WASHINGTON -- U.S. regulators have begun an investigation of 900,000 Ford Windstar minivans from the 1999-2003 model years after 234 complaints that rear axles had fractured.
There have been reports of two minor crashes related to the potential defect, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its Web site.
A Ford spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
The vast majority of the complaints originated from states in which road salt is used heavily, probably because the rear axle beam collects road salt slurry and corrodes until it breaks, the agency said. About a quarter of the complaints said that axle broke at speeds of at least 40 mph.
One driver reported "a clanging noise" coming from his 2000 Windstar at that speed, his complaint to NHTSA said. "The next day while driving, the rear end of the vehicle started to shimmy. He pulled over to the side of the road after he saw smoke."