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Safety regulators close Ford, Hyundai auto defect probes

DETROIT (Reuters) - Safety regulators closed an investigation into defective engine cables in more than 467,000 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable cars after Ford Motor Co said it would fix the problem without issuing a recall.

Damaged speed control cables on Taurus and Sable cars from the 2000 through 2003 model years with Duratec engines failed to enable the driver to brake properly, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted this week.

The cables can become damaged during underhood maintenance, such as replacing the battery or changing the air filter.

NHTSA called off the investigation, which started last October, after Ford said on June 21 it would inspect and repair all affected models. The repair program will run through August 31, and there is no mileage limit.

Ford will also reimburse drivers if they've paid for similar repairs in the past, according to NHTSA documents. The refunds will be offered through the end of the year.

There were no fatalities or injuries reported as a result of the defect, but NHTSA said there were 100 complaints and five accidents reported due to the issue with the speed control cables.

Affected drivers said braking didn't cause the vehicle to slow down as it should, according to NHTSA documents. Some drivers said they had difficulty braking and had to slow the vehicle by shifting to neutral or turning the car off.

NHTSA also closed an eight-month investigation into 70,000 Hyundai <005380.KS> Santa Fe SUVs. The agency launched the investigation into the 2011 model-year vehicles after a driver submitted a complaint reporting a loose fastener in the vehicle's steering shaft.

In response to NHTSA's inquiry, Hyundai identified four affected vehicles, according to NHTSA documents. Hyundai said it launched an investigation into the issue after two steering shaft joint failures occurred shortly after the vehicles were sold.

Hyundai said the issue was due to an employee's error during the assembly process, according to NHTSA documents. The company inspected 680 vehicles at the assembly plant and found no indications of steering shaft defects.

Hyundai said it believes only a few vehicles were affected, and that any other vehicles with the defect would've failed already, according to NHTSA documents. There have been no reports of steering shaft defects since October 2012.

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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