By on October 27, 2017

2016 Ford Fusion

Perhaps more than any other vehicle component, a steering wheel must function properly for the safe operation of a car or truck. Without it, you’re just along for the ride.

That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking three reports of steering wheels detaching from the column in late-model Ford Fusions so seriously. In one case, the wheel came off in the driver’s hands. The agency has now opened a preliminary investigation into three model years of the Fusion.

According to the NHTSA, an investigation began on October 23rd. An investigation doesn’t necessarily signal an impending recall or a widespread problem, but it does show the complaints were serious enough to warrant further action.

In this case, the three complaints are indeed alarming. The NHTSA claims that, in those cases, the steering wheel fastening bolts came loose on 2014 to 2016 model-year Fusions. The scope of the investigation covers approximately 841,000 vehicles.

“The [Vehicle Owner Questionnaires] stated that the steering wheel became loose while the vehicle was in operation,” the NHTSA’s notice states. “Two of the complainants reported that the bolt attaching the wheel to the steering column had to be re-tightened at a repair facility. The third complainant alleged that while attempting to turn into a gas station, the steering wheel became completely detached from the steering column.”

Topping even yesterday’s NHTSA epic understatement (regarding 340,000 Kia Souls with steering assembly issues), the agency claims a “detached steering wheel can result in a loss of vehicle control,” which can then result in a crash. You got that right.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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29 Comments on “NHTSA Probing Ford Fusion Steering Wheel Detachments...”

  • avatar

    Said in the voice of 1980s comedian Yakov Smirnoff, “In America, NHTSA probes Ford!”

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    At Ford, “Quality is Job 1” until it isn’t. Didn’t they use thread locker to on the steering wheel bolt? Automakers like to put this on everything even remotely safety related now.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That’s embarrassing. How hard is it to get a steering wheel to stay attached to the car? I’m kind of nervous to be driving a FoMoCo vehicle at the moment, but at least mine is basically the same bulls**t they’ve been building all these years—with misaligned trim pieces and panel gaps as wide as your arm—just with extra leather everywhere. It seems like the more-problematic vehicles have been the newer Global / Euro-Ford stuff.

  • avatar

    Quite the conundrum: Do you risk driving a Fusion and have the steering wheel come off in your hands, or drive something else and risk not getting all that free pot under the spare in the trunk?

  • avatar

    I thought they were fail safe. Nut or bolt comes off, it’s still on a tapered spindle. I had to remove my Corvairs steering wheel, I needed a “gear” puller.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d be interested to look at the design. I recently changed out the steering wheel on my old 99 Sonoma pickup for a nice leather one from a Bravada (10 dollar pickapart item) and after removing the center nut, it took a big puller, lots of torque, and the taper joint let go with a giant POP. No way those are coming off at all easy.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        When I had my 2011 “E70” X5, I decided to swap the base wheel for the sport version with paddle shifters. It did not require any special tools, but did require some effort.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps the nut fell off or was never installed and came loose over several thousand miles of hitting bumps, turning, or making music beats on the wheel during traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      Just made this repair today to my own 2014. The spindle isn’t tapered like they used to be, nor is it splined. It is instead a hex shaft that protrudes through the wheel just enough to sit flush with the face beneath the airbag. It is a bolt with a captive flat washer that holds the steering wheel in place. The bolt only requires 37 ft/lbs of torque, but was not properly torqued and and did not have enough thread locking compound to remain in place.

  • avatar

    I wonder if it’s an assembly point issue. Flat Rock or Hermosillo?

  • avatar

    Alan Mulally strikes again. Cut quality so much (to boost profits) that now we have steering wheels falling off. And people still think Ford can get turbo engines and beer can trucks right…..

  • avatar

    So the fusion between the steering wheel and the shaft is a problem?

    Sorry, I just had to.

  • avatar

    And yes, I’ve always needed a steering wheel puller to take off a wheel, whether it was a $5 Cal-Van tool (remember them?) when I replaced the original two-spoke on my ’75 Vega 40 years ago, with a four-spoke from the Vega GT, to the $20-something Lisle puller I have now, which I’ve used numerous times over many years.

    It’s always a tapered, splined shaft, with at least a nut, and sometimes a snap ring or E-clip in front of that.

    It’s a ridiculous to think of a steering wheel coming off on a modern car, like something out of a Three Stooges short. Sheesh.

  • avatar

    I’ve had too much to drink. Here, you take the wheel.

    Clearly this is a safety feature.

  • avatar

    W.C. Fields in the short film “The Bank Dick”. Which in those days meant guard.
    After stopping several robbery attempts one appears headed for success. The thief forces W.C. at gunpoint to drive him away in a stolen car.
    The crook does not like the way he is being chauffeured and demands “Give me the wheel!”. So Mr. Fields pulls the steering wheel up off the shaft and hands it to him.
    This was from a period vehicle with a steering wheel about three feet in diameter. Of course they are not actually driving at that point, just sitting in a car in front of a back projection of the side of the road zipping by. While stage hands rock the car.
    In real life this is in no way amusing. Once someone drove into a place I worked with vise grips clamped on the steering shaft.

  • avatar

    Loose steering wheel? That’s a Game Changer.

  • avatar

    Damn… I’d hate to see what happens when they get to four or five steering wheels coming off. Should constitute and international crisis!

  • avatar

    An internal investigation by Ford determined that the impacted drivers were singing “Jesus, Take the Wheel” at the time of the equipments malfunction. Aftermarket alterations, such as the replacement of the steering wheel with being guided by the Holy Spirit are not covered under the limited warranty, and are accordingly not the responsibility of Ford Motor Company.

  • avatar

    FORD TOUGH! Made in Mexico.

  • avatar

    The first car my sister drove that she actually owned was a 1951 Ford Crown Victoria, then 10 years old. She had it for a year and traded it for a ’57 Pontiac Chief. The dealer mechanic who checked out the Ford told her the steering wheel nut and threads were so badly rusted, the steering wheel was ready to fall off. The more things change…

  • avatar
    westside auto

    Devil’s advocate here… this sort of thing doe not occur suddenly, the nut does not spin off at Regan McNeil speed, is backs off sllloooowwwlllly. A noticable looseness should be felt long before the wheel comes completely loose or falls off. Driver attention is the key here. Is there a workmanship issue here? Quite possibly, but considering the number of Fusions (and presumably Lincoln MKZ cars as well) this is a statistical anomaly at best, it doesn’t even make a tick.

  • avatar

    This is utterly stupid. There’s simply no excuse for an unchanging item like this to fall off.

    While I’ve owned cars that didn’t need a puller to get the wheel off, there was a huge amount of detail in the service manual about the bolt. (High torque specs, it was a funny size to discourage casual mechanics, and the service manual included info on exactly how many times it can be re-used before needing replacement (you were instructed to hit it with a punch every time you pulled that bolt))

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