TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Ford Motor Co. says it will repair a power steering flaw in the Ford 2006-2007 police cruiser that sometimes makes it hard to make sharp turns.
The problem stems from a smaller-capacity power-steering pump that Ford installed on its new Crown Victoria police interceptors.
The smaller pump is meant to give officers a better feel for the road and improve fuel economy.
However, problems with the pump were found in more than 100 cruisers tested by Tucson, Pima County, Phoenix and the Department of Public Safety, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Cities and Ford dealerships are repairing the problem at their own cost by putting in a larger-capacity pump from an earlier police interceptor model.
Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said the Dearborn, Mich.-automaker doesn't see this as a safety issue, but it will change the pumps if there is a demonstrable problem.
''It's not a safety issue because you never lose steering,'' Jarvis said. ''It's a temporary change in the feel.''
An estimated 57,000 newer-model police cruisers across the country have the same lower-displacement pump. Of that number, Ford has replaced between 500 and 1,000 pumps, Jarvis said.
On Nov. 6, Ford issued an advisory bulletin warning that 2006-2007 Crown Victoria police interceptors built between Aug. 6, 2005, and Oct. 24, 2006, ''may exhibit a momentary increase in steering effort.''
The advisory does not indicate a defect, Jarvis said. ''We think it's a nuisance,'' he said.
Ford officials said the steering hesitation is minor and momentary. Police officials and fleet managers throughout Arizona say that's true. But the problem comes when an officer is surprised by it and over steers to compensate, potentially resulting in loss of control, and accidents.
Pete Scarafiotti, fleet director with the city of Mesa, said more muscle is needed to turn the wheel when the steering fails, creating the potential to oversteer. ''It could surprise you. That alone could cause an accident,'' he said.
Jarvis said Ford technicians have not noticed drivers overcompensating in the field. He said police departments are repairing the vehicles only because of ''a great fear of the unknown.'' It's easier to repair the pumps than to convince police it's not a problem, he said.
Vincent Lorefice, fleet services supervisor for the city of Marana, said all 33 vehicles in Marana's fleet failed road tests. Many of them failed twice.
''They are all engineered, designed and manufactured exactly the same,'' he said. ''Obviously, there is a design flaw.''