Aug. 25, 2017—Ford owners from seven states are suing Ford in a proposed nationwide class-action lawsuit alleging the automaker knowingly sold millions of its vehicles with defective two-piece lug nuts that swell and delaminate, rendering them unusable and forcing consumers to pay for costly replacements.
The defective lug nuts can cost consumers as much as $120-$160 for a full set of replacement lug nuts (not including labor cost). Attorneys say this defect presents a potentially dangerous situation for Ford owners who get a flat tire and find themselves unable to remove the lug nuts with the wrench provided by Ford—often on the shoulder of a fast-moving highway.
Drivers also report that when getting their Ford serviced, technicians regularly cannot remove the tires due to the swollen lug nuts. This leaves consumers to pay for replacement lug nuts due to Ford's defect.
The defect affects at least the following Ford models equipped with two-piece lug nuts: Ford Fusion, Ford Escape, Ford Flex, Ford Focus, Ford F-150 and the Ford F-350.
The complaint, filed Aug. 24, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan states that Ford chose to equip its vehicles with two-piece lug nuts with an outer skin that expands and contracts when exposed to moisture and changes in temperature, swelling the lug nut from its intended shape.
The two-part lug nuts at the crux of the lawsuit contain a steel core with a chrome, aluminum or stainless steel cap to improve the appearance of the visible part of the lug nut. “With normal use and well within the useful life—and in many cases the applicable warranty period—of the car, the chrome, stainless, or aluminum cap swells and delaminates to the point where the lug nuts cannot be removed with the lug wrench provided by Ford,” the complaint states.
“We’re not talking about breakthrough technology, or computerized aspects of the auto world. We’re talking about possibly the simplest part of the car – the lug nuts. Ford chose to make its lug nuts with an inferior design that puts cosmetics ahead of safety and directly led to harm to consumers,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, the law firm involved in the case.
“At best this defect leads to consumers paying more than $30 per wheel at a repair shop just to get their tire off, and then have to buy new lug nuts,” Berman said. “At worst, Ford owners could quickly end up in an emergency situation on a busy roadway, stranded with a flat tire and no way to change it,” he added.
The suit names owners from seven states—Arizona, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia—and hits Ford with a total of 70 counts of violations of various state consumer protection laws. The seven named owners all paid out-of-pocket costs to replace their defective lug nuts, some waiting hours for tow trucks simply because they had a flat tire.
For 10 years, Ford owners have complained about the defect by posting in online Ford forums and communities, and submitting official complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ford expressly warranted that it would repair or replace defects in material or workmanship free of charge if they became apparent during the warranty period. Ford also expressly warranted that it would remedy any defects in the design and manufacturing processes that result in vehicle part malfunction or failure during the warranty period.
Despite its promises, Ford refuses to replace its defective two-piece lug nuts for free, even when they fail during the new vehicle warranty period. Instead, Ford shifts its warranty obligations onto its customers, requiring Ford owners to spend hundreds of dollars for new lug nuts and the labor to install them.
Even some Ford dealerships are recommending that consumers choose aftermarket lug nuts over Ford’s defective ones “because they know any replacement Ford lug nuts will similarly fail and become unusable,” according to the suit.
“The only thing worse than selling millions of cars with a defect is knowingly ignoring the problem and failing to own up to it,” Berman said. “These car owners deserve better from Ford, and we intend to see them made whole.”