If you drive a Ford F150 built for model years 1997 – 2001, heads up: the NHTSA is investigating complaints that the gas tank retention straps are failing on high mileage trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 32 complaints of the straps failing, including 28 cases where the failure allowed the tank to drop from the vehicle. In some cases the tank was dragged behind the truck, while in other cases the tank detached completely. Either scenario creates a fire hazard and traffic hazard for other drivers.
It’s important to note that only six of the 32 cases reported resulted in a fuel spill. Also, bear in mind that Ford sold some 3.9 million tenth-generation F150s between 1997 and 2001, so 32 complaints of a component failure are probably below average. Still, if you own one of these trucks and drive it in a corrosive environment (salted roads in winter, beach driving, etc.), it may not hurt to crawl underneath and inspect the gas tank retention straps. If you see more than surface rust on them, I’d suggest you have the straps replaced as soon as you can; save the receipt and Ford will most likely reimburse you if this progresses to a recall.