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DEFECTIVE GAS TANKS IN 1992-2001 CROWN VICTORIA, MERCURY AND LINCOLN TOWN CARS

Thursday, August 18, 2016By Richard Alexander
Please share this important safety information.

Don’t buy into the “Ford Built Tough” public relations whitewash. 

The only thing “tough” about Ford is its attitude about selling cars with known and curable defects. The Galaxy, Pinto, and Explorer debacles are well known, but there is a longstanding secret that Ford has concealed from the public. 
Ford Mercury, Crown Victoria, Police Interceptor and the Lincoln Town Cars sold between 1992 and 2001 explode in flames in freeway speed rear-end collisions because of a well-known defective design that’s easily and cheaply fixed.  Since the basic design is identical let’s call all these cars Crown Vics.

Since 2002, Ford has known how to cheaply fix defective and dangerous gas tank design of Crown Vics and in fact provided inexpensive plastic gas tank safety shields free of charge to police cars across the U.S. in 2002-03.  The shield works in rear-end collisions at 100 mph as shown in this test photo.

Ford never told the public that it had invented an inexpensive safety shield to prevent gas tank explosions.  Owners are entitled to know the facts.  With California freeway speed limits of 75 mph and traffic commonly at 82 mph and higher, high speed crashes are expected.  What is important is not the frequency of crashes but the life-changing disaster of a high speed gas tank failure when it happens to you.

Without the police safety shield, Crown Vic tanks are easily punctured and generate roaring infernos, engulfing a car and causing the screaming deaths of drivers and passengers being burned alive. 

Fuel-fed fires are lifetime catastrophes for survivors who escape being incinerated alive and their families.  
Survivors suffer burns that destroy their skin, face, ears and fingers, leaving grotesque lifetime injuries with deep and painful scars, melted fingers and ears, and scarred hairless heads.  That’s after the agony of burn surgeries and undergoing daily immersions in salt water for scrubbing with gauze to promote the growth of skin.  Unburned skin is harvested to cover burn wounds and those sites are as painful as the burns themselves.  On a pain scale of 1 to 10, the pain is an 11 and the agony of patients is so severe that many burn unit nurses cannot suffer the stress of screaming patients and transfer to other departments.

Since 2001 Ford has known that these catastrophes are preventable at such a minimal cost that it is no exaggeration to call it “cheap”.

In 2001, Ford learned that a specific component – small tabs on the U-brackets attaching the rear stabilizer bar to the axle -- was contributing to a high incidence of post-impact fuel-fed fires in Crown Vics.  In a crash the stabilizer bracket tabs are pushed forward into the tank and punctures it.  Gas escapes, and a fire starts, which is continually fueled by gas draining from the puncture hole.  These are hellish fires that burn savagely.
In 2001, Ford changed the bracket design so it would not puncture tanks, but Ford did nothing to protect the public from this defect for the nearly three million Crown Vics made between 1992 through 2001that were on the road.
Instead of notifying consumers or recalling the vehicles, Ford issued a “Technical Service Bulletin” advising repair facilities that the dangerous tabs on police cars [not regular Crown Vics owned by individuals] could be corrected by grinding off the U-bracket tabs -- a simple and extremely inexpensive fix that takes less than ten minutes and could be done with the U-brackets in place without removing the bracket from the vehicle. 

Ford had a duty to warn the public in 2001 and did nothing.

As of 2002 police cars had an above-average incidence of freeway speed rear-end collisions due to parking on freeways in traffic stops.   After a number of high-profile crashes in which police officers were burned to death alive sitting in their car, police organizations and state authorities told Ford to do something.

In response in 2002, Ford developed a cheap shield safety kit for the Crown Vic police cars. The axles and sections of the undercarriage that could puncture the gas tank were shielded with plastic.  Ford called the necessary safety retrofit an “Upgrade Kit”.  Police departments and government fleet customers of Crown Vics were provided, free of charge, the safety shield upgrade in late 2002 and early 2003.  

In 2002, the public was never told of this inexpensive safety upgrade. The information was kept a corporate secret and in the process NHTSA failed the American public by swallowing Ford’s argument that its Crown Vics performed as well as other cars.

In March 2004, Ford tested its safety shield kit on two Crown Vics in controlled crashes at 100 miles per hour crash. The photo is from one of the two crashes. 

When rear-ended by a full-size 1992 Crown Victoria, the gas tank of the targeted 1996 police Crown Victoria with the safety shield kit performed perfectly.  The crash resulted in a major intrusion of the bumper and trunk into the fuel tank location, yet the gas tank leaked a little more than a tablespoon, which did not constitute a fire hazard.  A 100 miles per hour crash delivers twice the energy as a 70-mile per hour crash and still the tank did not leak gas.

In a second test a small amount of test solvent was released at a very slow rate. If the test solvent had been gasoline this was an easily escapable fire.  Escape time is something Ford knows a lot about from hundreds of gas tank lawsuits over decades going back to the Pinto and the Ford Fairlane 500 lawsuits in the 1970s.  

These tests proved the shield safety kit was a significant improvement in the fuel safety system of the Crown Vic design.  

Despite its own test results, and a long history of defective fuel system failures causing irreparable losses, Ford management never warned the public, consumers, owners, drivers and occupants of Crown Vics of the known hazard and of the availability of the safety shield kit – a cheap fix that works.  

Ford’s management again decided as it has in the past that it is cheaper to fight burn victims and pay lawyers massive amounts to defend defective product lawsuits rather than acting responsibly to protect families from disaster.  That’s Ford dirty secret, not just on millions of Crown Vics, but how it has treated consumer safety for years.   

The Ford Galaxy had gasoline filler tubes that pulled out in rear-end crashes.  In that case Ford had to face the ire of juries that read the famous Grush Memo in which Ford decided against a spring loaded flap valve in the filler tube of its Galaxies that only cost $10 a car to prevent gas from gushing in a rear-end collision because it was cheaper to pay for 180 burn deaths and 180 burn injuries a year.  

Remember also the 1971-76 Ford Pintos and Mercury Bobcats with defective gas tanks. 

And there are the 1991-2001 Ford Explorers that easily rolled with defective tires, soft roofs and a high center of gravity - trucks that didn’t have to meet the passenger car safety standards, which were sold as “family” vehicles.  

Keep in mind 1966-1980 defective Ford transmission PRNDL disaster that caused cars in park to slip into reverse.
“Ford Built Tough”?  Hardly.  By history an oxymoron.


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