Your plumber, A/C repair, carpet cleaner may drive this safety hazard

Published: Aug. 30, 2017 at 6:30 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2017 at 11:25 PM CDT
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(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It slips out of park. You helplessly watch it roll down your driveway, over your mailbox and right into your neighbor's Jaguar.

It wasn't your car. It was your plumber's Ford Transit van.

In June, Ford recalled more than 400,000 2015-17 Transit vans -- the van of choice for many Mid-South service companies -- for what its notice described as a driveshaft safety risk. According to the voluntary recall, a "cracked flexible coupling may cause separation of the driveshaft."

"It could cause the vehicle to basically come out of park. It could roll and hit another vehicle," said Rick Farrell, fleet manager for Choate's Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing in Cordova, Tennessee. 15 of the company's 70-van fleet are Ford Transits. Farrell said the recall has him returning the vans to the shop every 30,000 miles to have the driveshaft inspected and the coupling replaced. A service invoice revealed one of Choate's Transit vans sat in the shop for more than a month due to a backlog on the recall's replacement part.

About that part: Ford has instructed its affiliated mechanics to replace the defective part with a new version of the same defective part. Farrell said that's a temporary patch, not a permanent fix.

"They're putting in the same piece so that it basically gets us back on the road," Farrell said. "It directly affects our insurance costs and anything else that might happen should there be a wreck, not to mention the safety of my techs and the public, which is the number one importance to us."

About the temporary patch, Ford spokesperson Elizabeth Weigandt said, "The interim repair will resolve the safety concern for affected vehicles with more than 30,000 miles until a permanent repair is available."

CommTrans Midsouth of Midtown Memphis is a van wholesaler. It sells all makes and models of fleet vans and trucks to Mid-South service companies. Employee Trent Daniel told us off-camera the company had to bench every recalled 2015-17 Ford Transit in its inventory. They were too risky to sell, he said, until Ford came up with what he said Ford described as the "permanent fix" for four of the wholesaler's recalled Transits.

That sent us back to Ford's Weigandt. "I don't have timing on the permanent repair, but I can share that when it is available, owners will be notified that they may schedule an appointment with their dealer to have either a redesigned flexible coupling with a modified driveshaft bracket and shield or a revised driveshaft equipped with a universal joint installed at no cost," Weigandt said. "Both repairs will remedy the issue."

That could be the permanent fix Farrell and Choate's fleet have been anticipating. "That's really what we're waiting on...some sort of permanent fix so that we know exactly what they're going to do for us in the long term," said Farrell.

Both Ford and federal regulators said no injuries have been reported in connection with the Ford Transit. But until the automaker repairs all of its recalled Transits -- and if your plumber's still driving one -- we suggest you ask him or her to park on the street.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.