The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expanded its investigation to 2.7 million vehicles to examine claims that straps holding fuel tanks on Ford Motor Co. F-150 pickup trucks from the 1997-2001 model years can rust and break.
The agency said that this defect has resulted to two fires wherein one or both of the steel straps that hold the F-150 fuel tank in place have rusted and broken. The investigation typically precedes a recall.
The F-150 is the main model in the Ford F-series pickup truck lineup, which includes the top-selling vehicles in North America. Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said that the company is cooperating with the government. Ford had reported that there was a leaking fuel tank in a vehicle resulting to a fire.
According to safety regulators, they received one complaint of a fire but it caused only minimal damage. There are a total of 306 complaints from consumers, of which 175 were filed with the NHTSA while 156 went to Ford.
There were a few complaints filed with Ford and the safety regulator. The NHTSA filing said that of the cases reported to either the agency or Ford, 243 incidents involved the fuel tank falling below the vehicle and maybe dragging on the ground.
There were 95 fuel leakage reports while 9 mentioned sparks from the tank dragging on the road. The agency, which opened the investigation last September, suspected about 1.4 million F-150 pickup trucks of likely having this problem. Back in September, there had only been 32 consumer complaints.