Kristen Chafe bought her 2014 Ford Edge because she thought it would be a dependable, sturdy vehicle. But the car only had about 23,000 kilometres on it when a major component that experts say should last a lifetime, completely blew apart. Fortunately she'd pulled over just in time.

"All of a sudden I had a plume of smoke just exploded from my car," said Chafe. “I got out of the vehicle and just ran.”

The power transfer unit, or PTU, which directs power to the wheels in all-wheel drives, had completely split in two.

George Iny with the Automobile Protection Association says Ford has known about problems.

"It’s a significant issue," he said.

“The designs vary and this particular one seems to be undersized or under designed for the vehicles in which it is in."

Ford replaced Chaffe’s failed PTU and the damage it did to the driveshaft. But she wonders if there's a design defect.

“I've asked that question over and over and over again. I've asked for answers and no one's given me one response," she said.

Ford never responded to our questions about a possible defect either, only stating "there are no recalls open on the 2014 Edge for issues relating to this customer's concern."

Transport Canada told CTV News it has received complaints of leaks and poor performing Ford power transfer units, but added the complaints do not appear to have the characteristics of a safety defect issue.

So who's calling it a defect? Iny, for one.

"We are,” said Iny. “I do see a weakness in that unit absolutely because they are failing and it's expensive."

Iny says Ford should at least notify owners and offer extended warranties. Chafe’s warranty was extended but she wants greater assurances.

"They replaced the PTU but will this happen again?" questioned Chafe, "I don't feel safe."

The Automobile Protection Association says consequences could have been much more serious if Chafe had been driving at highway speeds when the failure happened.

PTU units could cost as much as $3,000 to replace. Based on Ford's response it appears they are dealing with this on a case by case basis. But they are certainly aware now of a more potentially more serious issue than just leaking and poor performing power transfer units.