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Investigation into Ford F-150 trucks' fuel-tank straps is expanded

May 9, 2011 | 10:56 am

Ford It’s not how most people would want to generate sparks, driving the Ford F-150, the country’s bestselling truck, as its leaking fuel tank drags along the road.

But that’s happened to nine owners of the popular Ford pickup, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Regulators there have expanded an existing investigation into the matter to cover 2.7 million vehicles from model years 1997 to 2001.

The investigation stops short of a recall, though such actions often result in them eventually.

Regulators said that one or both of the steel straps securing the fuel tank to the truck’s frame could corrode and break, causing the tank to tilt down or fall to the road.

If either scenario occurs while driving, friction with the ground could open a hole in the loose tank, regulators said. Sparks from the dragging metal could ignite leaking fuel.

Though no injuries have been reported, Ford Motor Co. and NHTSA know of 306 individual complaints of rusted straps. In 243 instances, the fuel tank dropped or began dragging; 95 cases involved leaking fuel. In two reports, the defect resulted in a fire, one of which destroyed the vehicle.

NHTSA said in a September report that it had opened an investigation after receiving 32 complaints about the straps.

In April, Ford enlarged its recall of newer F-150 trucks to 1.2 million vehicles from the 2004 to 2006 model years because of front seat airbags that reportedly could inflate without a collision.


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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Cars on the lot at the Serramonte Ford dealership in Colma, Calif. Credit: David Paul Morris / Getty Images