SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — A local woman said she’s “glad to be alive” after the rear axle on her 2000 Ford Windstar broke while she was driving recently on the Spaulding Turnpike in Newington, N.H.
Elita Galvin, 30, of Main St., had just finished bringing lunch to her husband Tim, a police dispatcher in Exeter, N.H., and shopping at Walmart in Newington at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22, when her van “started to shake really, really bad.”
She was able to pull the van off to the side of the road near Exit 4 despite the shaking, though. Galvin said she had no idea what could’ve caused the issue, and said she was shocked when a New Hampshire Department of Transportation worker pulled over to help her and told her what he found looking under the vehicle.
“He looked under the car and said, ‘Holy crap, your axle’s broken,’” she said. “I didn’t know — I have no clue about cars. I should’ve never had been able to pull the van off the road.”
The van was towed by AAA to Bill Dube Ford in Dover, where a mechanic told Tim Galvin the axle and the center bracket securing the axle broke due to salt corrosion — a cold-weather issue which had prompted Ford to recall about 575,000 older Windstars last summer.
Because of that recall and their recent car problems, the Galvins said they want to get the word out to other older-model Ford users so no one else is surprised by the problem or is killed due to it, especially since the Galvins’ van passed inspection in January.
“The important thing in this whole scenario is that I don’t want his happen to anyone else,” said Tim Galvin. “If you’ve got an Explorer, Windstar of Expedition — go see Ford. Don’t wait. Get it checked because if those wheels fly off the back of a van on the highway going 65 to 70 mph and you run into a semitruck, you may not make it to see your loved ones that night.”
Ford announced the Windstar recall in August for vans from model year 1998 to 2003, citing vehicles in 21 states and Canada could have problems due to heavy road salting during winter months.
The recall came after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiated earlier that year after federal investigators received an increasing number of reports about the axles fracturing and reports of at least two accidents, according to Ford.
The NHTSA said the design of the axle allows road salt slush to collect and linger on the axle, promoting rust and eventually raising the risk of the axle fracturing.
Ford also announced in January another recall for 425,000 Windstars, this time for van models between 1999 and 2003 due to similar corrosion problems that could cause the front subframe brackets and mounts to separate.
The Galvins said they aren’t looking to pursue legal action, as no one was hurt and none of their four children were in the van at the time of the failure. Ford is sending them a check equal to the value of the van plus the cost to repair the various recall issues, although the total amount wasn’t available Monday.
Tim Galvin said he did file a report to Maine State Police Troop A about the garage which performed the inspection on his wife’s vehicle, as state police regulate state inspections.
A representative from Troop A overseeing those inspections didn’t return a call Monday.
Galvin said he still trusted the garage, who he said has always been “very up front about things” and have “done good work for us at a price we can afford,” and said he hasn’t decided to pursue action against them.
Eric Poole, the assistant service manager at Bill Dube, said it can be “difficult” to find corrosion issues such as the Galvins in some instances. Bill Dube owner Debbie Reed said the issue is also common in New Hampshire and Maine due to heavy road salt use, and said the corrosion can happen to any vehicle.
Reed “commended” Ford for its decision to pay the Galvins for the vehicle given the fact the roadways contributed largely to the problem and the fact that the car is 11 years old, a decision for which Tim Galvin said he was also “very grateful.”
“I was amazed,” he said. “For Ford to make good on it — thank you to an American company for doing right thing. We may not buy a Windstar again, but we will buy a Ford product just because the company made good on our problem.”
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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.