- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

DETROIT, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Ford Motor Co. has recalled 441,422 1997 model Escort and Mercury Tracer compact passenger cars because the airbags may deploy accidentally.

Dealers will place a shield over the air bag monitor and apply waterproof Nyogel grease to the connector to prevent wires from melting possibly causing a fire. Repairs will be made at no cost to owners.

Ford said integrated air bag monitors can malfunction because of contract with moisture, either water, fluid or condensation from the heater case.

"On certain passenger vehicles, the integrated air bag monitor can be contaminated with water or other liquids and could experience internal electrical shorting," said a recall notice on the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site.

The recall involves 375,010 Escorts and 66,412 Tracers.

Ford said it had received more than 300 complaints about airbags in 1997 Escort and Tracer models, Twenty-three involved fires and 21 unintended airbag deployment.

"Although the rate of IABM-related incidents is extremely low, Ford is taking this action to address potential airbag system concerns on these cars," Ford said in a release.

About 390,000 of the 441,000 vehicles were sold in the United States.

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