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NHTSA Checking Windstars

WASHINGTON--The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Ford Windstar minivans from the 1995 to 1998 model years following reports that a spring in the suspension system can break and puncture tires.

NHTSA and Ford have collected 199 complaints regarding a front suspension coil spring that suddenly breaks, collapsing the front suspension. In 42 cases the broken spring punctured the adjacent tire--sometimes while the minivan was traveling at highway speeds. Ford also performed 298 warranty repairs for spring failures, including 88 involving tire damage.

NHTSA said Ford told the agency that it does not believe a broken spring presents an unreasonable safety risk because it does not interfere with steering or braking, but the agency warned that drivers could lose control during such an event. It said thus far there have been no reports of crashes, injuries or deaths caused by the problem.

Some 926,000 Windstars are involved in the probe, and NHTSA noted that complaints have been coming from areas of the country that use road salt in the winter.

NHTSA also said it is continuing an investigation into Volkswagen Jettas and Passats over suspicions that the fuel tank can be punctured by blowouts of the right rear tire. There have been 31 reports filed about the problem, but no crashes, injuries or deaths.