Shattering Rear Windows Leave SUV Owners Ducking For Cover

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When you open or close the rear lift gate of certain Ford SUVs, you run the risk of getting showered in broken glass because of a defect with the lift gate's brackets.

Both the 3rd generation Explorer and 2nd generation Escape have a history of shattering rear windows dating back to the early 2000s.

Cylinder Detachment and Shattering Glass

The glass is at risk of shattering when the lift gate's lift cylinder detaches from the cylinder ball stud bracket or rotates out of position because of improper torque.

These problems happen because:

  1. There's a poor bond between the bracket and the glass due to improper application of the urethane adhesive.
  2. There's a sudden loss of clamp load due to an improperly cured EPDM washer on the bracket or the clamp's torque being too low.

Ford started acknowledging these issues in 2001 when reports of loose lift gate strut brackets started rolling in. But glass continued to shatter even after Ford re-torqued the bolts.

For a while they assumed there was a glass processing error in a small batch of vehicles. It wasn't until later that they realized the real culprit was adhesion failure between the bracket and the glass.

Explorer Investigation Leads to Recall

Ford opened an internal investigation in March 2004, but by that time the problem was also floating around the Office of Defects Investigations (ODI) at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A federal preliminary investigation opened in June 2004. ODI wanted to look into allegations of rear lift gate glass assembly failure after being made aware of 62 reports of failures.

During their investigation, NHTSA documented 5,000 complaints of breaking glass resulting in 165 reports of injuries.

The Recall

By September, Ford notified the agency they would recall roughly 955,000 model year 2002-2003 Ford Explorer vehicles (along with their Mercury Mountaineer counterparts).

The recall replaced the lift gate glass and strut brackets in vehicles built either:

  1. Between 08/01/2000 through 03/03/2003 at the Louisville Assembly Plant, or
  2. Between 08/01/2000 through 03/10/2002 at the St. Louis Assembly Plant.

A Second Investigation for Escape Owners

For owners of the Escape and Mountaineer, good news came in February 2011 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced an investigation into this shattering glass problem. The government agency received 18 complaints, which is a far cry from the hundreds we've seen on

No recall has been issued yet, but a Ford spokesman told the Detroit News that they were "aware of the investigation." Aware is great, fixing the problem is better.

Ford's Response

No recall has been issued yet, but a Ford spokesman told the Detroit News that they were "aware of the investigation." Aware is great, fixing the problem is better.

Ford did issue a technical service bulletin on the matter last November, where they stated that "some 2010-2011 Escape and Mariner vehicles built on or before Oct. 15, 2010 may experience the lift gate window glass breaking, typically when colder ambient temperatures are present." Explain that one to the people reporting this problem from Hawaii.

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.

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 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