Feds investigating Ford F-150 fuel tank defect

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – We have a warning for anyone who drives one of America's most popular pickup trucks. Ford's F-150 may have a problem involving the gas tanks. Federal safety investigators are looking into a defect that could cause the steel straps holding up the tank to break.

Right now, the feds are examining F-150 model years 1997 to 2001 in all fifty states. According to the documents, that covers almost three million vehicles. Becky Philbate's F-150 pickup is her baby. She and husband George bought the truck in 1998.

"I like the Ford truck because it's reliable," George explained.

They've never had a problem or experienced anything like the pictures we uncovered in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. It said the steel straps holding up the fuel tank and keeping it attached to the truck could rust, corrode and break. The consequences are dangerous.

In almost 250 incidents, the fuel tank dropped and dragged on the ground. About 100 involved fuel leakage and nine included reports of sparks.

We contacted a number of local dealerships. A handful of managers told us they haven't received any complaints from truck owners or any notification from Ford's corporate offices.

"That's when the federal government starts investigating, when they see a pattern," explained NBC12 Automotive Expert Emmerson Miles.

According to Miles, you can blame Mother Nature and the chemicals used to de-ice the roads.

"We are seeing issues with rust more so on the vehicles with the chemicals that are being used during the winter months," he said.

Still, because she's not driving in the mountains, Becky Philbates isn't concerned.

"I wouldn't feel bad about getting in and driving anywhere I wanted to go," she said.

We found one bit of good news. This exact problem is something auto shops are required to check when you get your car inspected every year. You should be alerted to any problems then.

While NHTSA has expanded the investigation to look at vehicles across the country, it has not demanded a recall yet.

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