DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that it has recalled more than 441,000 of its 1997 Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer cars worldwide to install a protective shield over the airbag sensors.
The automaker said that earlier this year, U.S. regulators notified Ford of reports of electrical fires and unintended airbag deployment possibly caused by a contaminated airbag monitor.
Ford had at least 159 reports of unintended airbag deployment, which allegedly resulted in a small number of minor injuries, including arm and facial abrasions from the airbags, Ford spokesman Glenn Ray said. At least eight lawsuits related to the airbags also have been filed against Ford, Ray said.
Ford found during an investigation that the airbag monitors could become contaminated from fluid leaks or condensation from the heater case.
Ford said the rate of reported problems with the airbags is extremely low, but it decided to recall the cars to fix the problem. Ford will install a shield and waterproof grease at no charge to customers at Ford and Mercury dealerships.
Ford said a majority of the 441,000 recalled cars are from the United States, but some also were sold in Canada, Mexico, Europe and elsewhere.