Poornima Krishnan and her family were the proud owners of a white coloured Ford Ecosport Titanium Petrol on the 14th of October, 2015. Two weeks later, the family decided to drive from Bangalore to Sringeri. Even as they were a few kilometers away from Mangalore, misfortune struck. According to the vehicle’s owner, the front axle of the Ecosport completely collapsed, without warning. The massive force generated by the collapsing axle sheared through the alloy wheel. And the alloy wheel isn’t made of jelly. It takes some force to violently tear apart an alloy wheel.
What could’ve easily turned into tragedy from a mishap was perhaps averted by the smooth road and sparse traffic. If the same mechanical breakdown had occurred during an overtaking maneuver or with traffic behind, the results could have been be horrific. Now, axles breaking on heavily overloaded commercial vehicles is quite common on Indian roads. But on a brand new car, an axle breaking is very rare. The broken axle was just the beginning of the Ecosport owner’s problems.
Cauvery Ford of Mangalore, who towed the vehicle away for repairs presented the Ecosport owner with a bill of nearly 3.4 lakh rupees. The Ecosport owner claims that Ford hasn’t intervened in this matter despite being informed of the axle breaking incident.
While it’s hard to be objective as we haven’t heard Ford’s part of the story, here are 3 major reasons why the axle may have failed so dramatically,
1. Manufacturing defect. The suspension is of a modern day car is made of high strength, heavy duty components that are designed to take heavy abuse. Ford cars are known to be built tough, and represent some of the better cars for Indian road conditions, especially poor roads. However, a manufacturing defect that caused the axle to simply snap cannot be ruled out. While Ford has some pretty robust quality control measures in check, a bad part escaping scrutiny and causing all this mayhem is still a possibility, however small it may seem. Even if the axle has snapped, why has the wheel not been held back by the upper and lower suspension arms? So, the axle breaking theory may not be the actual reason for this suspension collapse.
2. Massive stress on the suspension due to a rock, a huge pothole or severe overloading. CV joints of the independent suspension system can easily break when the wheels are steered against a stubborn obstacle such as a rock. In fact, off roaders prefer a solid axle up front due to this factor. Coming back to the Ecosport, other road imperfections such as potholes and speed breakers taken at very high speeds can also break the suspension. While severe overloading is another possibility, it usually happens in case of commercial vehicles rather than passenger cars.
3. Wheel alignment job gone bad. Given that the Ecosport was barely two weeks old, a wheel alignment job or worn out suspension are unlikely suspects. During wheel alignment, if the tie rods aren’t tightened properly, they could fail, leading to a cascade of other component failures. A tie rod failure at high speed will cause the wheel to violently shake. This uncontrollable shake can shear off the lower arm of the suspension, unsettle the CV joint and cause the whole suspension system to collapse. Wheel alignment generally happens at the factory, or if needed (but very rarely) during the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) done by the dealer. If an errant mechanic hasn’t tightened tie rods adequately, the resultant damage isn’t surprising. But it could be more of a slippage from the factory.
It’s in Ford India’s best interest that they take possession of the car and investigate the cause of failure.