The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating reports of braking problems in 250,000 2011-2012 Ford F-150 pickups equipped with 3.5L GTDI engines. The group has identified 32 complaints of alleged electric vacuum assist pump failures that resulting in the loss of brake power assist—making it far more difficult to get the vehicles to stop. According to the complaints, failure occurs without warning—in two cases they are said to have resulted in crashes. Approximately 60% of the complaints have been received in the past nine months so the problem appears to be becoming more widespread.
An investigation by the NHTSA is a preliminary step in issuing a recall, though it doesn’t automatically result in one. A story in the Detroit News reports shortages of replacement parts and one instance where the problem was rectified by replacing the original electric vacuum assist pump with a belt-driven pump from a 2013 model—an extreme fix for something that could well be the responsibility of the manufacturer.
According to Brian Laskowski, a self-employed mechanic who previously worked at a dealership as a Ford Factory Master Certified Technician, the electric vacuum assist pumps in 2011-2012 Ford F-150s are poorly gasketed and subject to corrosion. The assist pump is intended to supplement the vacuum from the 3.5L GTDI (EcoBoost) engine, which at low speeds may be insufficient for power breaking. The video below was produced by Laskowski and explains the hows and whys of the pump in question and shows how to make the repair.