Ford and Lemon Law: A History of Faulty Products

No auto manufacturer is immune to producing defective products – and Ford is no exception. As a California lemon law attorney, we’ve seen our fair share of faulty Ford vehicles.

Ford has been a staple in the American auto industry for nearly a century. The brand has built a reputation for an array of options – ranging from trucks, vans, and SUVs to sedans and performance vehicles.

Models like the Fiesta, Escort, and F-150 are some of the best-selling vehicles in the world. And with many active models on the market, Ford boasts one of the largest selections of vehicles out of any other car manufacturer.

However, even with the brand’s illustrious history, Ford hasn’t always been renowned for innovation in safety. In this post, we want to go over this American car manufacturer’s history of recalls and lemons – and what you can do if your Ford is giving you trouble.

Let’s get rolling.

Ford Recall History

Believe it or not, Ford has recalled more vehicles than any other American car company. This should be taken with a grain of salt – as Ford has sold more vehicles in the States than any other automaker. However, the sales figures are disproportionate to the number of recalls.

1970s – 1980s

The biggest Ford recall happened between 1976 and 1980 – which was a dark age for auto manufacturers. Changing emission standards were forcing car companies to make their engines smaller and less powerful. This was in addition to the gas crisis that plagued the nation (and the rest of the world) throughout the 1970s.

Defective transmissions in a number of Ford vehicles throughout that time period made it so many cars would not stay in park. Instead, the vehicle would slip into reverse. All in all, the defect resulted in over 6,000 accidents, 1,700 injuries, and 98 deaths.

The Center for Auto Safety first brought this to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) attention to the issue in July of 1977, which prompted an investigation into Ford vehicles made between 1966-1979 with C-6 or FMX transmissions. After several years, 21 million vehicles were officially recalled in 1981 – making it the largest automotive recalls in history.


In 1996, a faulty ignition switch in a plethora of Ford vehicles – from the Thunderbird to the F-350 pickup – led to a recall of 7.9 million cars. The ignition switch would short circuit and start a fire in the steering column.

Fortunately, fatalities were minimal. Many of the impacted vehicles were parked and had been shut off for hours before the fires broke out. However, some vehicles ended up setting garages on fire and damaging the owners’ homes.

To make matters worse, there was another recall in the same year involving roughly 14 million drivers of Ford trucks and large vehicles. This included the popular Bronco (at the time) and the Explorer SUV. The ignition used to activate the cruise control feature would burst into flames. This was an issue that would plague Ford into the 2000s.


Ford has had a number of recalls throughout the 2000s. Some of the big ones include:

In 2005, Ford recalled around 4.5 million vehicles due to ongoing problems of cruise control safety switches starting fires. In 2009, 4.5 million more vehicles were recalled for the same problem – making it the largest recall for the same issue.

Back in early 2021, the NHSTA required Ford to recall 3 million vehicles from 2012-2016 due to issues with the airbags. This recall affected the Ford Edge, Fusion, Ranger, Lincoln MKX & MKZ/Zephyr, as well as the Mercury Milan. Replacing the airbags will cost the company around $610 million.

Recalls start with consumer complaints to the NHTSA. If there are enough complaints in the same vehicle citing the same problem, it will prompt an investigation. Affected consumers may file a complaint directly with the agency.

Now, this list barely scratches the surface of Ford’s recalls. To learn more about the brand’s recent recalls, take a look at the Ford Recall Check.

Common Lemon Law Cases Against Ford

To switch gears, I want to discuss how recalls differ from lemon law.

Recalls involve a large number of the same vehicle models experiencing a similar problem(s) that occurred during the manufacturing process. Lemons involve a single vehicle experiencing a problem that occurred during the manufacturing process.

For a recall to be issued, there must be widespread complaints about a certain issue. For a vehicle to be deemed a lemon, it must exhibit a defect that impairs the use, safety, or value of the vehicle – and be covered under warranty. Additionally, the manufacturer is not able to repair the vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts.

Like recalls, Ford is no stranger to lemon law cases.

1971 Ford Pinto

Ford currently holds the title of the biggest lemon of all time with the 71 Pinto. The Pinto had a history of catching fire even in the slightest of rear-end collisions. After a number of lemon law cases – and consumer fatalities, a major lawsuit resulted in Ford discontinuing the model.

Ford nearly had to close its doors due to the Pinto. But fortunately, they were able to redeem their reputation.
1996 Ford Taurus

The Ford Taurus has long been praised for its dependability and quality. But this doesn’t mean that EVERY model is perfect. While not quite as big as the Pinto, the 96 Taurus is definitely up there as one of the biggest lemons of all time.

The 1996 Taurus was doomed from the beginning. Edmunds had predicted it would flop in sales due to its subpar appearance. As the vehicle was rolled out, it was plagued with engine and transmission issues – leading to many lemon cases.

Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is one of the top-selling vehicles in America. However, the model has had a slew of issues over the years – ranging from extremely minor to catastrophic. Ford has been hit with lemon cases for a range of problems, including:

  • Loss of power steering
  • Engine stalling
  • AC issues
  • Suspension and brakes problems
  • Automatic transmission failure
  • Hard-start and no-start
  • Airbag issues

Ford Focus

The Ford Focus has been a fuel-efficient staple in the brand’s catalog – but it’s certainly not immune to manufacturer defects. Over the years, the model has led to consumer complaints with the following components:

  • Transmission
  • Steering
  • Gear shift
  • Power
  • Engine
  • Suspension
  • Door latches

Ford F-150

The F-150 is the jewel of Ford’s catalog. Known for its strength and performance, the F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles on the market. But the model has seen its fair share of defects. Most notably, the 2015-2019 models have been known to experience both engine and transmission problems.

Does Your Ford Meet California’s Lemon Law Qualifications?

Under California lemon law, you can seek compensation for your defective Ford vehicle if it meets the following criteria:

  • The vehicle exhibits a substantial defect – covered under the warranty – that impairs its use, value, or safety.
  • The manufacturer has made at least two or more unsuccessful attempts to repair the warranty-covered defect.
  • The vehicle has been out of service for repairs for 30 days or more.
  • The defect was not caused by driver abuse.

If your vehicle fits the bill, you may be entitled to a Ford lemon law buyback. Now, chances are, you’ve never dealt with lemon before. Auto manufacturers bank on consumers’ lack of knowledge on the law. In fact, they will commonly try to push consumers into taking an action that goes against their legal interests.

If you have even the slightest hunch that your vehicle has an issue due to shoddy manufacturing, contact a specialized California lemon law attorney as soon as possible.

Always remember: lemon law questions are free!

Wrap Up

Dealing with a defective Ford is not a reality you should live with. No matter if your vehicle has been recalled or is exhibiting manufacturing issues, you deserve to drive a safe vehicle.

As a California lemon law attorney with years in the industry, we’ve dealt with a considerable amount of Ford lemons. We know what it takes to get justice quickly and earn the maximum compensation.

Think your Ford may be a lemon?

Get in touch with Cline APC today. Call our office at 888-982-6915, send an email to or fill out a FREE case evaluation form.

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