The 2020 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator Violate Federal Safety Standards

Ah, vehicle recalls. Sometimes they’re bad, and sometimes they’re really bad. Thankfully, the latest vehicle recall hasn’t had any vehicle crashes to test just how serious it is. The recall is for problematic headrests in two different SUVs — the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator — and affecting nearly 2,800 total vehicles. The recall focuses on the second-row headrests; federal safety standards are not met because the headrests may move around during a collision, causing injury to passengers. 

Some of the headrests in the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator are not attached properly

A statement from Ford said that a supplier found a headrest that moved excessively, indicating a safety problem, according to Car Complaints. They noticed that the area where the headrest attached to its bracket was out of position, which caused two of the four welds needed in that piece to not properly penetrate the bracket. They went on to find a second seat frame with a similar problem – one out of four welds needed to, again, penetrate the headrest bracket were not properly aligned to weld appropriately. 

This led the company to investigate a number of vehicles, looking for more problematic headrests. They found that the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator were both assembled with incorrect headrest welds, both in the headrest itself and where the headrest attaches to the seat.

This problem implies that the headrest may move excessively during a collision, or it may detach entirely, posing a huge safety risk to passengers; anything that can turn into a projectile inside the vehicle during a car crash can turn deadly. 

The recall stemmed from one manufacturing plant

2020 Lincoln Navigator – a cousin of the Ford Expedition – is on display at the 112th Annual Chicago Auto Show
The 2020 Lincoln Navigator | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Thankfully, the number of affected vehicles is not as high as it could be. The recall includes 2,620 SUVs in the U.S., 159 in Canada, and 19 in Mexico, all built at the Kentucky Truck Plant, according to Ford. Ford Expeditions that are affected were built there between February 26th and March 18th, 2020. Lincoln Navigators that are affected were built there between February 27th and March 16th, 2020. 

It has been determined that the cause of the problematic headrests was a malfunctioning welding machine during production. The second-row headrests are the exact problem spot; all other headrests were assembled correctly. Ford has said that they are not aware of any reports of injuries due to the improper headrests so far. 

The safety implications of failing headrests shouldn’t be overlooked


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While it may not sound as serious as other vehicle recalls, a failing head restraint can cause serious injury in the event of a collision. Headrests are often looked at as a comfort and convenience feature, but they were originally designed as a safety feature. Headrests are meant to stop the head from snapping backward during a collision, reducing the likelihood of a neck and spine injury and reducing the risk of concussion, according to Edmunds

Headrest brackets that were not properly welded at all of the points needed in assembly pose a safety risk during a collision. The ones that were found to be assembled with the faulty brackets could potentially move too much during an accident and ultimately not restrain the head in the way they’re supposed to, leading to a serious injury. 

Vehicle recalls are easy to ignore when they come around in the mail, but it’s important to take them seriously. Check your vehicle’s VIN with the NHTSA’s recall website to see if your SUV is affected by this headrest recall. If it is, bring your car in to a dealer. They’ll look it over and ensure your SUV has the faulty parts, then replace them if required.

Even something like a headrest, which we usually think of as a comfort feature, can make all the difference during a collision.