• Ford recall affects 2011-2013 Fiestas.
  • Rear passenger might not have airbag coverage.
  • Ford will mail recall notices shortly.

Ford is recalling more than 150,000 units of its compact Fiesta due to a potential problem with the compact car's airbags. According to the automaker and the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the recall affects many 2011 through 2013 models whose side airbag might not deploy in certain situations.

NHTSA says the recall is necessary because the Fiesta's front passenger seat includes a sensor that turns off all passenger-side airbag protection when the front seat is unoccupied. As a result, rear seat occupants aren't protected by side airbags unless a passenger is seated in front, which increases risk of injury to those riding in the back. While NHTSA says that's how Ford designed the Fiesta's side airbag system, the government agency also said the automaker failed to communicate this function in the Fiesta's owner's manual.

Although Ford said it's not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the defect, the automaker announced it will begin the recall shortly. That means drivers who purchased their Fiesta new or used from a Ford dealer should look for a recall notice to arrive in the mail within the next few weeks.

Drivers who bought a used Fiesta from another source can contact the Ford recall hotline at 1-866-436-7332 to see if the recall includes their vehicle. Shoppers considering a used Fiesta can use the same phone number, provided they have access to the vehicle's VIN number--a 17-digit code located on the driver's side door jamb or at the base of the windshield.

According to Ford, dealers will fix the defect free of charge by using a simple procedure that reprograms the Fiesta's software. The result is that the compact car's side airbags will no longer be suppressed when the passenger seat is empty, eliminating any danger to rear seat occupants. While Ford hasn't announced how long the procedure will take, we wouldn't expect it to last more than an hour.

What it means to you: If you own a 2011-2013 Fiesta, look for a recall notice in the mail. If you don't get a notice in the next few weeks, call Ford to find out if the recall affects your vehicle.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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