As thousands of people flock to Ford dealerships throughout the country to get their cars repaired as part of the Kuga recall, Eagle Ford in Bramley has given us a sneak peek into the work being done.
The severity of the problem — with at least 39 vehicles reported to have spontaneously burst into flames — as we all a delay in announcing the recall seemed to point to a hugely complicated repair. But Eagle Ford service manager Cassie du Toit's explanation indicates that it's simpler and faster than expected.
It all begins with the customer calling the dealership to book the car in for assessment to ensure that the model is part of the 4,556 being recalled.
"We then check the vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if indeed it does need to be replaced. Once we establish that it's part of the affected models we then take it to the workshop to start with the repairs," said Du Toit.
The repair entails changing the coolant bottle and pipes, changing the manner in which the water flows back into the coolant bottle.
"By blanking off the one pipe from the coolant bottle results in the reduction of pressure in the coolant bottle. This action is necessary to reduce the pressure that builds in the coolant bottle which caused the cracking of the bottle leading to the engine overheating," he said.
Effectively the problem that caused the massive recall is that once the bottle has cracked the coolant leaked out. The engine then overheats causing the cylinder head to crack resulting in the oil leaking on to the exhaust system, which causes the fire.
The pipe going to the cylinder heads was connected directly from the water bottle with the other one going to the cooling system. With the recall, this has been changed.
The recall was announced on Monday by Ford South Africa CEO and president Jeff Nemeth, who said 4,556 Ford Kugas with the1.6l EcoBoost engine manufactured in Spain between December 2012 and February 2014, and sold in South Africa, needed to have their cooling systems replaced. He said the company was aware of 39 vehicles that caught fire as a result of the defective system.
"In the repairs, the pipe going to the cylinder head is blanked off and we insert one that splits to go to the cooling system and then after it goes to the cylinder head. It used to go directly to the cylinder head and that was what created the problem," says Du Toit.
From there the vehicle will undergo vigorous testing to establish if it's safe before it can be returned to the customer.
Dealer principal John Landey said the process was rigorous, but explained that the dealership tried to make it as effortless and painless for the customer as possible. He said once the hurdle of ensuring that the vehicle was part of the recall was completed, they lent their customers a courtesy car while their vehicles received the necessary attention.
He added that so far, they took in 40 vehicles and provided the same number of courtesy vehicles from the floor. Customers were given vehicles of a similar group, and some have been lucky enough to get brand new Ford Kugas as temporary vehicles.
Landey explained that the parts needed for the repairs were delivered on a daily basis and the cars were fixed according to the availability of the parts.
"We think that the entire process should be completed by the end of February," he said.