Yes, this really is a thing.
Early last month we reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had opened an investigation in regards to fire complaints stemming from the 2015-2018 Ford F-150 pickup truck, both Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab configurations. What was the supposed source of these complaints? The engine? Nope. The seat belts. More specifically, the seat belt pretensioners.
Ford immediately stated it was cooperating with the government agency, and that investigation has now become a fully-fledged recall affecting 2 million F-150s in North America, according to Automotive News. But seriously? How can seat belt pretensioners be the source of potential fires? Here's how:
There's a device in the support pillar housing the seat belt that uses an explosive charge to tighten the belts in order to provide additional protection in a crash. Ford now claims it's aware of 17 reports of smoke or fire in the US and another six cases in Canada. Fortunately, no accidents or injuries have been reported, but Ford is right not to take any chances. Plus, it also has no choice in issuing the recall.
Because of the NHTSA's confirmed findings, by law Ford must go ahead with the recall. Affected owners are expected to be contacted by Ford shortly with instructions as to when the repairs, free of charge as always, will be done.
Seat belt fires. That's a new one, but it can be very serious. In one instance, an F-150 owner from Michigan claimed about the time when a deer ran into his truck's driver's side. There was only a bit of damage, but the side airbags inflated. Only a few minutes afterward did someone spot a fire on the bottom post between the front and rear doors. That's the exact location of the seat belts.