The government’s recall resource, recalls.gov.au, lists the defect as “a possibility that grass or vegetation could become trapped and accumulate in the vehicle underbody area.”
“If driven across areas covered by high dry grass…”
Yes, people, it’s dangerous to drive across high grass in your purpose-built off-road machine these days.
But of course, it’s much more serious than that.
The hazards are listed in the recall thus:
“If the grass or vegetation comes into contact with the exhaust system components that operate at a high temperature, there is a risk that such debris may be ignited by the exhaust system. In the worst case scenario a fire may originate in the vehicle underbody area.”
But strangely, this sort of incendiary issue has been a problem for years, and not just with the Ranger and BT-50.
There have been numerous stories of Toyota Prados and even a month-old Range Rover burning to the ground after driving over spinifex grass.
A quick search on off-roading forums reveals a multitude of tales of people who have suffered the loss of a vehicle thanks to a lack of diligence.
So, how do we fix the issue?
It seems Ford and Mazda have a unique way to solve the problem while they come up with a fix.
Mazda says that “until a permanent solution to prevent the accumulation of debris is available” it recommends a temporary strategy:
“Avoid driving your BT-50 across areas that are covered by high grass/vegetation.”
So, sorry if you have that off-road adventure planned – you just can’t do it now.
Ford, on the other hand says that “until parts are available, owners should refer to the warnings in the Owner Manual”.
The company says to pay particular attention to the sections about “Starting and Stopping the Engine”, looking at the general information and diesel particulate filter subheadings, as well as the “Fuel and Refueling – Catalytic Converter” section.
Not sure how that’s going to stop a fire if you’ve driven over the grass, but hey, just make sure you read that while your vehicle burns to the ground.
C’mon guys, there must be a better way
There is. The real solution is simple – stop and check underneath.
Is that really hard, or does no-one want to get their hands literally dirty?
A simple hook, fashioned out of some fencing wire or a coat hanger is also useful.
If you’re going off-road and traversing an area of long, dry grass, keep the hook in the car and every 10 minutes, stop the car.
Hop out, look underneath and fish out any grass that has accumulated underneath.
It takes about 20 seconds and you can carry on your journey with full confidence you’re not going to end up as a piece of charcoal.
What else can we do?
The other thing to take with you is a fire extinguisher.
This isn’t something that’s optional if you’re heading bush – you need to have it with you.
Fire extinguishers aren’t all that expensive, and the insurance they bring is worth a lot less than a replacement vehicle.
But here’s the thing: those suggestions above aren’t limited to owners of the BT-50 and the Ranger.
They apply to anyone with a four-wheel-drive.
Even people who have an SUV and do a little bush bashing can benefit.
Every car has catch points where long grass can get stuck. Even hatchbacks and sedans.
So, rather than blaming someone else and expecting a recall if your car catches fire, maybe it’s time to take responsibility and look after our SUVs.
Look under the car every now and then and make sure everything is okay underneath.
If you own a car, you can’t be an ostrich.
You need to take ownership and look after that machine of yours.
After all, your life could depend on it.