The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a preliminary evaluation investigation on 1999 through 2003 model year Ford Windstars. According to the federal agency, it has received 234 complaints involving broken rear axles on the minivan, two of which involved accidents. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
“Fifty-six complaints indicate that the axle failure occurred at speeds of 40 miles per hour or greater,” notes the NHTSA document, concluding “fracture of a rear suspension axle could result in loss of vehicle control.” The preliminary report also notes the issue seemed more severe in states using road salts, which could corrode the rear axle beam due to its 'U' channel design.
Ford, in response, says it is aware of the investigation and is cooperating fully with the agency.
The NHTSA estimates Ford sold 900,000 Windstar minivans before replacing it with the 2004 Freestar minivan. Ford later pulled out of the minivan segment altogether in 2006.