When driving in certain weather situations — like a snowstorm or when it’s raining — it’s important to leave enough room between you and other vehicles to lessen the chance of an accident. But that space may not be enough when it comes to nearly 475,000 Ford and Mercury vehicles now under investigation for brake failure.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defect Investigations opened a probe into 474,862 model year 2007 to 2009 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan vehicles after receiving 141 reports of sudden, unexpected brake failures.
According to a notice [PDF] from NHTSA, it is believed that the Antilock Braking System (ABS) Hydraulic Control Unit (HCU) may experience an internal malfunction which causes an inability to maintain required braking pressure.
In many of the complaints, after an ABS type braking event — usually involving a slippery or uneven surface — the brake pedal goes “soft,” and the amount of force required to stop the car increases significantly.
In some cases, this causes the vehicles to need more distance to stop. Owners also reported going past the expected stopping points for stop signs or red lights, entering oncoming traffic before being able to properly stop.
So far, NHTSA is aware of three crashes related to the issue, and no injuries. It should be noted that the Mercury Milan — along with other Mercury vehicles — is no longer in production.
The owner of a 2008 Ford Fusion tells NHTSA’s SaferCar.gov in a Nov. 2016 complaint that after braking hard over a pothole on a city street, the vehicle’s brakes were lost and the pedal went to the floor.
“The brakes returned, but has been low and soft ever since,” the owner writes.
In another complaint the owner of a 2008 Mercury Milan says they have experienced brake failure three times.
The first issue occurred during icy conditions when the vehicle was traveling at 15 miles per hour approaching a red light.
“The ABS was engaged, the brake pedal lost pressure, and stayed to the floor for three hours before returning to normal,” the complaint states.
The preliminary evaluation will assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect.