WASHINGTON - Ford Motor Co. is recalling 575,000 older- model Windstar vans in the United States and Canada over concerns the rear axles can corrode and potentially break.
The recall covers vehicles in the model years 1998 to 2003 sold or registered in states where the heavy use of road salt can cause more corrosion. That includes Canada, New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Great Lakes region.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an investigation in May after receiving 234 Windstar driver complaints of rear axle problems, which included two crashes. One driver reported the axle snapped in half after hitting a pothole, causing the tires to blow and the vehicle to strike a guard rail. However, no injuries were linked to the problem.
NHTSA said the design of the axle, which forms an inverted "U," may cause an excess of salty road slurry to collect on the axle. The safety regulator reported 96 percent of all complaints were from the states where salt is heavily used to prevent freezing during winter months.
Ford said it would start notifying owners Sept. 27. Repairs will be made at no cost to the owners.