Ford will recall 3.8 million SUVs and pickups to fix a cruise-control problem that can cause the vehicles to catch fire while parked, the company has said.

In January, Ford recalled 750,000 model-year 2000 Ford F-150 pickups and Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

The new recall adds more model years and a version of the Ford Bronco — all with factory-installed cruise control — to the list. The new recall is the fifth largest in history.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating most of the vehicles Ford recalled after complaints of fires.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed across the country against the automaker saying that its vehicles were responsible for fires that in some cases destroyed homes.

Ford had refused to expand the earlier recall because it said it couldn't determine why some vehicles were far more prone to catch fire than others. Ford now says brake fluid can leak through the cruise-control deactivation switch, causing corrosion in the cruise-control system and leading to a fire. The recalled vehicles have cruise-control components that are particularly close together, increasing the risk of fire, Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley told USA Today.

At least 10 million Ford vehicles have the same Texas Instruments switch. But Kinley stressed that the rate of fires varied considerably among models with the switch, which include the 1997-2002 Ford Explorer SUV.

Ford quit using the Texas Instruments switch midway through the 2002 model year. Texas Instruments spokeswoman Gail Chandler says the company "continues to have confidence in the safe design of the switch itself."

NHTSA is continuing its probe to determine for itself the cause of the fires, spokesman Rae Tyson says. The agency is taking a "close look at the failure rate" for the switch on other vehicles.

Although switches in recent model years haven't had the leaking problem, Kinley says, it "doesn't boil down to just the switch." The proximity of the components in some vehicles can cause leaking brake fluid to work its way into the cruise-control system over time. A fused wiring harness, which will be installed by dealers, will act as a circuit breaker, allowing a smooth flow of electricity that eliminates the problem.

Ford will notify owners of the recall immediately but is unsure when it will have enough replacement parts. It is asking customers to take vehicles to Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealers to have the cruise-control deactivated until parts are available.

Annette Garza, whose father's 1997 F-150 caught fire and burned his Weslaco, Texas, house extensively, says she is relieved Ford's recall includes Armando Alaniz's truck.

"It makes me feel a lot better that there is at least some acknowledgment that there is an issue with that particular model year," says Garza, whose family is suing Ford, USA Today reported.


Toyota has also issued a recall for 978,000 pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles sold in the same market citing a faulty steering mechanism.

Toyota said its recalled vehicles include power-steering equipped 4Runner sport utility vehicles and compact pickups and T-100 pickups from the 1989-1996 model years.