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Tucson, Marana police mothball dozens of Fords


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  • Tucson, Marana police mothball dozens of Fords

    About 85 Tucson Police Department Ford cruisers wait for steering upgrades at the city's Price Service Center.


    Police cruisers all over Pima County have been parked and taken out of service because of a steering problem officials say causes drivers to lose control during high-speed turns.
    Tucson pulled nearly 85 Ford Crown Victoria cruisers off the street after an officer crashed last month when his power steering failed during a high-speed turn, resulting in $3,000 in damage. The officer wasn't seriously hurt.
    Nearly half of the Marana Police Department's patrol cars had to be taken out of service last week when officials learned of the steering pump's potential for failure. All 33 cars failed high-speed tests done at the Marana Regional Airport on Wednesday.
    The problem hit at a crucial time for Marana, as police prepare to provide security and traffic control for the Accenture Match Play Championship, which begins Feb. 19 and is expected to draw at least 10,000 visitors, in addition to their normal law-enforcement duties.
    Until repairs are made, Marana officers are trading vehicles between shifts.
    Pima County has about 70 of the cruisers as well, mostly assigned to the Sheriff's Department. But county officials said they're not taking vehicles off the street because no problems have been reported. No testing is being done either, as the county is leaving it to drivers to report problems.
    Ford Motor Co. issued a "Technical Service Bulletin" on Nov. 6 on the 2006-07 Crown Victoria Police vehicles built before Oct. 24, 2006, which states those vehicles "may exhibit a momentary increase in steering effort during a rapid turning maneuver" — meaning abrupt sharp turns such as a U-turn or a more than 90-degree turn.
    Although the cars are relatively new, they had to be taken off the street "due to the potential safety issues inherent with a lack of steering control," Police Chief Richard Miranda said in a memo.
    Assistant Chief Sharon Allen said that after the officer crashed, a complaint was made that the steering failed. The department investigated and the city's Fleet Services Divsion found Ford's bulletin about the steering problems.
    "That prompted our review," Allen said of the crash.
    Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said technical service bulletins are intended to help mechanics diagnose problems, and are actually additions to the car's service manual. The bulletin recommends replacing the power steering pump with a higher displacement pump, and says the fix is eligible for repair under the provisions of the car's new limited warranty coverage.
    "Technical service bulletins are not an indicator of a defect trend," Jarvis said. "We monitor field data closely and if we see a trend, we will take appropriate action. In this case … we have not seen a large trend. If we see a trend, we will initiate a safety investigation."
    Late Thursday, he said he couldn't say how widespread the steering issue is because several managers with the information had already left for the day.
    Allen said she is optimistic the 71 marked cars and 12 unmarked Crown Victorias can be returned to the fleet in three weeks. The department has about 400 marked cruisers and about 800 total vehicles.
    Police service won't be affected, other than the special duty program, where marked cars are paid to patrol mall parking lots or direct traffic around construction sites, so the marked vehicles assigned to that program can be put back on patrol.
    Allen said the department is either using unmarked cars or is providing the police officer without the car for the program.
    In his memo Miranda said 13 vehicles also had to be pulled off the auction block and put back into service.
    The pumps cost about $100 each, with the labor cost pushing the total to $250 per car, said Fleet Services Administrator Gary Lowe. That puts the cost of repairs for all 83 vehicles at nearly $21,000. Marana's fleet services supervisor, Vincent Lorefice, estimated it will cost the town about $10,000.
    Tucson General Services Director Ron Lewis said the city felt it had free repairs worked out with Jim Click Ford, where it bought the cars. But a regional Ford representative said Click couldn't fix the cars for free, Lewis said.
    Marana also thought it had free repairs with Holmes Tuttle Ford, where its vehicles were purchased. But before work could begin, the Ford representative stepped in and said the automaker wouldn't pay for the repairs unless there was a specific problem with the pumps, said Lorefice, Marana's fleet services supervisor.
    Town officials decided they needed to show Ford the problem, so on Wednesday they took the 33 vehicles to Marana Regional Airport, where they closed down a runway and had a Holmes Tuttle technician test-drive the cars, simulating high-speed pursuits. Each car failed, Lorefice said.
    Unless Ford agrees to the repairs today, Lorefice said he'll have them fixed at the town's expense. "One way or another, our cars have to be done by next Friday," Lorefice said.
    Tucson and Marana officials are meeting with Ford representatives early today to talk more about the repairs, officials from both cities said.
    Despite Tucson's and Marana's problems, Deputy Pima County Administrator John Bernal said the county is not taking any vehicles off the street because, so far, they haven't had any problems. They are not doing any testing either, he said.
    "Our understanding is that there is a slight interruption of steering control," Bernal said. "It doesn't render the vehicle inoperable or even unsafe. We've told our users to let us know if they experience any problems like the others have, but so far we haven't."
    Oro Valley police have identified nine squad cars that could have the pump failure, though a majority of the vehicles haven't hit the streets yet. Ford has agreed to replace the pumps next week because the vehicles are under warranty, said Liz Wright, a department spokeswoman.
    Find more coverage of crime news at www.azstarnet.com/crime
    ● Reporter Erica Meltzer contributed to this story. ● Contact reporter Rob O'Dell at 573-4240 or [email protected]. ● Contact reporter Aaron Mackey at 618-1924 or at [email protected].

