In response to a growing number of complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded a probe regarding a staggering 2.7 million 1997-01 Ford F-150 Pickups, where fuel tank straps have rusted, failed and in some cases caused vehicle fires. This follows on from another NHTSA investigation, that became a recall, regarding faulty airbags on Ford’s best selling pickup truck, that ultimately included 1.2 million vehicles, albeit from the 2004-06 model years.
In regards to the fuel tank issue, NHTSA has said that over 300 complaints have been reviewed and of those, two actual incidents of the vehicles catching fire have been reported, though in both cases, no injuries or fatalities resulted.
Ford spokesman, Wes Sherwood, said the company was ” aware of the matter,” and will “continue to cooperate [with NHTSA].”
The heart of the investigation relates to the fact that the steel straps are essentially the only thing holding the tank to the frame of the truck. If the straps corrode, they can snap, causing the tank to drop down and in some cases drag on the ground, which can cause perforation, fuel leakage and potentially a fire to result.
In fact, of those 300 or so investigations, 243 resulted in the tank dragging on the ground and 95 of those, fuel leakage. The agency also said that the weight of the dropped tank could also put significant strain on hoses and fittings, causing them to separate and fuel to leak from them. Combined with the presence of sparks as a result of being dragged along the ground, the results could be disastrous.
As part of the investigation, Ford has turned over emails, reports and photos, detailing corrosion on the affected F-150 models, much of which was labeled confidential. Although the green light hasn’t been given, the expansion of this investigation is a good indicator that a recall will shortly be issued for the affected trucks, which if that proves to be the case, will be one of the largest in recent memory.
[Source: Detroit News]