If you drive a 1999-2010 Ford F-250, F-350, F-450 Super Duty pickup, F-550 diesel cab and chassis, diesel E-Series van, or Class C motorhome, you should know about an issue that can affect the fuel tanks. You might be out for a drive in the country or on your way to your job site. Everything seems fine, but there’s a weird vibration, like maybe a tire is out of balance. It gets worse until it feels like the engine is running on six cylinders.

The problem: The liner inside the factory fuel tanks on these models can delaminate and peel off in little flakes. The first thing to go is the fuel filter, either in the tank -- which is hard to get to -- or the main filter. In the process, the fuel lines may be contaminated, and in worst-case scenarios, you could be looking at a clogged fuel pump or even injectors. That could be very expensive.

We spoke to several diesel experts in our area, and the general consensus is that the delamination may be caused by variations in diesel fuels and additives, but that’s just a guess. Some reports say the problem extends only from 1999 to 2008. Others claim it extends all the way to 2010 models.

According to a report from Reuters, Ford has been sued in a New Jersey federal court for allegedly selling F-Series pickup trucks and E-Series vans with defective fuel tank linings. The suit states that Ford knew about the problem and continued to sell affected vehicles over a 10-year period. It said the problem clogs fuel systems with debris and rust, causing a sudden loss of engine power and potentially causing vehicles to buck or kick or suddenly stall. The complaint further stated that “Ford in 2007 issued a ‘secret’ technical service bulletin to dealers advising them of the problem, but neither recalled the affected trucks nor offered to repair them for free.” The complaint seeks class-action status on behalf of the vehicle owners and alleges fraud, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment, among other charges. It seeks compensatory, punitive and triple damages, and other remedies.

What can you do if you own one of these vehicles with a defective tank? (There is no way to look inside the tank without removing it.) You can replace the tank with another Ford tank at a cost of $1211-$2420 (ouch) and somewhere between $200 and $400 labor to R&R the tank. The bad news is that Ford will be selling you the same tank and same liner.

Possibly the least expensive solution is to have your Ford tank removed and boiled out by a competent shop. After the tank is boiled in a caustic solution of sodium hydroxide, the factory liner is completely removed and the tank is steam cleaned and flushed. A new liner is applied to the tank by pouring in a liquid syrup, turning the tank around to coat all surfaces, and letting it cure. The process takes three days. Several companies make the coating, but finding a shop in your area that has the equipment and expertise to do this work may prove challenging. Service Center Radiator Works in Auburn, California, uses a coating called Red Coat and have had no problems with it. This procedure will cost $245-$400 plus labor.

Another option is to replace the defective tank with an aftermarket version. Titan Fuel Tanks produces a replacement tank constructed of military-grade cross-linked polyethylene ($896) that it says is “virtually impervious to the corrosive effects of diesel and most biodiesel fuel blends, as well as common fuel additives that are blamed for degrading the protective linings of original equipment steel tanks.” Original straps and sending units can be used. If you don’t like the idea of a plastic fuel tank, skidplates are available.

Since we are the proud owners of a 1999 Ford F-550 diesel, when Ken Imler at Imler Diesel Performance in Sacramento, California, brought the condition to our attention, we were surprised that we had not heard of it before. We contacted Transfer Flow in Chico, California, which has a direct replacement for the defective Ford tanks ($855) that increases the capacity by 7 gallons. New hold-up straps are supplied and factory sending units can be reused.

All Transfer Flow tanks are made of 12-gauge aluminized steel and incorporate baffles to limit sloshing and add strength. Made of aluminized steel, they are compatible with all ASTM diesel fuels (ASTM D975-11b Standard Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils). This specification covers seven grades of diesel fuel oils suitable for various types of diesel engines: Grade No. 1-D S15; Grade No. 1-D S500; Grade No. 1-D S5000; Grade No. 2-D S15; Grade No. 2-D S500; Grade No. 2-D S5000; and Grade No. 4-D.

Other diesel service centers we contacted told us that the R&R labor could take from two to four hours or more and cost from $200 to $450 if lines and fuel filters needed to be flushed. If you need a new sender, it will run another $504, and we don’t even want to think about the cost of new injectors.

SOURCE
Ken Imler Diesel Performance
2445 Harvard Street
Sacramento
CA  95815
916-920-3775
www.imlerdiesel.com
Titan Fuel Tanks
P.O. Box 2225
Idaho Falls
ID  83403
800-728-4982
http://www.titanfueltanks.com
Transfer Flow
1444 Fortress Street
Chico
CA  95973
800-442-0056
http://www.transferflow.com/
Service Center Radiator Works
530-885-2282
www.imcool.com