The automaker said in a filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it was recalling 333,342 Escape and 188,436 Bronco Sport SUVs from the 2020 through 2023 model years.
"A fuel injector may crack, resulting in fuel and or fuel vapor migrating to or accumulating near ignition sources, resulting in a potential fire under the hood," the company said in the filing.
Ford is not aware of fatalities related to this condition. A timeline filed with NHTSA indicates four possible injuries and 43 legal claims.
The automaker said the root cause of the problem is under investigation.
Based on analysis to date, the company said, a cracked fuel injector in the engine allows for fuel to leak at a high rate into the cylinder head. From there, fuel can travel out via a drain hole and down onto hot surfaces on the exhaust turbo system where it may combust.
A fuel leak may result in a fuel odor both outside and inside the vehicle, the filing said. If the leak initiates a fire that progresses, customers may see small flames emanating from the engine compartment or underbelly.
Ford said it would install updated engine control software to provide a message on the car's instrument panel if pressure in the fuel rail drops.
The company said it would also install a drain tube to let any leaked fuel drain from the cylinder head and avoid the fire risk.
Dealers were scheduled to be notified on Nov. 22 and letters will be mailed to customers beginning on Dec. 19.
“Once the repair is available, we will ask customers to schedule service with their preferred dealer,” Jim Azzouz, executive director of global customer experience products and customer relations, said in a statement. “They can then take advantage of our complimentary pickup and delivery or a loaner to make sure the repair is completed at their earliest convenience.”
The affected design was introduced into production on Nov. 19, 2018, which was the earliest production date for the 2020 Escape, and was taken out of production on Oct. 17, the latest production date for the 2023 Escape and Bronco Sport.
In April, Ford recalled more than 345,000 Escape SUVs from the 2020-2022 model years and Bronco Sport SUVs from the 2021-2022 model years to fix an oil leak that might cause a fire. This recall was related to the engine oil separator housing, which could crack and develop an oil leak.
Earlier this month, Ford issued a recall for 47,046 Bronco SUVs from the 2021 and 2022 model years with 8-inch center display screens. That's because their backup cameras might still display a camera image even after the vehicle is no longer backing up, a violation of federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Ford said it would provide a software update to owners that they can download themselves or have a dealer install.