By on April 21, 2014

TTAC commentator Bobby Flashpants writes:

Howdy Sajeev,

I have an unique issue with my 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. I’ve posted about it at fordfusionforum.com, and no one so far has heard of anyone with the same issue. Here’s the link for the post, and the text is reproduced (and edited to remove site-specific context) below:

I’ve got a 2010 Fusion Hybrid that’s about 40 miles from hitting 100K. I purchased it used 2 years ago with 69K miles on it. (note – this is as of 2/5/14) Over the last 6 months, I’ve had the issues with the “Service Power Steering NOW” and “Service Advancetrac” warning lights, and the associated deactivation of the electric power steering system. I’ve seen this issue reported before, and I know I’m not the only one who has encountered it.

I’ve had this failure occur 3 times now, and have had the system reset each time – once at a Ford dealer, once at an independent repair shop, and once at a tire center (who claimed that they couldn’t figure out how to do it, but the system was functioning normally again when I started it up to leave). Both the dealer and the Indy shop recommended replacing the steering rack as the only permanent solution, each estimating ~$1500 for the job (which lines up with what others have reported when confronted with this issue).

Here’s the thing, though – after seeing this occur so many times, I’ve noticed that the failures only occur when the fuel level is below 1/4 tank. As long as I fill up when I’m between 1/2 and 1/4 quarter tank, the steering and stability control continues to function normally. I’ve not seen anyone else report this type of correlation?

In the interest of full disclosure, the Carfax showed that my Fusion had been in a fender bender under the original owner, and we had an incident of hitting a curb and a mailbox that required a new wheel hub/bearing, rim, tire, and windshield.

I’m in a pretty small town in GA, with only one Ford dealer. The Indy shop I normally use is usually pretty good (if not particularly cheap compared to dealer rates), so before I make the trek to Atlanta or Columbus for 4th opinions, I wonder if you or any of the B&B have any insight on a cheaper solution for a system that doesn’t appear to really be broken.

Thanks! I’m a long-time TTAC lurker after following Murilee over from Jalopnik, and have soaked up the power of your Panther Love for a couple years now. My best to you and the crew!

Sajeev answers:

Well I’m glad you’ve listened to me, so you know you must sell this formerly wrecked Fusion and for a 2011 fleet-special Crown Vic. Is there any other alternative?

If you must live in the real world, a place I normally dislike, I suggest that opinion from a Ford dealer in a bigger town. Odds are your front suspension’s damage created the steering rack’s problem.  If the damage required a new front hub, wheel and (something as shockingly far away as the) windshield, odds are the steering rack is waaaay out of spec.

Is it possible that a fuel vapor canister’s processor or low fuel warning relay is controlled by the same module that talks to the power steering system? Calling that a stretch is a rather large understatement, even considering the body damage. The steering’s physical damage is more logical.

Let’s hope people with training on modern Fords can leverage their skills, training materials and connections to Dearborn to solve this one. My money’s on a new steering rack fixing the problem. No way did it emerge unscathed when the wheel busted and the windshield cracked.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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53 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Fuel Harbinger of Fusion Steering Fail?...”


  • avatar
    Carzzi

    * H-a-r-b-i-n-g-e-r.

  • avatar

    Mistake #1 was buying a hybrid
    Mistake #2 was not leasing it
    Mistake #3 was keeping it longer than 80,000 miles- or whenever the extended warranty ended.

    That’s 3 strikes buddy!

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I’m probably going to regret asking this, but what’s your problem with hybrids?

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Little pssy hybrid can’t hang with 6.2L HEMI POWER.

        He likes big powerful engines and doesn’t give half a hoot about fuel economy. I can respect that; we all have our preferences.

      • 0 avatar

        If I really needed a car that got high gas mileage – which I didn’t have to spend much more than I normally would to buy a car, I’d have bought a:

        #1 Toyota Prius
        #2 Honda Civic/ Accord
        #3 Some Volkswagon with a diesel in it.

        The only thing Ford makes that can truly take abuse nowadays is their F series trucks. Their cars are great when they are new, but they start falling apart after the warranty extension period nears end.

        The Crown Victoria was a great car – as well as the Panther platform mates – which I trust to exceed 200,000 miles, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in one.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Not everyone wants to lease their life away a month at a time. Some of us live in the real world where we have to stretch a dollar

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        And some people have a NEED to drive cars they can’t really afford. (The capitalization underscores the urgency.)