  • #2
    I got a LEIN message about this defect (LEIN is a Michigan extention of NCIC). It came from a particular department, all of whose 2006 CVPIs exhibited the problem. A higher volume steering pump didn't fix their problem.


    • #3
      I hope they get the cars fixed before I start driving one myself (granted, that won't be for a long while yet, but still...).


      • #4
        I know the newer cars have difficult times making u turns, but I thought that was from the ABS? No?


        • #5
          Yup typical ford problem, they have only been building power steering systems for what........70 years? One more reason to look forward to my unit going to dodges or tahoes.
          Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
          Thomas Jefferson

          Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
          Albert Einstein


          • #6
            I drive a CV with one department, and a 2007 Impala with another. I like everything about the Impala better except for the front-wheel-drive. That, and I miss hearing the big V-8 roar when I stomp on it.

            The Impala...

            1... feels quicker (even though our State Police, who test these things extensively, say it's pretty much neck-and-neck with the CVPI)

            2...has interior driver-area dimensions that are within several tenths of an inch of the CVPI (again, according to the Michigan State Police vehicle tests)

            3...has a higher top-end speed (MSP tests again)

            4...does much tighter U-turns (unless you "batman turn" the CVPI, which is where the rear-wheel drive comes in handy)

            For those of you that havn't driven a 2007 Impala, you're in for a big surprise. It's a completely different car than the old "Wimpala". That thing absolutely flies . I know MSP tests supposedly showed they were a few tenths of second slower than the CVPI from 0-60, and a few tenths faster 0-100, but they really feel a whole lot faster.


            • #7
              I haven't noticed much problem with my 2006 CVPI, it just turned 12,000 miles last week. I don't do much driving in tight city streets though. My turns are really high speed and out on highways. I have noticed a slight increase in effort at low speeds like in a parking lot when turning quickly right or left.

              I know it has variable assist that assist less at higher speeds to increase road feel, but that's designed into it. I'll have to go check it out at the Ford dealer next week. Still, I like my CVPI.


              There is a proper way of adjusting the wheel and seat relationship which maximizes control, it involves adjusting the wheel and seat so that with the arms extended, and crossed at the wrists, the point the wrists cross should be dead a'center top of steering wheel. This gives maximum control by letting you use your upper body strength to far better advantage than the "gangster lean" or "sleepy slouch" I see so many younger (and a few older) troopers use. Many have the seat entirely too far away from the wheel, as if afraid of an airbag or something, and it extends the arms reducing control.

              Later ........
              Last edited by t150vsuptpr; 02-10-2007, 11:33 AM. Reason: spelling
              "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

              "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."(it's my home now)

              >>>>> A Time for Choosing <<<<<

              Retired @ 31yr 2mo as of 0000 hrs. 01-01-10. Yeah, all in all, it was good.


              • #8
                Originally posted by t150vsuptpr

                There is a proper way of adjusting the wheel and seat relationship which maximizes control, it involves adjusting the wheel and seat so that with the arms extended, and crossed at the wrists, the point the wrists cross should be dead a'center top of steering wheel.

                I believe that it is also conducive to "shuffle steering" during pursuit driving. Not only do they teach it in the police academy, but high-schoolers are also learning to drive 'underhanded' because of the inherent dangers of having an airbag explode. Ya don't want your hand broken or pushed back into your face during a collision.

                I prefer the steering wheel up a bit higher, though. Instead of the "gangsta lean" or "sleepy slouch" (as you aptly name it), I tend to have the 'Greyhound Grip' during more leisurely driving.

                The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.


                "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."


                • #9
                  Does anyone know departments that have experienced the problem other than in Arizona? I'm the reporter who wrote the article discussed in this thread and I'm looking to see if other departments around the country are having the same problems.

                  I also wrote a follow up story linked here:

                  You can either respond on the thread or send me an e-mail at [email protected].

                  I'll keep your name private, I'm only looking for tips for departments to talk to who have had the same problems.

                  Rob O'Dell
                  Arizona Daily Star


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