The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced over the weekend that it has expanded its investigation into whether the steel straps that hold the fuel tanks in place on Ford F-150 pickup trucks are dangerously defective. The agency and Ford Motor Co. have received 243 consumer complaints that the gas tank straps rusted through, allowing the gas tanks to drag on the ground. It is claimed that at least two fires have resulted from the defective tank straps.
NHTSA opened an investigation into the nation's best-selling pickup truck last September, announcing that when an estimated 1.4 million F-150s could be affected. This weekend, the agency announced that it has expanded that number to 2.7 million vehicles potentially affected. The pickups in question are from model years 1997-2001.
No F-150s have yet been recalled, but this type of investigation often leads to a product recall due to safety and product liability concerns.
"We are working with the government as they review the matter," said a Ford spokesperson.
One F-150 destroyed by fire from a dragging, leaking fuel tank
When Ford received a consumer complaint about an F-150 being destroyed by fire due to a fuel tank that began leaking when it became dislodged and dragged beneath the vehicle, it reported the complaint to NHTSA, as required by law. NHTSA later received another complaint involving the same issue, although in that case the fire went out before it could cause major damage or injuries. A total of 306 consumers have complained about the dangerously defective fuel tank straps to either Ford or NHTSA.
"Among the incidents reported to NHTSA or Ford, 243 involved the fuel tank dropping below the vehicle and/or dragging on the ground, 95 involved fuel leakage, and nine included reports of sparks from the tank being dragged on the road," reads the filing by NHTSA.
If you drive a Ford F-150 from model years 1997 to 2001, please visually inspect your vehicle to ensure the fuel tank has not been dislodged, as a dragging fuel tank could potentially ignite or explode. You should also consider taking your truck to a Ford dealership and asking for a professional inspection.