Two more Ford Kuga SUVs caught alight at the weekend as forensic investigators battle over which components are causing the family vehicles to combust.
Experts are divided about whether the fires are being caused by a combination of electrical faults and a plastic fuel line, or by problems with the vehicles’ cooling systems.
Since then at least 43 Kugas made between 2013 and 2014 have caught alight in South Africa. These include two that caught fire outside King William’s Town and Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Investigator Danny Joubert, who has investigated five of the Kuga incidents, believes there are two causes of the fires – a failure in a plastic connector on the fuel line in the engine compartment, and a failure of electrical components in the vehicle’s passenger compartment.
“The materials will be subjected to controlled burns to determine what gases they emit, whether they are odourless, and their toxicity. This will answer why Jimmy did not escape or at least try to. From my experience, it’s clear he was incapacitated by virtually odourless gases,” said Joubert.
“The engine fires are caused by the fuel line’s plastic component cracking and spraying petrol over the hot engine and igniting,” said Joubert. “In electrical fires there is usually a problem on an unprotected circuit, which has no fuse. Wiring becomes so hot it raises the temperature of the plastic insulation and other materials to a point at which it releases toxic gases.”
Ford has since applied to the Cape Town High Court for an order that it be given access to all the evidence in the police docket.
Ford has urged owners of affected models to bring their vehicles for the replacement of coolant containers and water hoses, arguing that cracks in the containers cause vehicles to overheat and catch fire.
“While our investigations into the incidents are not complete , we have found that the fires may be a result of engines overheating,” said Gardiner.
He said Kuga 1.6l owners had been advised to contact their Ford dealer to “check the coolant concentration level, and for any leaks or damage to the cooling system”.
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More pictures of Kugas ablaze: