The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of 2013 and 2014 models of the Ford F-150 pickup.
NHTSA says that it has received 35 reports of problems with the truck's braking system. The agency sent notice of the investigation to Ford, explaining that those complaints had all involved reports "of brake fluid leaking from the master cylinder into the brake booster, resulting in loss of brake effectiveness".
Specifically, NHTSA says that some owners had complained about complete loss of braking power, with brake pedals traveling all the way to the floorboard. Others complained about illumination of the brake warning lamp and low/empty fluid in the master cylinder reservoir (despite no visible leakage).
Four of the complaints allege that the F-150's brake problem resulted in a collision.
NHTSA went on to ask the automaker to provide details about any warranty claims involving three sorts of issues:
1. Brake fluid leaking from the master cylinder to the brake booster;
2. Allegations of brake warning lamp illumination and/or low fluid level in one or both chambers of the brake fluid reservoir; or
3. Increased brake pedal travel, including allegations of pedal going to the floor, with reduced brake effectiveness.
All of the complaints that NHTSA has received to date involve F-150s equipped with 3.5-liter engines. Some 420,000 of those vehicles were sold in the U.S. during model-years 2013 and 2014, which is 36 percent of the total number of F-150s sold in that time. Of the 35 complaints on record, NHTSA says that 31 were filed within the past 12 months, and 20 within the past seven months.
The investigation is currently in the Preliminary Evaluation phase, during which NHTSA will work with Ford to identify trends and trouble spots in filings from owners. Depending on those findings, the investigation could move on to a second phase, the Engineering Analysis, where NHTSA attempts to re-create the issues under lab conditions. Those tests will determine whether the agency asks Ford to conduct a full or partial recall of the vehicles. Stay tuned.