Ford Motor Company is recalling 2010-2011 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan vehicles with 17-inch steel wheels because the wheel studs may fracture, potentially causing a wheel to separate from the vehicle.
128,616 Ford Fusion and Milan sedans are affected by the recall.
Drivers of the affected vehicles may feel a vibration indicating fracture of wheel studs. If left unaddressed and the wheel should fall off, the driver could lose control of the vehicle and crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a defect investigation in January 2011 based upon customer reports of problems with the wheel studs. In July, the agency upgraded the investigation to an engineering analysis after receiving additional customer reports and notification from Ford of a number of manufacturer warranty claims.
The Detroit News reports that the NHTSA has received a total of 29 consumer complaints and 128 warranty claims related to broken wheel studs.
In four cases, the wheel fell off the vehicle.
Ford has notified the NHTSA that its investigation has identified two separate root causes for the problem. Either a defect in the stamping of the steel wheel mounting pads or defect in the machining of the wheel mounting face of rear brake discs may contribute to a reduction in clamp load when the wheel is attached to the wheel hub and may cause bending fatigue of the wheel studs.
In late January 2012, Ford will send Milan and Fusion owners a letter notifying them to take their vehicle to a Ford or Lincoln dealer for replacement of all lug nuts, and inspection of rear wheel disc brakes and repair if necessary.