By on July 28, 2017

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

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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28 Comments on “NHTSA Expands Ford Explorer Probe After Probable Police Gassings...”

  • avatar

    It was the lamb vindaloo I had last night. Sorry.

  • avatar

    How could Ford engineers have missed this. Computer analysis millions spent on design, and decades on understanding the importance of moving exhaust fumes away from the cabin of a vehicle. You would think they would have known better.

    • 0 avatar

      Considering there’s different combinations of the vehicle available, especially in the Interceptor version, I’m not sure how they could have “known better” when the vehicles have light bars and other equipment added after it leaves from the factory.

      Austin PD had 8 incidents but other departments (like Chicago which is one of the first departments to purchase the Utility) hasn’t reported anything.

      In addition, Austin PD is now removing all 400 units from service.

      • 0 avatar

        Wow sounds like it is time to get a Utility Interceptor if you are anywhere near Austin. At least I’m assuming they will be selling them off unless there is a proven fix that pops up real quick.

      • 0 avatar

        Huh, I had no idea that exhaust was located on the roof directly under where the light bar goes.

        Is that the rolling coal option package?

        • 0 avatar

          Conceivably the airflow over the roof could affect overall airflow as it separates from the back of the car. Exhaust gases could be getting sucked up the back of the car instead of being pushed down and away by the airflow tumbling around the rear corners of the car. Or maybe someone at Ford supports BLM.

          At this rate, perceptions of how awful Ford products are could end up matching the reality of how awful Ford products are.

        • 0 avatar

          1. Airflow management.

          2. Holes created in the floor due to aftermarket police equipment not properly sealed.

          You can go ahead and sit down as it’s obvious you’ve never seen what sort of modifications go into these vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      same way they missed the cracked tailgate trim on just about every 02-05 explorer or the sun faded Ford emblems on F-series pickups. Ford is a volume manufacturer supplying affordable cars for the masses, quality is not Job 1.

    • 0 avatar

      “How could Ford engineers have missed this.”

      You’re surprised by this? Ford’s engineers are not intelligent people. Couple that with the corporate culture of low quality that Big Al pushed to raise profits and you have a recipe for disaster.

  • avatar

    I’ll wait and see on this. I remember the Audis “mysteriously accelerating” into swimming pools and the me-too’s with lawyers/mass hysterical reactions of Audi owners piling on.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m certain that at least some of it is me-too’s. Lets see I just fell asleep and wrecked my patrol car, hmm I head that there have been reports of CO issues, yeah that is it. Yet it says they don’t have any tests that showed that the driver had excessive exposure.

  • avatar

    “California police” – oh, I wouldn’t worry about those guys

  • avatar

    You’d think the cause could only be an open/leaking hatch combined with the aero-profile of a wastebasket. I bet you can create quite a vacuum back there if you sustain speeds WELL ABOVE THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT for an extended period of time. Given the locations I wouldn’t be surprised if heat played a role as well.

    Zcars had a problem with fumes being drawn in through the back hatch.

    • 0 avatar

      As I pointed out in the article a few months ago, the Explorer, like most SUV’s lately, has the dual exhaust exiting straight out the back with not even a turn-down. Past designs of wagons and vans going back forever had the exhaust pointed out the side of the vehicle aft of the rear wheels to get the exhaust away from the updraft at the back of the car. All it takes is a poor fitting hatch weatherstrip or some body vent that is letting fumes roll up into the cabin.

  • avatar

    Just name the next model “recall ” and be done with it

  • avatar

    sitting inside for hrs with engine idling will allow exhaust fumes to get into the cabin eventually, this is a big problem with police departments

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I read the headline too fast and was really hoping “probe” was a new trim level for the explorer

  • avatar

    We had a ’12 explorer. Its hatch often took a couple of slams to securely latch.

  • avatar

    Imagine that. Big Al’s famous low quality strikes again.

  • avatar

    No proof they say. Just smoke. Austin police reports that:

    “The city installed carbon monoxide alarms after officers began reporting getting sick while in the vehicles, and parked 60 of them when the alarms activated. Of the 20 officers found to have elevated levels of carbon monoxide, three have not been able to return to work.”

    Now Ford claims:

    “Ford said police and fire departments routinely drill holes in the backs of vehicles to add customized lighting, radios and other equipment.”

    Only problem is civilian users have been complaining about exhaust in the cabins for years. And, I don’t think soccer mom is drilling holes in her vehicle.

  • avatar

    Ford is batting 0 for 2 on major problems.

    1) Pinto exploding when hit in rear. Appears to have been true.

    2) Explorer flipping when tire blows. Appears to have been true … center of gravity too high .. engine needed to be lower.

    3) Explorer exhaust fumes. Jury is out. Might be true. I bet Ford engineers know the true story but we will not get the true details for years.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

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

  • avatar

    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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