U.S. safety regulators are investigating about 63,000 2004 Ford Motor Co. minivans to determine is a defect is causing severe rust in the rear wheel wells.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted documents on its Web site Tuesday notifying the public of the probe. The preliminary investigation will examine 2004 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans used in states where salt is used to treat roads during winter months.
NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation has received seven complaints about severe corrosion in the rear wheel well. In a few of those cases the rust has compromised anchor mounts holding down the third row of seats, causing the mounts to become detached.
"Ford will fully cooperate with the government as they review the matter at the start of and throughout this investigation," company spokesman Dan Pierce said.
This month, NHTSA opened another investigation covering 17,165 2003 Chevrolet Express vans examining potential rust problems with the fuel pipe. The investigation also is focused on models sold and used in states where road salt is used.
The agency had received five complaints about debris and water collecting between the fuel pipe and its protective tubing, causing the pipe to rust and leak fuel.
The fuel leakage from the corroded pipe poses a fire hazard, NHTSA stated in a summary of the investigation, which was opened on Dec. 14.
GM spokesman Alan Adler said the automaker is cooperating with NHTSA.