Back in May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started investigating cases of rear axles breaking in late model Ford Windstar minivans after receiving hundreds of complaints from owners. Over three months later, an official recall has just been announced that covers 575,000 1998-2003 Windstars sold in "Salt Belt" states – places where road salt is used to melt away snow and ice during the winter months. Road salt can accelerate corrosion on the rear axle, which can cause the axle beam to break completely.
Ford says that only a small number of reported cases involve instances of the rear axle beams actually snapping, even though NHTSA supposedly received over 200 complaints from owners. Still, Ford will be notifying owners of this potential hazard starting on September 27, and naturally, the problem will be fixed free of charge.
Interestingly enough, this recall does not mention anything about the Windstar's front subframes – another easily corroded area that triggered a second NHTSA investigation in late July. More than 900,000 vehicles could have been affected by this, and we assume that NHTSA's findings did not warrant a full recall. Still, this rear axle issue will be the eleventh recall placed on the Windstar, a model that was only built for a total of nine years.
[Source: Associated Press via Google]