Not an auspicious beginning

In the first month — that would be January 2019 — Ford sold 2,153 Ranger trucks in North America. Not bad. But then they had to recall 3500 of them:

The issue involves the truck’s shifter, which can move out of “park” while the engine is off. The automaker claims “the PRNDL bezel wiring may interfere with the shifter interlock override, preventing the shifter from locking in the park position and allowing the driver to shift the transmission out of park with the vehicle off and without a foot on the brake pedal.”

Of the 3,500 recalled vehicles, some 500 or so are located in Canada. The affected trucks rolled out of Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant between June 4th, 2018, and Jan. 9th, 2019, with the automaker claiming it isn’t aware of any accidents or injuries resulting from the fault.

Obviously some of the affected trucks are still on dealer lots, unsold. Perhaps not quite so obvious is Ford’s longstanding inability to make a PRNDL work correctly:

On June 10, 1980, NHTSA made an initial determination of defect in Ford vehicles with C-3, C-4, C-6, FMX, and JATCO automatic transmissions. The alleged problem with the transmissions is that a safety defect permits them to slip accidentally from park to reverse. As of the date of determination, NHTSA had received 23,000 complaints about Ford transmissions, including reports of 6,000 accidents, 1,710 injuries, and 98 fatalities — primarily the young and old, unable to save themselves — directly attributable to transmission slippage … this defect finding eventually resulted in a pseudo-recall wherein Ford agreed to mail warning labels to 23 million owners of Fords with these transmissions rather than recall them for mechanical repair.

Factor out the bathos — one can rather easily imagine the headline “WORLD ENDS: Women and minorities hardest hit” — and you’re still left with “What the hell were they thinking?” And the mention of JATCO puts the cherry on top: Ford apparently bought some transmissions from JATCO, Nissan’s in-house transmission maker, and somehow managed to mess those up too.

For the record, the one Ford I have owned, a 1984 Mercury Cougar, had a C5 slushbox, which was essentially the C4 with a lockup torque converter; it was the one powertrain component that never gave me any grief.


  1. McGehee »

    8 February 2019 · 7:24 am

    Well, if he engine is off, slipping from park to reverse shouldn’t be a huge deal — it’s neutral that allows a vehicle to move if the parking brake is disengaged.

    I got accustomed to a parking brake lever between the front seats while driving Datsun/Nissan vehicles a bazillion years ago, and again in a ’93 Ford Escort wagon I drove in Fairbanks and a ’91 Jeep Cherokee I had here in Georgia. My two Broncos and my current Ford Escape engage the brake with a pedal and disengage with a lever — a combination I have never gotten used to.

    In fact in my first Bronco I once had to park on a hill with a heavily loaded rear cargo area, so that time I did engage the parking brake. When I drove it next I forgot to disengage the brake for several miles. The smell finally reminded me, but the smoke didn’t stop until long after I reached my destination. Amazingly, there didn’t seem to be any significant damage.

  2. McGehee »

    8 February 2019 · 7:26 am

    …I suppose except, temporarily, to my fuel economy.

  3. Roy »

    8 February 2019 · 9:12 am

    My very first car, a 1953 Ford custom that had one of Fords early automatic transmissions. It too had a propensity to slip out of park while parked.

    I was clued in to the problem right after I bought it when, during the middle of the night, it slipped out of park and rolled backwards out of the driveway into the middle of the street. One of our neighbors woke us up because the car was blocking the entire street.

    After that incident, I always use the parking brake with that car.

    The car had another quirk that I found out about right after I bought it. The tank was dead empty when the gas gauge read about an eighth of a tank left. Luckily I was right down the street from a gas station when I first found out about it. However, a friend of mine was not so lucky. He was a city police officer and had just received a brand new Crown Victoria police car. He ran out of gas while on patrol because his gas gauge was off by an entire quarter tank.

  4. McGehee »

    8 February 2019 · 12:01 pm

    The tank was dead empty when the gas gauge read about an eighth of a tank left.

    That would get me to doing what I had to do with entirely too many of my vehicles, up to and including that first Bronco of mine: track my MPG and miles driven so I could estimate from each fillup how far that tank would get me.

    Though in my case that was because the fuel gauges had simply quit working at all.

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