Recalled: Ford Windstar Minivans and GM Seat Belts

During the busy holiday season while we’re traveling and spending time with our families, it’s easy to lose track of local or world news. I’ll venture to say that the latest motor vehicle safety news is probably further down or even off our collective radar. Yet, continued dangers exist. We are led to believe that vehicles are getting safer with more and more safety equipment; but, despite industry advertising claims, hidden dangers and defects still lurk. Read on. Be safe. – Mike Davis

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging owners of model year 1998 to 2003 Ford Windstar minivans to bring their vehicles to a Ford dealership immediately to be examined for signs of rear axle corrosion. Even though Windstar owners who live in states prone to ice, snow and road-salt deicing primarily are affected, it’s a good idea for all travelers this holiday season to pay attention and take action.

According to a story from ABC News, “The safety defect in the Windstar’s rear axle, which makes it vulnerable to snapping in half unexpectedly due to corrosion from road salt, has led to more than 800 reported incidents over 10 years…but federal regulators didn’t investigate until this year, and Ford didn’t issue its voluntary recall until this August, recalling nearly 500,000 Windstars manufactured between 1998 and 2003 and in use in states where winter weather increases the likelihood of corrosion.”

If undetected, the fractured rear axle could reduce or otherwise negatively affect the driver’s ability to control the vehicle increasing the risk of a crash.

Owners who have not yet had the inspection are advised to watch for potential warning signs of a cracked rear axle. Those include: top of the rear tires tilted inward (negative camber); excessive bouncing while driving; banging sound while driving over bumps; and vehicle rear-end “fishtails.”

Owners of the affected vehicles should immediately visit this web page and enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see if their particular Ford vehicle has been recalled. Note: The vehicle’s VIN can be found on the driver’s side dashboard and/or on the certification label located on the door latch post next to the driver’s seating position, or in your owner’s manual.

Another recent recall: General Motors is recalling 111,136 2011 Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX crossovers because of seat belt buckle anchors that could fail in a crash. GM says customers will be notified on or before January 18, 2011, and instructed to bring their vehicles to authorized dealers to rework the seat belt.

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