NHTSA Expands Ford Explorer Probe After Probable Police Gassings

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nhtsa expands ford explorer probe after probable police gassings

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is inching its way toward what could be a massive recall of Ford Explorers. An initial probe kicked off in 2016 after owners entered numerous complaints of an unpleasant exhaust smell in the cabin into the NHTSA database.

Formal grievances swelled into the hundreds by the end of the year and continued growing into 2017. The issue was so serious, one California police officer faulted it for overpowering him while behind the wheel of his Explorer-based Interceptor Utility, resulting in a crash last February. He wasn’t alone. On Thursday, the NHTSA announced at least three other wrecks could be attributed to carbon monoxide exposure inside the vehicle. All in all, the agency stated it is aware of 41 injuries and over 2,700 complaints linked to the issue.

While the injuries are mostly instances of nausea, severe headache, and dizziness, those symptoms pose a serious risk while driving. Concerned the problem could result in another crash, the NHTSA has broadened the probe to encompasses 1.33 million vehicles from 2011 to 2017 and upgraded it to a complete engineering analysis.

According to Reuters, the agency says it has “no substantive data or actual evidence,” such as a blood test “supporting a claim that any of the alleged injury or crash allegations were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning.” But early testing hints that CO levels may be present in the cabin, rising to elevated levels in certain driving scenarios.

Proof aside, the sheer number of complains is enough to warrant further investigation. Additionally, the Austin Police Department pulled 40 Interceptor SUVs from service this month after eight officers became ill, reportedly due to carbon monoxide exposure.

The NHTSA says it is “actively working with law enforcement agencies that use these vehicles to determine if this issue is related to a potential safety defect.” It noted that police variants of the Explorer suffer from manifold cracking, “which appear to present a low level of detectability, and may explain the exhaust odor.”

Ford has issued multiple service bulletins related to the exhaust issue, hoping to address complaints from police fleets and other owners. The automaker says it will cooperate with the agency. In its most recent statement, Ford claims a dedicated company team is working with police and the NHTSA on the problem.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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  • Shortest Circuit Shortest Circuit on Jul 31, 2017

    CO detectors are 9.99 at Walmart. Test it maybe? A faint exhaust smell does not equal CO presence.

  • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on Jul 31, 2017

    When I got written up for falling asleep in a parked truck at work, I thought about blaming carbon monoxide as well. Unfortunately, the truck wasn't running.

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  • Lou_BC Murilee is basically correct on the trim levels. People tend to refer to Ford's full-sized cars as "Galaxie 500" or "Galaxie's" even though that's just the mid level trim. I was never a fan of the '69 snout or any of the subsequent models. The vacuum controlled headlight covers typically failed. It was a heavy clunky system also found on the Mercury's like the Cougar. The XL's and LTD's could be purchased with factory bucket seats and a center console with a large shifter, similar to the type of throttle on an airplane. The late 60's era Ford cars had coil springs in the rear which rode nice. The shape of the fender wells did not lend themselves to fitting larger tires. The frame layout carried on to become the underpinnings of the Panther platform. I noticed that this car came with disc brakes in the front. There was a time when disc's were an upgrade option from drum brakes. Ford's engines of similar displacement are often assumed as being from the same engine families. In '69 the 429 was the biggest engine which was in the same family as the 460 (385 series). It was a true big block. In 1968 and earlier, the 428, 427, 390's typically found in these cars were FE block engines. The 427 side oiler has always been the most desired option.
  • Drew8MR Minivans are expensive new if you are just buying them for utility. Used minivans are often superfund sites in back compared to the typical barely used backseats in a lot of other vehicles and you aren't going to get a deal just because everything is filthy, broken and covered in spilled food and drink.
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