The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Defects Investigation has launched a probe into 2021 Ford Bronco models with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. This comes after dozens of owners reported catastrophic engine failures, many with fewer than 5,000 miles on the odometer. Specific instances have been recorded on social media and forums over the past year, which led owners to not only file complaints on the NHTSA's website but also directly petition the ODI to investigate the matter in hopes of a recall.
"Under normal driving conditions without warning the vehicle may experience a loss of motive power without restart due to catastrophic engine failure related to a faulty valve within 2.7 L Eco-Boost Engines," reads the description from the ODI's investigation.
A Ford spokesperson told The Drive that the manufacturer is cooperating with the NHTSA. They also reiterated the statement they provided us for our initial report in April:
"We are aware of a select number of engines with this concern and we are investigating. If any customers are experiencing issues, they will be covered under the vehicle’s five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty."
Many complaints of the same issue have been outlined on Reddit, Facebook, and the Bronco6G forums. Each experience is quite similar—a low mileage Bronco equipped with the 2.7-liter V6 simply loses power, is towed to the dealer, and the owner is informed of a "catastrophic failure" involving the vehicle's valvetrain. The vast majority of failures seem to have occurred under 5,000 miles, and the lowest odometer reading of a reported failure is just 984 miles.
Back in April, Ford said it was aware of a "select number of engines" with the concern and was investigating. Still, reports of engine failures continued to flood the NHTSA's website. An additional three reports were submitted to the ODI since our initial report, bringing the total number of submitted complaints (via the website and at least three additional petitions) to 32 vehicles. However, a member of the Bronco6G forums has also kept track of failures in a thread, noting at least 50 occurrences.
While "dozens" of reports might not seem like a lot of affected units, the problem could possibly be larger than that. Someone claiming to be a Ford employee who worked at the automaker's Lima engine plant wrote that the problem was related to a bad batch of valves, noting that the metal composition became brittle from the engine heat and failed over time. The NHTSA's docket says that the total potential population of affected vehicles could be as high as 25,538—that's the number of Broncos with the 2.7-liter V6 produced for the U.S. market for the 2021 model year.
This supposed employee stressed that it was a supplier issue and was mostly contained to a batch from April 2021. Ford also noted in January 2022 that it resolved a "valve supplier issue" at the plant sometime during 2021. The total number of affected units isn't exactly clear, then, but Ford says it produced 437 units of the Bronco in April 2021 and 1,069 in May 2021.
While it's significant that the NHTSA has opened this investigation into a flagship Ford product, it's important to note that it's just that: an investigation. Should the ODI identify a critical problem that creates a genuine safety risk—like a vehicle losing power and being stranded on the highway—the agency could ask Ford to voluntarily recall the affected units before determining if it needs to seek an official order to conduct the recall.