Inside your car’s door handle there is a pawl, a mechanical device that latches the door in place and stops it from randomly opening. A pawl spring is also there to help bring the door handle back into place when you release it.
Both are generally simple, historically effective, and the unsung heroes of your car’s door handle. That is, unless you drive a Ford.
Lately it seems the motor city automaker can’t get a handle on their door handle problems.
The “Pawl Spring” Problem
The first investigation into handle problems started back in September 2014 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looked into complaints about doors flying open in the 2011-2013 Fiesta. It didn’t take long for the investigation to expand to include the 2013 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ as well.
The investigation discovered potential defects in Ford’s pawl spring tab, which never properly latched the doors shut.
Pawl Spring Recalls
But it didn’t stop there.
Soon other Ford owners started complaining about their doors coming open randomly, kicking back when they went to shut them, or leaving an ever-lasting door ajar light on the dashboard. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that most of the Ford cars built around this time all used the same defective pawl springs.
Ford was defiant, however, and didn’t issue any further recalls.
But when 400,000 Focus vehicles were put under investigation and attorneys started looking into legal ramifications df Ford’s door handle problems, they buckled a bit.
The automaker issued a large but regional recall for 830,000 vehicles in areas it said had “higher ambient temperatures and solar loading.”
Fun fact: solar loading apparently means “please don’t make us recall this problem nationally.” Who knew?
A month later in September 2016, Ford caved and recalled 2.3 million vehicles for busted door latches.
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The Cold Isn’t Helping Either
As if Ford’s latches needed another foe, owners started complaining about the cold causing the latches to freeze.
When the temperature dropped, the latches wouldn’t fully engaging the door striker, allowing the door to fly open even when the it appears to be closed.
Additionally, owners complained that a properly latched door could freeze in place and lock them inside their truck.
In April 2015, Ford issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB 15-0052) addressing the issue:
““2015 F-150 SuperCab and SuperCrew Cab vehicles built on or before 3/25/2015 may exhibit inoperative door latches during or after freezing temperatures.” - TSB 15-0052”
The TSB recommended fully removing the door panel (ugh) and using compressed air and grease to get things moving again. Ford later issued TSB 16-0155 to include all 2015-2017 F-150 trucks.
The Frozen Latch Lawsuit
Fed up with frozen latches, Brandon Kommer filed a lawsuit in New York saying the “Built Ford Tough” slogan is a joke when you can’t even close your doors in the cold.
The lawsuit was dismissed, however, because the judge said the slogan is simple marketing “puffery” and should be assumed to include some exaggeration on part of the automaker.
Frozen Handle Truck Recall
While the lawsuit went up in flames, Ford did eventually decide to recall 1.3 million trucks for frozen door latches in October 2017.
“Ford dealers will install water shields over the door latches and repair any kinked door latch actuation cables. Until repairs are made, truck owners should double-check their doors to ensure they are properly closed.”
The recalled 2015-2017 Ford F-150 trucks were built in Kansas City and Michigan, and the 2017 Super Duty trucks were manufactured in Kentucky.