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I’d consider a lease, but I’d also want a paid-for, outright-owned and *reliable* car in my fleet to keep from putting too many miles on the leased car. But certainly leasing isn’t the be-all, end-all to car ownership. I think that most European cars are like hot-potatoes in that you don’t want to be caught holding (or still paying for) one when the warranty expires on it, so I’d probably lease one of those. But a Ford, Honda, Chevy or even Lexus? I’d probably just buy it.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Mistake #1 was buying a hybrid

      Huh? Many hybrids are among the most durable and reliable cars on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      jaydez

      Really? My mom has a 2007 Escape hybrid with 85000 miles on it. It has been the most reliable vehicle she ever owned. She has had exactly 2 problems with it. first was the climate control cracked and they needed to replace the back-lit portion. Second was pain pitting on the rockers because she didn’t op for the mud flaps. She sees 26+ MPG out of a 4wd CUV. It handles great and when she took it in for the 80000 mile service they told her she still had 80% life left on the ORIGINAL brakes.

      She also owns it free and clear.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I would recommend any Toyota or Ford hybrid without thinking twice. I would even tell people that didn’t need AWD, towing, and the extra couple cubic feet of storage to buy a C-Max or Prius V over an Escape or Rav4.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatist

        85000 is hardly a significant test of durability. Maybe at 160k that might be more significant.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          There are plenty Fusion and Escape hybrids on the road with that many miles.

        • 0 avatar
          alsorl

          Go to any big city and you will find Hybrid Escapes and Fusions as taxi cabs. I spoke to a CAB driver last year in San Fran. He said the Escape was extremely durable and it had over 179000 miles on it. He also said the Prius was not very durable compared to the Fusion. Small things would break off. It was hard to find a Prius taxi cab that didn’t have some sort of exterior issue.

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      The question was about the warning lights. Not about what he did wrong in purchasing a hybrid.

  • avatar

    If you hit a mailbox, the ‘box’ itself likely impacted the windscreen, hence replacement windscreen.

    Just saying – its not that unreasonable to assume such a thing happened.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Call around and see how much the part itself actually is and decide from there, I had a rack installed in my Pontiac for $525 all told. If Ford steering racks are all of the sudden dipped in gold I say dump it now as gas nears $4.00 and buyers could be lined up/decent trade be had. If the part is sub $500, you’re getting ripped off and it will be important to find a more fair & competent shop to do the work.

    • 0 avatar
      cronus

      The hybrid uses a unique rack and the part itself is $771.79 from Rockauto.com. With labor I don’t think $1500 is too far off.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      I’m assuming you mean “dump it” with disclosure of the problem, right? Seems like a pay me now or pay me later, either replacing it or taking the hit on the sale/trade.

      Stuff like this is what makes me incredibly weary of private used sales of non-beater cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “I’m assuming you mean “dump it” with disclosure of the problem, right?”

        Uh, sure… :)

        “Stuff like this is what makes me incredibly weary of private used sales of non-beater cars.”

        I’m with you on this but I wouldn’t blame dealers or private party sellers, I blame the industry they are the ones putting out the shoddy product. If a dealer buys this hybrid say without an announcement on the block because the code was cleared (which happens ALL the time) the dealer ends up having to fix it himself. This cost *will* be passed onto you as you buy it used. S*it rolls downhill, always has always will. So whose to blame? Ford for using the design in the first place, Ford’s supplier and/or Ford for using that supplier. You as the buyer must be vigilant no matter the make/model and practice caveat emptor.

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Fair enough.

          I blame people like my wife who just turn up the radio, and then “remember” to tell me about something that happened to her car a few weeks back. This usually occurs about 11PM on a Sunday, or worse over the phone while I’m away on travel.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That sucks. If you are having trouble hearing her with a loud radio, maybe you should consider replacing your… hearing rack! *rimshot*.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          That’s true, on all accounts. However, since this is an uncommon problem, I wouldn’t start pointing fingers at Ford for making a poor part (unless you’re just using this as an example for that kind of logic).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I was using it as an example but in any event I would need more data to qualify the argument against any one OEM.

            A quick Google gave me a few results

            This thread from 09
            http://www.fordfusionclub.com/showthread.php?t=350723

            This thread from 2013
            http://www.fordfusionforum.com/topic/10241-power-steering-rack-problem/

            So is it a handful of cars out of a few hundred thousand or is the problem more prevalent? Again would need more data.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            28 cars, I’m not seeing any relevancy in those threads since they are for conventional powered vehicles that use a hydraulic steering rack not an EPAS rack like in the Hybrid version.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        The buyer will be thrilled it comes with a full tank of gas.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    “…the Carfax showed that my Fusion had been in a fender bender under the original owner, and we had an incident of hitting a curb and a mailbox that required a new wheel hub/bearing, rim, tire, and windshield.”

