Ford to Repair Police Interceptor Versions of the Explorer SUV

Feds upgrade probe of 1.33 mil civilian Ford Explorers - carbon monoxide leaks could be problem.

by on Jul.31, 2017

K9 officer Keegan helped pull the covers off the Ford Explorer Police Interceptor.

Ford Motor Co. says it will repair police versions of the company’s popular Ford Explorer SUVs because of a problem that could make it possible for deadly carbon monoxide to leak into the cabin.

The announcement comes as the city of Austin, Texas decided to pull 400 Explorers from its police fleet because of the problem. Separately, federal regulators have upgraded a probe into 1.33 million civilian versions of the Ford Explorer because of reports of exhaust odors entering the cabin. There have been at least three reported crashes involving carbon monoxide exposure.

Safety Talk!

“This is my family,” Austin’s interim police chief Brian Manley said when announcing the decision to idle the city’s police Explorer models. “I stand here confident that we’re making the right decision today based on what we know with the carbon monoxide exposure issue that we’ve had and the impacts that it has had on our workforce.”

According to Ford, the problem with the police version of the Explorer SUV is linked to aftermarket modifications of the vehicles to install police equipment, leaving holes in the underbody. “If the holes are not properly sealed, it creates an opening where exhaust could enter the cabin,” Ford explained in a statement.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas found, among other places, in automotive exhaust. Today’s emissions control systems are designed to sharply reduce production of CO but it can’t be eliminated entirely. Even relatively low levels can lead to headaches, nausea, unconsciousness and even death.

The civilian version of the Ford Explorer is now facing an upgraded federal safety probe.

News reports from Texas indicate as many as 20 Austin police officers have been found with elevated blood levels of carbon monoxide, enough that three remain off the job.

(Ford introduces new Police Responder version of F-150 pickup. Click Here to check it out.)

While Ford is blaming aftermarket installers for the problem with police Explorers, cracked exhaust manifolds could also make it possible for the gas to leak into a vehicle’s cabin. That is apparently one of the potential concerns being examined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which last week announced it was upgrading its own probe into reports of exhaust odors entering Explorer passenger compartments. The probe covers 1.33 million vehicles from the 2011 through 2017 model-years.

The agency has so far received 2,700 complaints, with 41 injuries potentially linked to problems involving both police and civilian versions of the Ford Explorer. According to NHTSA, the incidents have involved, in some cases, “loss of consciousness, with the majority indicating nausea, headaches, or light-headedness.”

For its part, however, Ford claims it has not found evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning involving civilian versions of the SUV.

(Ford Explorer headlights fall short, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Click Here for the story.)

Austin is just one of the cities worried about CO problems with its police SUVs. After an officer passed out behind the wheel and crashed her Explorer into a ditch in Henderson, Louisiana, a special test for carbon monoxide revealed she had near-fatal levels of the gas in her blood, according to the city’s police chief.

Ford has long dominated the police car business. After pulling the Crown Victoria out of production several years ago, the automaker shifted focus to other product lines, including the Explorer.

(SUVs could soon make up half of U.S. automotive market. Click Here for more.)

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