A staple of life for many Texans, the Ford F-150 pickup truck is currently being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because of a defect that can cause fuel-system fires and spills.
The NHTSA is inspecting an engineering flaw in F-150s made in 1997-2001 that allows the pickup’s gas tank to drag or completely drop off the body of the truck. The danger occurs when the truck’s two fuel tanks straps age, rust and ultimately fail. The failure of one of the straps allows the fuel tank to drag along the road – allowing a single spark to ignite a deadly inferno.
A simultaneous failure of both fuel tank straps is common, because the failure of one strap puts added weight and stress on the remaining, rusty strap. A double-strap failure allows the gas tank to completely break off of the truck and fall onto the highway. This not only creates a fire and spill hazard, but also endangers unsuspecting motorists to a high-speed collision with the steel tank.
F-150 pickups in Gulf Coast cities such as Galveston and Corpus Christi may have a heightened rate of failure, as the Atlantic Ocean air brings added moisture to help facilitate corrosion. San Antonio drivers who regularly travel to the Gulf should give their F-150 a rigorous inspection as well.
As the government considers a possible recall, F-150 owners of trucks manufactured in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 or 2001 should regularly inspect their fuel-tank straps for corrosion. Highway motorists should be extra careful when trailing older F-150s to allow themselves plenty of reaction time should the gas tank fall.