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Mother worries about Ford safety recall

Alexandra Chiappe, holding her 14-month-old twins, Henry, left, and George, said she was told she would have to wait months for parts to fix her Ford Escape, which is at risk of catching fire because of a defect. (Colin Mulvany)
Alexandra Chiappe, holding her 14-month-old twins, Henry, left, and George, said she was told she would have to wait months for parts to fix her Ford Escape, which is at risk of catching fire because of a defect. (Colin Mulvany)

Auto manufacturers send out thousands of recall notices each year, but how many of them warn vehicle owners to park “outside away from structures to prevent a potential fire from spreading”?

A Mount Spokane-area woman has taken such a letter from Ford Motor Co. seriously, not just for her own safety, but for the sake of her 14-month-old twin boys.

Alexandra Chiappe drives a 2001 Ford Escape, one of two model years that was the subject of a nationwide recall last month affecting 286,000 of the sport utility vehicles.

This week, she received a letter from Ford advising her that the antilock brake system in her vehicle may overheat, resulting in not just the illumination of her ABS warning light, but “a burning odor, smoke, and/or fire.”

“This condition could occur either while the vehicle ignition switch is in the off position, or while the vehicle is being operated,” the letter from Ford Customer Service Division said.

The letter went on to provide the warning to not park the vehicle in a garage until the problem is fixed.

A Ford spokesman contacted in Michigan said the company is recalling 286,000 model-year 2001 and 2002 Escapes to replace a reservoir cap that could leak brake fluid onto the electrical connector of the antilock brake module, causing a possible “electrical short, burning or smoke.”

“There is the possibility of corrosion in the ABS module’s electrical connector,” said the spokesman, Dan Pierce, who added that Ford was unaware of any injuries, but “we have had a few reports of property damage beyond vehicle-only damage.”

Asked Chiappe, “Have I had a bomb in my garage for the last 10 years?”

After a previous recall letter in April 2007, Chiappe brought her SUV into Gus Johnson Ford in Spokane Valley, where she had repairs done. But that fix didn’t resolve the problem, so this week’s letter from Ford told her to return to the dealer for additional repairs.

“However, parts are currently not available to complete the new safety recall,” the letter continued. Pierce said Ford was pushing its suppliers, but “the quickest we can get parts is early in the second quarter.”

This last bit of information set off Chiappe’s personal warning light, and she called Ford customer relations with several questions, none of which was answered to her satisfaction.

“Am I supposed to park my car outside until June?”

“Can I park near a tree? I live in the woods.”

“Will it explode the gas tank?”

She would like the company to provide her a rental car until it can fix hers. Her husband, David, also drives a Ford, but he needs it to get to and from work in south Spokane.

Chiappe worked her way through three corporate customer service representatives until she reached a supervisor who said there was no one else to speak to, and then she called The Spokesman-Review.

Chiappe is left wondering whether her caution-yellow Ford Escape is safe to drive or to park.

“What if the problem happens on the road at night with two little kids in the back?” she said. The months Ford is asking her to wait “seems unreasonable.”



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