was starting to catch fire, he wrote.

After the local fire department extinguished the blaze, the 1994 Ford Explorer was a complete loss, with damage to the driveway as well.

Ford told Shelton in a letter that there was nothing the company could or would do beyond the warranty period, according to a copy of the letter provided by Shelton:

Dear Shelton,

Our records indicate that you contacted the Ford Customer Relationship Center and our Customer Care Representative advised you that there is no assistance beyond warranty and there is no recall pertaining to the fire.

At this time we are unable to provide you with an alternate response. If any additional information regarding this matter should become available in the future, please let us know.

Ford recalled 1994-2002 model year F-150 pickups, Expeditions, Navigators and Broncos in September 2006 because of engine fires linked to the cruise control switch system. That recall was the fifth largest in history.

The brake fluid in the recalled vehicles may leak through the speed control deactivation switch into the speed control system electrical components, potentially corroding them and leading to fires, the company said.

There've been a series of recalls to fix similar problems in other Ford truck models.

Shelton said he is not a greedy man. He was only asking Ford for the value of his 1994 Ford Explorer and damages to the driveway.

"My daughter narrowly escaped the fire," he wrote. But he considers himself lucky. "If she had been driving down the road minutes later, she would have died as a result of the fire."

After more than 150 reports to of Ford trucks catching on fire for no apparent reason, many readers and owners of the Ford trucks have adopted a new self-defense tactic: they no longer park the vehicles near their house or in their garage.