NHTSA Investigates 2019 Ford Expedition Over Safety Concern

The Office of Defects Investigation has opened a preliminary evaluation into 10 complaints from owners of the 2019 Ford Expedition, with said owners alleging seat belt pretensioner inadvertent deployment. Of those, ODI highlights one injury.
2019 Ford Expedition 16 photos
Photo: Ford / edited
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NHTSA general engineer Jayson Winick heads the investigation. As per the document attached below, certain owners allege hearing an explosion-like sound prior to the seat belt pretensioner doing its thing, which is exactly how a pretensioner works. The complaints further allege a burning smell and heaps of smoke filling the cabin after the crash.

That's relatively normal as well. So, what's the catch? As implied, the inadvertent in inadvertent deployment. According to the owner who filed complaint number 11527614 with the federal watchdog, the pyro charge went off while turning into a parking lot and putting the brakes on. Even more curious, the driver airbag did not deploy. The belt was fixed by the mechanism/wouldn't extend after the pretensioner's explosive charge went kaboom.

11536777 is another good example. On July 24th, while completely stopped at a red light, the owner of a 2019 Ford Expedition suddenly heard a shotgun-like sound. The seat belt tightened abnormally hard on the driver's chest, so much so that the owner clutched his chest in excruciating pain.

Even so, the driver summoned the strength to pull into the parking lot of a nearby Dunkin'. A service technician from Auto Nation Ford ultimately determined that a short had occurred in the airbag/supplemental restraint system circuit. Said technician replaced the wiring, sensors, modules, pretensioner, and seat belt.

2019 Ford Expedition
Photo: Ford
Complaint 11539423 notes that the airbag warning light was illuminated for a couple of days before the owner experienced an inadvertent deployment while driving at 40 miles per hour (make that 64 kilometers per hour in metric). Complaint 11551962 alleges a passenger-side deployment at 55 miles per hour (89 kilometers per hour) with no passenger in the seat. Similar to 11539423, the airbag warning light was illuminated prior to the inadvertent deployment.

As you might have guessed by now, the Office of Defects Investigation wants to understand the root cause behind these abnormal deployments. It could be many things, beginning with poor wiring. Bad software logic, incorrect sensor calibration, or a defect with the SRS module also need to be considered. If the ODI determines that a recall is necessary, Ford will be forced to issue a safety recall for an estimated 20,331 units of the Expedition.

The Office of Defects Investigation didn't mention the supplier of the pretensioners, nor did the ODI mention the supplier of the SRS module. As noted earlier, only the 2019 model year Expedition is under investigation. 2019 is the second model year of the fourth-gen Expedition, which is closely related to the Lincoln Navigator. After all, both of them feature pickup truck underpinnings (from the F-150).

Refreshed for 2022, the Ford Expedition is exclusively offered with 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 muscle rather than the 5.0-liter Coyote V8. Pricing starts at $55,525 (sans destination charge) for the XL STX with the standard wheelbase. Opting for the long wheelbase means upgrading to the XLT, with the Max version carrying a sticker price of $62,590.
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 Download: 2019 Ford Expedition pretensioner investigation (PDF)

About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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