A farmer in western Victoria says a fire started by his new ute, a model recently recalled by the manufacturers, could have cost him millions of dollars in damage.
The recall began in late December due to a fire risk caused by a diesel particulate filter operating at very high temperatures in the undercarriage.
Natimuk grain farmer Michael Sudholz said the safety warning has come too late for many farmers, as the recall did not reach him until his Ford Ranger started spot fires on his farm.
"My wife was picking up my son from the mother bin, proceeding across the paddock, and unbeknownst to her she started three spot fires with the ute," Mr Sudholz said.
"We lost probably 150 acres of crop and stubble, and within that was about 100 acres of standing wheat.
"We had about $2 million of equipment in the paddock and six people so it was very lucky we got out of it so lightly.
"My son [who was driving the header at the time] was slightly injured on the arm, but we were very lucky there weren't more serious things that happened.
"It makes my heart sink. I've actually got two of these utes and bought them to be safer in the paddock — they're modern utes and we've practically just bought two firelighters."
Western Victoria farmer Michael Sudholz claims a grass fire was sparked from his vehicle, now under a recall notice.
Supplied: Michael Sudholz
Vehicles recalled amid incidents
A statement from Ford Australia said the affected Ranger line of vehicles — the XL, XL Plus, XLS, XLT and Wildtrak — are the current models built after July 2016.
It said the vehicles "are at risk of underbody fire when driven over long grass or tall vegetation which may accumulate in an underbody area adjacent to the exhaust system".
The statement said:
The vehicle emissions system can generate very high temperatures during Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) regeneration and if sufficient grass or vegetation accumulates near the DPF, it could create a risk of fire.
Customers should avoid driving over long grass and have their vehicle inspected or inspect their vehicle themselves for grass accumulation until parts are available to reduce the possibility of this occurring.
Ford said that it was contacting customers to alert them of the risk, and they would be contacted again as parts were available to address this concern.
Mark Uebergang, a CFA volunteer and neighbour who attended the fire on Mr Sudholz's property, said he had heard of other instances from a local mechanic.
"These guys [the mechanics] are aware of it and they take precautions, but for the people who aren't aware of it … they have a potential of lighting a fire and they aren't being warned about it," Mr Uebergang said.
"Some vehicles I don't think are appropriate. The farmer didn't even know that there was a potential problem.
Mr Sudholz said his family was totally unaware of the issue or the recall.
"It took a while to figure out what started it as we have all modern machinery in the paddock, but we tracked that down as the cause," he said.
"I rang Ford first thing after they were back at work [after Christmas] and they recognise they have a problem, but they have no fix for it at this stage.
"I'm waiting on a phone call back from Ford, I've had a phone call from the engineers and they've identified the vehicle and realised they do have a problem and said they're working on a solution."
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