NHTSA Expands Ford Explorer Probe After Reports of Carbon Monoxide Exposure in Cabin

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.

SEE ALSO: Ford F-150 Becomes the First Pursuit-Rated Pickup Truck for Police

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 complaints 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.

A version of this story originally appeared on The Truth About Cars

Discuss this story on our Ford Forum

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation