The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening a preliminary evaluation into reports of suddenly failing headlights on 517,945 examples of the 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. The government started looking into this problem in April when the North Carolina Consumers Council filed a defect petition with the agency. Now, the inquiry has moved to the next step.

According to NHTSA's documentation (as a PDF), it examined its own database and worked with Ford to come up with a total of 3,609 complaints of the front lighting control module suddenly failing. When this happens, drivers lose the low-beam headlights, but the high-beams can be used by holding the stalk. Sometimes turning the switch off and on fixes the issue. Additionally, there are 15 allegations of crashes, and one reported shoulder injury. NHTSA's preliminary evaluations "evaluate the scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect" and don't necessarily lead to a recall.

NHTSA looked into this problem once before in 2008 and 2009 and decided that a recall wasn't necessary. Ford also extended the warranty on the front lighting control module for these vehicles.
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INVESTIGATION Subject : Loss of headlights
Date Investigation Opened: AUG 10, 2015
Date Investigation Closed: Open
NHTSA Action Number: PE15028
Component(s): EXTERIOR LIGHTING
All Products Associated with this Investigation
Vehicle Make Model Model Year(s)
FORD CROWN VICTORIA 2003-2005
MERCURY GRAND MARQUIS 2003-2005
Details

Manufacturer: Ford Motor Company

SUMMARY:
After receiving a defect petition (DP15002) concerning the loss of headlights and other exterior lighting in model year (MY) 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis vehicles, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) analyzed Vehicle Owner Questionnaire (VOQ) complaints received from consumers and identified a total of 605 reports (for all submission dates) alleging headlight failure. The complaints indicate failures of both low beam headlights typically while driving, a defect condition that was evaluated under a prior ODI investigation (PE08066).

Most consumer VOQs indicate that the headlights failed suddenly and without warning leaving the driver with no forward lighting, however some report the headlights flickered or dimmed prior to turning off. In some cases drivers were able to turn the headlights back on after a period of time while others reported the headlights would not come back on at all. Consumers noted they were able to hold the "flash to pass" lever on the steering column mounted stalk to activate the high beams however this is only effective as long as the lever is actuated. ODI identified 4 VOQ reports alleging minor crash or loss of control incidents due to headlight failures. Drivers indicated running off of the road due to a lack of headlights and one driver reportedly struck a deer. No injuries were indicated in the VOQ crashes.

In response to ODI's April 7, 2015 Information Request letter, Ford provided data indicating it has received 3,092 complaints of failed headlights related to the Lighting Control Module (LCM), a device that controls the headlights and other lighting functions. This number includes the complaints Ford reviewed and classified as headlight failure due specifically to the LCM. Within Ford's complaints, there are 11 reports alleging a crash occurred. These drivers reported hitting objects, including other vehicles after the headlights failed causing damage to the affected vehicles. One driver was injured when their car struck an unseen object in the road, jerking the steering wheel from their hands and injuring their shoulder. In total 15 crash allegations were identified, all of which have occurred since ODI's prior evaluation of this issue.

In review of VOQ and Ford data ODI found little evidence of other exterior lighting failures, headlight failures alone made up the bulk of the complaints. Accordingly loss of headlights will be the subject of this investigation. NHTSA is opening this investigation to further evaluate the scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect.

The ODI reports cited above can be reviewed at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SarchNHTSAID under the identification (ODI) numbers found in the attached list.

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