Why Won't Ford's Door Ajar Light Shut Off?

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#electrical #investigation
An illuminated door ajar warning light

The ever-present door ajar light

While it starts intermittently, the “door ajar” light is coming on – and staying on – for Ford owners, even when their doors are certainly closed. Over time there is no amount of door slamming that can get that always-on, retina-burning, constant-reminder-of-your-decision-to-buy-a-Ford to shut off.

It’s most likely an electrical issue related to the switch inside the latch mechanism. While the door will mechanically latch, issues with the switch make the door appear to be open to the car’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU).

Door Open? Closed? Who Really Knows at this Point

Edge owners have been complaining about it in record numbers, often recording three spots on the Trending Complaints list on CarComplaints.com.

And as luck would have it, the problem usually doesn’t start happening until around 50,000 miles. Well beyond the car’s 3-year standard warranty. That means owners can expect to pay for repairs.

Beyond the Dashboard

While a warning light is annoying, the "door ajar" issue is much deeper that. If the car’s computer thinks the door is open, it might also:

  1. Leave the interior dome lights on which can lead to the battery draining overnight.
  2. Refuse to lock the doors when the vehicle is in motion. A safety concern for anyone, but especially those owners with kids.
  3. The key fob won’t be able to lock the doors when you leave the car parked. Hello, thieves!

"This is a big safety issue, and if my wife's car door does not stay locked during an accident or because all the dome lights come on when trying to drive at night and causes an accident. I will sue Ford for not having a reasonable recall. This is the biggest issue with the 2011 Ford Edge."

A Federal Investigation

By October 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) database reached 1,500 complaints, prompting the agency to open an investigation.

From David Woods of CarComplaints.com:

"In addition to the safety hazards caused by the lights, owners say they have been forced to pay hundreds of dollars to fix problems those owners believe should be fixed under a Ford recall. However, one Edge owner said she was told by Ford the vehicles hadn't been recalled because there hadn't been enough complaints.

Not enough complaints? First off, in what world? And second, if it's complaints they want you can help with that here.

Finding a Fix

Repairing the problem can reportedly cost anywhere between $250 and $500 to fix, why such a big discrepancy? Well, it depends.

The "Cleaning" Solution

Ford provided its dealers with an "Essential Special Service Tool (ESST)" for the electrical switch inside the door latch. The tool uses a mild electrical current to burn off any junk on the switch's contacts. Mechanics will then manually cycle the door tumbler with another tool from open to closed (multiple times) and test the switch contacts.and back to open.

The average bill for this process is around $250.

When That Stops Working

Most owners report that the cleaning service only works for a while. Then it's back to the dealership.

At that point, they might give you the option to replace the whole module. That costs closer to $500.

If They Say They Can't Replicate the Problem

If the service technician at your local dealership says "they've never heard of this before" and want to run a diagnostics, my recommendation is to skip it. Point out the thousands of complaints online and, if they still insist on diagnostics, bring it to another dealership.

Technical Service Bulletin (TSB 14-0011)

On May 5th, 2014, Ford released a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) related to the "door ajar" light (NHTSA reference ID 10054930). It outlines the steps a service mechanic should go through and how long it should take (under 2 hours on average).

The TSB also lists these vehicles (built on or before 07/15/2013) as having this problem:

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Ford generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA