C/K Pickup Fuel Tank Improvement Project


The initial research task undertaken by the Automotive Safety Research Institute (ASRI) was to evaluate ways to improve the fuel integrity of the 1973-87 General Motors C/K pickups.  The results of the research are intended to provide information on the crash safety improvements that are possible by modifications to the fuel systems of these vehicles, and the cost and availability of the possible modifications.

            NHTSA has already conducted extensive testing of the C/K pickups in conjunction with their defects investigation.  Their test results indicate that a critical test for the OEM fuel system is a side impact at the fuel tank location by a full size car traveling at 50 mph, and impacting at an angle of 60 degrees.  In this test, the fuel tank in the GM pickup leaked while the Ford and Dodge pickups did not. When the crash speed was raised to 60 mph, the Ford tank leaked, as well.  Based on these test results, a principal goal of the ASRI research program was to identify fuel systems modifications that will pass the critical 50 mph test, while continuing to meet and exceed FMVSS 301 "Fuel Integrity", and the environmental standards applicable in 1987.  Click here to go the web page with videos of the critical side test established by NHTSA.

            An initial feasibility study has been conducted under contract with Biokinetics, and Associates, Ltd. a research institution in Ottawa, Canada.  Several alternative modifications were investigated.  These included the following: 

1- Removal or mitigation of sharp and aggressive surfaces to that may contribute to fuel tank puncture.  These include the seat belt anchorage bolts, the fuel tank support bracket bolts, and the brake line support clamps.

2- Replace existing tank with a plastic tank that may be more puncture resistant.

3- Installation of protective shield around existing tank to reduce side intrusion.

4- Replace existing tank with a fuel cell containing a fuel bladder.

5- Remove existing tank and install a commercially available or a specially fabricated tank inside the frame forward of the rear axle.

6- Remove existing tank and install a commercially available tank inside the frame behind the rear axle.

7- Remove existing tank and install a commercially available tank in the cargo bed.

                 Vehicles with each of  the above modifications were tested and the results have been documented.  Two different tank design configurations passed all the tests.  See the publications section of the website for the reports and presentations.


Safety Improvement for Occupants in Opposite Side Impacts


Crash test procedures required by present safety standards for side crashes require the crash dummies to be located on the side of the vehicle closest to the impact.  Far side occupants, those located on the opposite side from the impact, are not currently required in any test. Field data indicates that occupants in far side crashes contribute approximately 33% of all AIS 3+ injuries to restrained front seat occupants exposed to side crashes.  When this program began, there was little test data on the performance of conventional 3-point belt systems in far side crashes.  This project evaluated a variety of production safety belt systems in far side crashes.

Five of the pickups tested under the C/K Pickup Fuel Tank Improvement Project were equipped with a different belt configuration on the far-side occupant position.  The kinematics of the Hybrid III dummy was be recorded on film for subsequent analysis.  The results are reported in the Publications Section.

A follow-on project, funded at GW University was initiated to build on the findings of the tests and data analysis conducted by ASRI under this project.  The results and progress are reported in the Publications Section.  Click here to see the dummy motion in a far-side crash test.


Safety in Rollover Crashes


Testing under the C/K Pickup Fuel Tank Improvement Project included rollover testing to determine the safety performance of the final fuel system designs in rollover tests.  The motion of the dummy in the rollovers were analyzed and used to construct computer models of the rollover environment.  These follow-on studies were funded by a gift from the Santos Family Foundation.  The results and progress of the rollover research are reported in the Publications Section. Click here to see a slow motion film of the dummy motion in a rollover.

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