Half a million Windstar minivans are being recalled because of a risk of rear axle separation, especially in so-called “salt belt” states where winter weather and road salt increase the risk of corrosion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Our defective vehicle attorneys represent clients who have been seriously injured or killed by a dangerous or defective product. For most families, a vehicle is among their biggest investments. In this case, the defect involves a minivan, typically purchased by young families to transport children. While vehicle manufacturers have a responsibility to build safe products — and to inform the public of defects in a timely fashion — they too often fail to fulfill one or both of those obligations. As the Toyota recalls illustrated last year, the company was accused of knowing about the risks for years before it finally informed the public.

And, each year, vehicles are the most frequently recalled consumer product on the market.

In this case, the government reports salt can cause the rear axle to weaken and crack, which could “negatively affect the driver’s ability to control the vehicle.”

In fact, the rear axle is among the most stressed and most critical parts on any vehicle. It is what helps propel a vehicle. It is what falls under extreme stress when a vehicle must stop in an emergency. The risk of metal corrosion is not new. It is a risk manufacturers have dealt with for decades. We don’t yet know the particulars of this case — it’s possible the axles were purchased from a subcontractor who had the lowest bid. And they apparently did not undergo the type of rigorous, all-weather testing necessary to expose the defect. As a result, half a million vehicles marketed to soccer moms are driving around the United States with a “rear axle separation” issue.

Owners are now being told by the government to immediately visit Ford’s website for information on getting their van to the dealership to correct the issue.

Those considering the purchase of a new vehicle can visit www.safercar.gov for government safety ratings and to see if your vehicle has been the subject of any recalls. You can also sign up for immediate email notification of recalls that affect your vehicle, tires or child safety seats.

The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services, including defective product cases. Call (888) 554-2030 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.