Transport Canada checks Ford F-150 brake safety issue

Transport Canada has identified a safety issue with brakes in certain Ford F-150 trucks and is asking Canadians who own the vehicles to contact the department if they've had problems.

Federal department investigating other Ford models, pursuing new recall legislation

Transport Canada says Ford disagrees there is brake safety issue in some Ford F-150 trucks. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

Transport Canada has identified a safety issue with brakes in certain Ford F-150 trucks and is asking Canadians who own the vehicles to contact the department if they've had problems.

This comes as the department is already probing unrelated safety issues in some other Ford models. It is also pursuing new legislation that could force companies to recall defective vehicles.

In a release, Transport Canada said it has made "a preliminary determination that there is a safety defect" involving brakes on 2011 and 2012 F-150 trucks equipped with a 3.5L EcoBoost engine.

The department has received over 100 complaints involving a failed electric vacuum pump in the power brake system, which it says "may result in an unexpected longer stopping distance."

Transport minister says Ford disagrees

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Ford disagrees with his department's assessment, and that's why he wants owners who have experienced the problem to contact the department to help him decide whether to order a notice of safety defect.

A notice of defect, which requires a manufacturer to notify owners that their cars are unsafe, is the strongest measure Transport Canada can take when dealing with vehicles it believes are a hazard.

"I expect all manufacturers to live up to the high standards we have set for Canadian vehicles in order to make our roads the safest in the world," Garneau said in a release.

Ford spokeswoman Michelle Lee-Gracey told CBC News the company is "co-operating with Transport Canada, as we always do."

She said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States "investigated reports in the U.S. associated with this condition and after thorough analysis, including purchasing and testing a vehicle, concluded that the vehicle remained controllable."

Ottawa cannot order recall

Lee-Gracey also said Ford provided an extended warranty program for all vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, one that covers the electric vacuum pump for 10 years or 240,000 kilometres.

George Iny, executive director of the Automobile Protection Association, an independent vehicle consumer advocacy group, is one of those who supports stronger government power when it comes to vehicle safety.

"In Canada, people think we have recall legislation, but actually it's a notice of defect," Iny told CBC News.

"The law allows the government to require a carmaker to send you a letter that your vehicle could be dangerous or cause injury or death. It doesn't actually empower them to order a recall per se."

Feds hope to strengthen legislation

Transport Canada, however, is trying to change that. In May, it took the unusual step of introducing legislation in the Senate.

It would "give the minister the authority to order a company to issue a recall, make companies repair a recalled vehicle at no cost to the consumer, and prevent new vehicles from being sold in Canada until they are repaired," according to Transport Canada spokesman Daniel Savoie.

Savoie said the government opted for the unusual move of first introducing the bill in the Senate "in order to quickly initiate the legislative process."

This latest action is not the only concern about Ford products. In October, Transport Canada issued a safety advisory on 2011-2015 Ford Explorers, saying it was investigating a rear suspension problem.

It warned that when the vehicles are driven on dirt roads, mud and dirt can accumulate over time in the rear suspension, leading to suspension failure, loss of control and a crash. Again, it asked owners who have experienced the problem to contact the department.

Not the only Ford probe

Transport Canada is also investigating 2011-2016 Ford Fiestas and 2012-2016 Ford Focuses for safety-related transmission problems.

An Ontario woman who owns a 2014 Ford Focus is so upset with Ford's response to her transmission problems that she's covered her car with bright yellow lemon stickers. (Trisha Glabb)

The department has received over 322 complaints — more than for any other issue in over 15 years — from owners of the dual clutch transmission vehicles who report the cars roll backwards when stopped on hills.

Owners also complain the vehicle jerks ahead when they try to give it gas, or doesn't move forward as expected, leaving them worried about hitting the car in front or being rear-ended.

"This is a pattern at Ford in the last five or six years," Iny said, adding, "We don't get it."

He said the company used to have "a culture of caring," and the lack of concern is puzzling.

"They're letting things sort of get away," Iny said. "Maybe it's being driven simply by monetary concerns over their reputation or perhaps [monetary concerns] over a safety issue and it is worrisome for us."

Transport Canada has 17 active defect investigations underway, eight of them involving Ford vehicles. 

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at