The Ford Motor Co. yesterday announced that it is recalling another 2,383 Escort and Lynx model automobiles because of a defect that sometimes causes gas vapors to flare when the cars are being fueled--a side effect that so far has apparently been more alarming than endangering.
The recall decision covers cars in which the defect was to have been corrected in manufacture but inadvertently was not. Ford discovered the problem in the car fuel-filler pipes sometime before Dec. 12, 1980, when it changed its manufacturing to eliminate the problem.
It was not until last month, however, that the company notified owners of 125,000 cars built before the manufacturing change that they could bring in their cars for modifications.
"There's no point in alerting car owners to a problem unless you have the parts to fix it," said Ford spokesman Jerry ter Horst. He added that until recently there had been no incidents involving the defect.
The problem arose when Ford installed plastic filler pipes in the cars in an effort to reduce the auto's weight and improve fuel efficiency. Metal filler pipes, because they are attached to the frame of the car, are grounded. Because plastic insulates itself, the new filler pipes were ungrounded, allowing static electricity to build up.
Under some circumstances, the combination of static electricity and vapors from gasoline have combined to produce a flash and a puff of smoke. Ter Horst said that there have only been two or three such incidents and that in no case has a car been damaged or anyone injured.
The cars problem was corrected by the addition of a ground wire.
With the addition of the cars recalled yesterday, the notices to owners and dealers affect approximately 10 percent of the cars manufactured in the two models, which are supposed to be Ford's corporate lifesavers.
Two weeks ago the Massachusetts fire marshal advised local fire chiefs to bring the problem to the attention of service station operators, who were to be urged to make sure that any car involved in the recall was modified before the tank was filled. The operators were to be told that they might refuse to fill the tank of a car that came in for a fill-up without the modification.
Fire Marshall Joseph O'Keefe said the problem first came to his department's attention after an incident Aug. 27. In that incident, O'Keefe said, vapors flashed into flames three feet high as an attendant at a service station on Main Street in Woburn, Mass., was pumping gas into the tank of an unmodified car. Ter Horst said Ford knows of no incident in which the defect even resulted in flames.
O'Keefe said the fire was put out with a fire extinguisher. He added that no one was injured and the car was not damaged. The state fire marshal's office sent out an investigator and later discovered the letters which had gone out to owners. "We were very concerned. One fire is enough," O'Keefe said.
"He was after the fact," Ter Horst said. "What he did manage to do was to alarm a lot of Escort owners who were not affected," he said.
The cars involved in the most recent recall were manufactured during three days in August in a plant in Edison, N.J. The cars were manufactured at the start-up of the assembly line when a notice about the manufacturing change apparently failed to reach the right hands.
The first recall covered only cars built before Dec. 12, 1980.