As I’m always saying in our monthly report of the biggest automotive recalls, nobody likes when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to, especially when it’s the two-ton hunk of car parts sitting in your driveway. The most important party involved in a recall is, of course, you the occupant — anything that could potentially threaten the safety of you, those you ride with and those around you should take immediate priority. It’s fortunate for all involved that the law requires automakers to let you know when a repair, no matter how trivial, needs to be made.
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It’s a bad look for business when automakers’ products are found to be defective, but it’s a much worse look when people start getting hurt and lawyers — never mind journalists — get involved. We here at Cars.com don’t report on this stuff regularly to harp on any particular brand, but we do want you to be aware of both the problems and available solutions. That’s why we took a look back at the largest-volume recalls of 2018 to see which vehicles were most affected — and which most affected you.
Excluding recalls stemming from previously planned expansions of the massive and still ongoing Takata airbag crisis, here are the 10 biggest recalls we at Cars.com reported in 2018:
It was a tumultuous year for the brand Henry Ford founded. After seeing car sales drop by 15 percent in 2017, the company now helmed by Jim Hackett pivoted hard away from sedans and toward trucks and SUVs, reflecting a radical shift for a major automaker. That didn’t stem the flow of repairs, however — and none was larger than this September recall for around 1.6 million F-150 pickup trucks, Ford’s bread and butter. The issue dealt with front seat belt pretensioners that could spark in a crash, potentially igniting interior carpeting or insulation. Luckily, the solution seems far less painless than the consequences of leaving it be: Dealers will install heat-resistant tape at no cost to you.
Also affecting more than a million vehicles was this recall from March — the first major one of the year — for both Ford’s Fusion sedan and its luxury Lincoln division equivalent, the MKZ. A steering-wheel bolt that doesn’t maintain torque could loosen, allowing the steering wheel to potentially detach, about which little more need be said. Ford said it was aware of two accidents and an injury at the time of the recall in March, so if you have a Fusion or MKZ from one of these five model years and haven’t gotten this checked out, there is no better time than right now.
Yet another Ford recall, affecting some 1.3 million cars, this one from October involves the model-year 2012-18 Focus equipped with either a 2.0-liter GDI or 2.0-liter GTDI engine. The problem isn’t simple, and the solution is best done as quickly as possible: The canister purge valve may become stuck in an open position, possibly causing an excessive vacuum in the fuel vapor management system, which may result in a stall. Until you’ve had your car serviced, Ford advises keeping the fuel tank at least halfway full. Dealers will reprogram the powertrain control module and check for fault codes, replacing the canister purge valve as needed. If the valve is replaced, dealers will inspect and replace the carbon canister, fuel tank and fuel delivery module as necessary. Owners should have begun receiving notifications Dec. 10, but if you haven’t yet, there’s no reason to wait — get it fixed.
The first non-Ford recall of the list was also the largest recall with less than 1 million vehicles. At 807,000, it seems comparatively modest, but we’re still talking about the popular Prius hybrid here, of which Toyota sold more than 87,000 in 2018. The issue at stake is for the fail-safe driving mode, which the car may not enter as intended, potentially leading to a loss of power and a stall. In fact, it wasn’t the first time the affected vehicles were recalled: Toyota said it was a new, unanticipated condition for cars involved in previous recalls from 2014 and 2015. Dealers need only update software to resolve the situation.
Kia makes its sole appearance on the list with a hefty recall from June for the Forte, Forte Koup, Optima and Optima Hybrid sedans, and Sedona minivan. An airbag control unit may short circuit, preventing the frontal airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying. Kia was working on a remedy for this very serious situation at the time of our recall and began notifying owners in late July; if you’re an owner and haven’t received one, check with your local Kia dealer for more specifics.
The fourth and final of Ford’s major recalls for the year involved the Escape SUV and Fusion sedan, which shared an issue involving the bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission. Affecting more than half a million vehicles, the issue could allow the transmission to be in a different gear than the selected shift position, as well as move the shift lever to Park, and allow the driver to remove the ignition key without the transmission actually being in Park. If you haven’t yet gotten this fixed, use the parking brake instead of just putting it in Park to avoid any accidental movement.
Another major recall from early in the year involved nearly 350,000 Audi coupes, sedans and SUVs. This one involved an electric coolant pump that could either become blocked with debris from the cooling system, causing it to overheat, or short-circuit from moisture within the pump. Either way, the risk of a fire increases, so dealers will replace the pumps for free. The German luxury brand began notifying owners in early June, and though parts were not immediately available, owners should have received a second notice once a remedy was available.
It wasn’t even the biggest recall in its month — that would’ve been for the Kia above at No. 5 — but this recall was particularly close to us since it affected our Best of 2017-winning vehicle, the Pacifica minivan. The manual Park release plug may be removed without a tool, which could cause the manual Park release to engage and the vehicle to potentially roll away — dangerous enough on its own, let alone a situation in which you have children around. Dealers will replace the manual Park release plug, and taking your minivan in for a quick fix is easy enough to do as an owner — indeed, we got ours taken care of in just a few hours.
In a month full of recalls that affected large numbers of vehicles, Honda managed to head the pack as a distant second to September’s (and the year’s, as it would turn out) biggest for the Ford F-150 with this one for the latest redesigns of the Accord and Insight. The malfunctioning component here is the center display for the federally mandated backup camera, which may not function properly to show you what’s behind. Dealers have only to reprogram the display audio unit software to make the fix, though.
Sitting just behind the Accord and Insight recall for September’s biggest — three of the 10 most sizable recalls of the year came from that month alone, in fact — was this recall affecting both Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division. The antilock brake actuator pumps could allow brake fluid to leak onto an internal circuit board, potentially resulting in an electrical short and a fire hazard. When brake fluid has leaked onto the circuit board, the ABS warning lamp will remain illuminated for more than 10 seconds after engine startup; in such cases, Nissan advises owners to park the vehicle outdoors away from other cars and structures, if possible, and to not drive it once you’ve done that. Dealers will replace the ABS actuator as necessary from there.
What recalls will 2019 hold? The naively optimistic hope is always none, but if you do find yourself needing to check and see if your vehicle requires repair, find our Recalls page here as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s page here.
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