The recall covers vehicles in the model years 1998 to 2003 sold or registered in states where the heavy use of road salt can cause more corrosion. That includes Canada, New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and the Great Lakes region.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an investigation in May after receiving 234 Windstar driver complaints of rear axle problems, which included two crashes. One driver reported the axle snapped in half after hitting a pothole, causing the tires to blow and the vehicle to strike a guard rail. However, no injuries were linked to the problem.
NHTSA said that the design of the axle, which forms an inverted "U", may cause an excess of salty road slurry to collect on the axle. The safety regulator reported that 96 percent of all complaints were from the "Salt Belt" states where salt is heavily used to prevent freezing during winter months.
Ford Motor Co. said in documents filed Thursday with NHTSA that it plans to start notifying owners beginning Sept. 27. Repairs will be made at no cost to the owners.
The states covered by the recall are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia is also included.
Ford shares rose 33 cents, or 3 percent, at $11.50 in morning trading.