What to Know
- About 80 percent of the vehicles were found to have cracks in their manifolds.
- A federal probe now covers more than 1.3 million Explorers from the 2011 through 2017 model years.
- Many of the complaints came from police departments, which use the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer in patrol fleets.
Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, are inspecting their entire fleet of more than 100 Ford Explorers after carbon monoxide leaks were found in similar vehicles used by other police departments.
About 80 percent of the police department's Explorers were found to have cracks in their manifolds, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has linked to exhaust seeping into the vehicles. So far, none of the SUVs have tested positive for carbon monoxide inside the cabin.
The police department is taking the Explorers off the road for repairs on a rolling basis.
Ford Explorers used by police officers in Austin, Texas, and Auburn, Massachusetts, have been pulled out of service after high carbon monoxide levels were detected inside the vehicles. In Auburn, the gas is believed to have made an officer pass out while driving and slam into another car, NBC News reported.
In Austin, police pulled 60 of their Explorers off the roads after the vehicles' carbon monoxide alarms went off. The alarms were installed after officers reported getting sick while in the vehicles.
Last week, the U.S. expanded an investigation into complaints of exhaust fumes inside Ford Explorers, adding two model years and nearly 400,000 vehicles.
NHTSA said July 27 that the probe now covers more than 1.3 million Explorers from the 2011 through 2017 model years. The agency made the move after finding more than 2,700 complaints of exhaust odors in the passenger compartment and fears of carbon monoxide in an investigation that it started a year ago.
Among the complaints were three crashes and 41 injuries, mostly loss of consciousness, nausea and headaches.
Many of the complaints came from police departments, which use the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer in patrol fleets. Police complaints included two crashes with injuries and another injury allegation due to carbon monoxide exposure.
Last week, the agency said it had upgraded the probe from an investigation to an engineering analysis, a step closer to a recall.
NHTSA also said it has learned that the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer is experiencing exhaust manifold cracks that are hard to detect and may explain exhaust odors. Investigators will evaluate the cause, frequency and safety consequences of the cracks, and whether Explorers used by civilians are experiencing cracked manifolds, the agency said.
The agency also said it will examine the Explorer Police Interceptors used by the Austin, Texas, Police Department. The city could end up parking its entire fleet.
A total of 791 people have complained to the government about the fumes, while Ford has received more than 2,000 complaints and warranty claims.
In the documents, NHTSA said it tested multiple vehicles at its Ohio research center, and it has made field inspections of police vehicles involved in crashes.
As of last week, the agency has found no evidence or data to support claims that injuries or crash allegations were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. But the agency said it has early tests that suggest carbon monoxide levels may be higher in certain driving conditions "although the significance and effect of those levels remains under evaluation."
Ford announced Thursday it will cover the costs of specific repairs in every Police Interceptor vehicle that may have this issue.
In a statement, a Ford spokesman said drivers of regular, non-police Ford Explorers don't need to be concerned. Although there have been reports of exhaust odors in some regular Explorers, those cases are not related to reports of carbon monoxide made by some police departments, said spokesman Daniel Barbossa.
However, any customer who thinks his or her vehicle has an issue should bring it to a Ford dealer or call a dedicated hotline at 888-260-5575, Barbossa said.
What about other local police agencies?
U.S. Capitol Police are inspecting the Ford Explorer patrol vehicles in their fleet out of an abundance of caution, a spokeswoman said Thursday. She said they have not experienced any problems with the vehicles to date.
Neither Maryland nor Virginia State Police have had problems with the Ford SUVs in their fleets, both agencies said.
Maryland State Police have more than 300 Ford Explorers in use in their fleet and have had no carbon monoxide leaks detected in any of them, according to a statement. The agency is continuing to monitor this situation, the statement said.
Virginia State Police has "a very small contingent" of Ford SUVs in their fleet and have had no reported health issues related to this issue, a spokeswoman said.