Engine Heat Sparks Ford Recall

Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 300,000 1995 Contour and Mercury Mystique sedans because the engines can overheat and possibly start a fire.

The recall affects those vehicles with a 2.5 V6 engine built between April 1994 and December 1995. It includes 278,875 Contours and 21,143 Mystiques.

There have been 149 fires reported because of the problem, Ford spokesman Mike Vaughn said Thursday. He said there were no deaths and one injury — someone burned a hand trying to extinguish a fire.

The bearings on the cooling fan may be too tight, which can cause excessive heat resulting in smoke, odors and possible fire.

Vaughn said Ford will be sending a letter to vehicle owners later this month, and dealers will fix the problem free of charge by installing an electronic fuse.

The recall closed an investigation of the problem by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency starts an investigation when owners complain of accidents or other problems to find out if they are caused by a defect. The investigations can lead to recalls, but many are closed without any defect trend discovered.

In November, NHTSA opened an investigation into the 2000 Ford Explorer XLS after receiving a report of a fatality involving seat belt failure during a rollover crash.

"It is alleged that the webbing of the buckle portion of the seat belt assembly failed during the crash," NHTSA's investigation report said. "The occupant was partially ejected from the vehicle, thereby sustaining fatal injuries."

Vaughn said Ford is aware of a single accident in Florida and is cooperating with NHTSA on the investigation.

The agency also opened an investigation into complaints that air bags tore during deployment in a 1998 Chevrolet Venture and a 1999 Pontiac Montana, but has reached a verbal agreement with General Motors Corp. to close the case because there is no defect.

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