The 1997-2001 Ford F-150 is being studied for a possible safety defect involving gas-tank straps.
On its SaferCar.gov Web site, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that it's investigating whether those straps rust prematurely on the full-size pickup, the best-selling vehicle in America for more than three decades. The investigation covers about 1.4 million vehicles.
In 32 complaints received by the agency, owners reported the two gas-tank straps corroded. In all but four instances, one or both of the straps broke, which could make it vulnerable to contact with the ground--or complete separation from the fuel system. In six cases, fuel leaked from the vehicle when the tanks fell from place because of rusty straps.
The New York Times adds the agency is concerned over the possible fire hazard, as well as the tanks' potential to create a road hazard if it breaks free entirely.
No fires nor any injuries have been reported in connection with the investigation. After its study, the NHTSA may determine a recall is warranted--in which case Ford would notify customers and would be required to repair vehicles for free.