WASHINGTON – Ford is recalling more than a million pickup trucks because their gas tanks can fall off and cause fires.
The recall, announced Monday, covers 1.1 million F-150, F-250 and Lincoln Blackwood pickups. The models involved were sold in cold-weather states where road salt can cause straps metal straps holding up the tanks to rust. If the straps break, the tanks can hit the ground, rupture and catch fire.
Regulators began investigating the problem back in September. The defect has been blamed for eight fires, three of which spread to the rest of the truck. One person was injured, suffering first- and second-degree burns, Ford Motor Co. spokesman Wes Sherwood said.
The recall adds to the list of problems with the F-Series pickup, traditionally America's best-selling vehicle. The pickups have been involved in three recalls going back to 2008, involving millions of vehicles. Regulators have become more aggressive since being criticized last year for a slow response to Toyota's sudden acceleration problems.
The latest Ford pickup recall involves certain 1997 through 2004 Ford F-150 models, as well as some 1997 through 1999 model year F-250 pickups. Also affected are Lincoln Blackwood pickups from the 2002 and 2003 model years.
Ford sold more than 264,000 of the F-Series trucks during the first six months of this year.
The company would not say how much money the recall would cost. The nation's largest single recall involved 7.9 million Ford vehicles in 1996 to replace an ignition switch.
Earlier in the year, F-Series pickups were the subject of sniping between the government and Ford because of air bags that could deploy at the wrong time. Ford announced in February that it would fix 150,000 F-150s for that problem, but under pressure from regulators, the company expanded the recall to 1.2 million trucks in April. In that case, there were 98 reported injuries because of the problem.
Other recent F-Series recalls include:
— December 2010: About 15,000 of the trucks and some Ford crossover vehicles were recalled for problems with electrical systems that could short and cause fires.
— May 2008: More than 655,000 F-150 and Lincoln Mark LT pickup trucks were recalled to fix a defective hose that could affect the vehicles' braking power.
Ford also recalled more than 10.4 million vehicles in several increments from 1999 to 2007 because a faulty cruise-control switch could cause fires. The recalls covered more than a dozen vehicles built from 1992 to 2004, including some F-Series models.
To fix the latest problem, Ford will notify owners in September to bring their trucks to dealers. Mechanics will replace the straps with new ones coated to resist corrosion. Ford said that parts to fix the problem won't be widely available until then.
People with questions should contact their dealer, who can install a cable to hold the tanks in place until the replacement straps arrive, Sherwood said. They also can contact Ford at 1-866-436-7332.
The trucks originally were sold or are now registered in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.
"Ford is committed to safety and responding quickly to vehicle concerns for our customers," Sherwood said.