    This looks like a pretty pricey repair bill. Maybe steering components were also damaged but not critically so, and the original owner balked at the cost of adding an expensive, hybrid-specific steering rack to the bill.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Also, assuming you filed an insurance claim for the curb incident, I bet you could get this included.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Just had the 3rd power steering rack installed in my Cruze last Friday @70K miles. The bill would have been $1487.00 if I had to pay out of pocket.

    Gotta love these electric power steering racks! The old hydraulic units normally cost about $200.00 for the part while the new electric ones are closer to $1000.00.

    Don’t feel too bad, I think it was Motor Trend’s long term BMW 328 that had its rack replaced early on and the bill would have been over $3000.00 if it wasn’t still covered under warranty. They actually had the balls to say “thank you to BMW for covering the cost”, talk about drinking the BMW cool aid on that one! No mention on why it failed with less than 10K miles on it.

    • 0 avatar
      ant

      I was under the impression that these new electric steering units cost less than the old hydraulic ones did.

      Why has everyone switched to the electric if they cost more?

      • 0 avatar
        Joe K

        Easy. There is no pump running directly off the engine to affect MPG. There are no hoses to route around things. There is nothing to leak. Wires and electronics from a MFG and design point of view are always cheaper then pullies pumps and hoses.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “There is nothing to leak.”

          But they evidently break easily.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            In my case anyway!

            Mine would “go to sleep” when making small corrections on the highway such as trying to stay in my own lane. I’m not actually convinced that the rack is the problem, I suspect its a programming issue or sensor issue. As long as they keep replacing it I guess I don’t care… Of course once the warranty is up the car will be traded…I just with the new Mustang didn’t have the electric rack also.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Hydraulic racks go bad too. And they can be just as expensive to replace. The pumps aren’t cheap either, was $450 to replace the pump in my Jeep last summer (and that at my $50/hr cheap Jeep fixer).

            Six to one, half dozen to the other, in this case I would certainly blame the accident. See if the dealer is willing to make a statement attributing it to that, and see if insurance will pick up the tab. Can’t hurt to make a few phone calls, might get lucky.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Poncho

            I’d still be pissed for being inconvenienced three separate times, all to encourage a leasing throwaway culture. You should look into Lemon Law, not an expert but the same thing breaking three times sounds about right for buyback in some states.

            @Krhodes

            Been there, done that myself and yes traditional racks break. Typically they seemed to break well past 100K, usually between 150 and 200K. My most recent replacement was at 75ish and that pissed me off but I’m confident in the new part for at least the next 75K. I would imagine better brands last even longer out of the gate.

            UPDATE: Really TTAC, pissed is on the flagged list of words? C’mon.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            28cars

            the car is 2 1/2 years old and has 70K miles, unfortunately there isn’t a lemon law in the country that would cover something like that.

            I can’t complain too much. It wastes about half an hour of my time for each warranty appointment, and I get a free loaner, they wash and vac the car before it comes back. All in all I can’t complain too much.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        They’re cheaper for the automaker to install, not for the owner to replace. The supplier probably makes whole assemblies that can be slapped on quickly. Taking those assemblies apart and replacing individual components is a different case.

  • avatar
    El duce

    They switched for fuel savings. No parasitic drag from a belt with a hydraulic setup.

  • avatar
    CoffeeLover

    I agree that the rack is probably damaged, and thus will require replacement.

    Maybe,just maybe, the link to the fuel level is that when there is less weight in the rear from fuel, there is more weight on the front suspension and that is affecting the stress on the P/S rack. Of course, it may only be a coincidence.

  • avatar
    stuart

    The description mentions a warning light, and says “the system was reset” three times. I don’t see any trouble code numbers.

    Can you get the trouble codes involved? All we know right now is that some computer decided to turn on some warning lights. I would expect there would be some “trouble codes” stored. I would expect the Ford Workshop Service Manual to have a detailed, step-by-step diagnosis procedure for every such trouble code.

    Has anyone extracted those codes and looked up what the Ford Scriptures say about the problem?

  • avatar
    cronus

    Maybe some debris, from the mailbox or otherwise, damaged the wiring harness to the steering rack causing it to occasionally short or disconnect. Did any of the shops do a visual inspection of the steering rack or did they diagnosis it without putting it on a lift?

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    The gas thing piqued my curiosity. I learned your model has a 17.5 gallon tank. 1 gallon of gas weighs approximately 6.2 pounds at 68F. At a quarter tank, you are hauling a bit more than 27 pounds, and that’s when your problems start.

    What if you throw a 50 pound bag of kitty litter in the trunk?

    If this makes the problem go away, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem. The weight is just hiding it. Maybe a lighter tail changes the attitude of your car just enough to confuse the traction control sensors which were messed up during the encounter with the mailbox.

  • avatar
    william442

    My father’s 50 Olds went 85,000 miles, and he never changed the oil.Try a new Civic.


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