Ford continues to have problems with its top selling F-150. In April the automaker recalled 1.3 M vehicles over a possible short-circuit in model years 2004-2006 F-150s that could cause airbags to deploy unexpectedly. Owners of the recalled vehicles won't begin receiving notices until May, but if an airbag warning light is illuminated, Ford says owners can bring their F-150 into the dealer ASAP for the fix, which requires about a half day.
Now NHTSA is investigating a problem with rusting fuel tank straps that could impact 2.7 million F-150 trucks. NHTSA says it has reviewed around 300 complaints of fuel straps rusting and failing, including two reports of fires. The investigation is looking at model year 1997-2001 F-150 trucks.
The straps hold the truck's fuel tank in place but might corrode and break, causing the tank to tilt and to drop from its proper position, possibly making contact with the road and causing a potentially dangerous fuel leak.
NHTSA says it is "upgrading this investigation to further investigate the frequency, severity and scope of this problem."
NHTSA said there are two reports of fires. In one, leaking fuel ignited, but quickly burned out. In the other incident, Ford said "the leaking fuel ignited and the … fire destroyed the vehicle." No injuries have been reported.
Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said the company was working with NHTSA. "We are aware of the matter, and we're going to continue to cooperate," he said.
NHTSA said its investigation "yielded information that strongly suggests the subject defect as the cause of the reported problem."
The agency cited that of the incidents reported, 243 involved the fuel tank dropping below the vehicle — with some dragging on the ground. Of those, 95 involved fuel leakage, and nine included reports of sparks from the tank being dragged on the road.
The F-series truck line is the best-selling vehicle line in the United States.