DETROIT — Under pressure from government safety regulators, Ford Motor Co. is expanding a recall of the popular F-150 pickup truck to include nearly 1.2 million vehicles that may have defective air bags.
The wider recall, announced Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, covers all F-150s built for the 2004 and 2005 model years, as well as part of the 2006 model year. Also included are 16,000 2006 Lincoln LT pickups.
An electrical short can cause the air bags to deploy unexpectedly, in some cases injuring drivers.
In February, Ford agreed to fix 150,000 F-150s, but resisted the government's wishes to recall nearly 1.2 million trucks that may have the problem.
Ford's F-Series pickup truck is the top-selling vehicle in America, and the F-150 makes up about 65 percent of F-Series sales. Through March, the company sold nearly 127,000 of the pickups, and it sold more than 528,000 last year. The F-Series also includes heavier duty trucks such as the F-250 and F-350. Those were not included in the recall.
Ford said it will notify all owners next month that they should take their trucks to a dealer who will replace an air bag wire in the steering wheel. The repair takes less than a half day, the company said. The wire can become chafed, causing a short circuit that can lead to the air bag inflating unexpectedly.
The wiring problem was fixed at Ford's factories in January of 2006, so trucks made after that date are not covered by the recall, company spokesman Wes Sherwood said.
NHTSA said in a January 2011 letter to the company that the agency knew of 269 cases in which the air bags deployed inadvertently, resulting in 98 injuries, some serious.
Ford told NHTSA that some drivers reported injuries such as burns from contact with the air bag, bruises, neck and back pain and minor cuts. Two customers reported broken or chipped teeth and two reported elbow or arm fractures. Ford knows of no crashes caused by the air bag problem.