Ford is recalling 490,574 Super Duty trucks in the United States because their carpets and insulation can catch fire during a crash, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s the same defect as the 1.6 million F-150 trucks that Ford recalled in September 2018.
As with those 2015–2018 trucks, the seatbelt pretensioners mounted in the B-pillars of 2017–2019 Super Duty pickups can generate “excessive sparks” when they activate in a crash. Pretensioners, which deploy in sync with a vehicle’s airbags, use a small explosive charge that removes all slack in the belt mechanism during a collision. They’re mounted either the behind the B-pillar next to the retractor (which pulls the belt inward) or within the buckle latch next to the seat (which pulls the belt downward). On the Ford trucks, the pretensioner’s sparks can ignite the exhausted gas and set the insulation behind the B-pillar and the carpet below on fire. The issue affects all F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550 trucks built between October 8, 2015, and October 29, 2019, according to the documentation.
But the problem doesn’t appear to be the pretensioner itself. According to company filings, the repair involves lining the carpet edges with two bucks’ worth of insulating foil tape commonly used in home HVAC systems. An entire roll like the strip shown in Ford’s dealer training video costs $17 at Home Depot. The dealer must also strip the insulation at the bottom of the B-pillar where the pretensioner sits, to help prevent that material from alighting. Repairs start in late January.
As to why Ford didn’t include the Super Duty with the F-150 recall, the company said these newer trucks “did not present a similar risk” because the carpet used a better “natural frame-retardant [sic] wool fiber blend” and had improved edging near the B-pillar. It described the F-150’s carpet insulation as “shoddy.” At the time of the 2018 recall, Ford said it knew of 17 reports of smoke or fire from F-150 pretensioner deployments and none on Super Duty models. But in October this year, Ford said it received a report of an F-250 fire caused by the same issue. Shortly thereafter, Ford began applying the foil tape on its production line.
A similar number of 2017–2019 Super Duty pickups were recalled in December 2018 and again in April for engine block heaters that could short and cause fires.