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May 17, 2011

Federal regulators are investigating a problem that could cause the fuel tank in Ford F-150 pickup trucks to detach from the vehicle, creating an explosion hazard.

According the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), steel straps that hold the gas tank to the underside of the truck can corrode and break. If one or both straps break, the gas tank could drag on the roadway. This could cause either a leak of gasoline from stressed hoses or the wearing of a hole in the gas tank. Leaking gasoline could ignite, especially if dragging of the metal gas tank creates sparks.

“Among the incidents reported to NHTSA or Ford, 243 involved the fuel tank dropping below the vehicle and/or dragging on the ground, 95 involved fuel leakage and nine included reports of sparks from the tank being dragged on the road,” the NHTSA said. “ODI has received one report of strap failure in which the leaking fuel ignited but self-extinguished.”

Ford reported one incident to the NHTSA in which the leaking fuel ignited into a fire that destroyed the truck.

The NHTSA first opened an investigation into this equipment defect in September 2010 after receiving 32 complaints about corrosion of the straps holding the gas tank, then upgraded it this month to include about 2.7 million trucks from model years 1997-2001.

The agency has received reports of tank strap failure in other model year F-150 vehicles and may expand the scope of its investigation.

Ford has not issued a recall at this time.

"We are working with the government as they review the matter," Ford representative Wes Sherwood told Reuters.

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