Federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be expanding its ongoing investigation into exhaust leaks in Ford Explorer SUVs. The expanded investigation will now include 1.33 million civilian and police model Ford Explorers manufactured between 2011 and 2017. Additionally, Ford has announced that it will be covering the costs of repairing police versions of the Ford Explorer to address issues associated with possible carbon monoxide leaks.

According to officials, the expanded investigation was prompted by increasing complaints involving leaks that can cause carbon monoxide fumes to seep into the vehicle’s passenger compartment. The NHTSA has reported that there have been over 2,700 complaints related to the leaks, as well as three crashes and more than 40 injuries.

The Ford Explorer is a popular Sports Utility Vehicle among both civilians and law enforcement. In one notable incident, a police officer from Southern California crashed after he passed out behind the wheel of a 2014 Ford Interceptor Utility vehicle, which is based on the Explorer. An investigation determined that neither alcohol nor drugs were involved, and that the officer may have lost consciousness as a result of carbon monoxide fumes leaking into the vehicle cabin. More recently, the Austin, Texas Police Department installed carbon monoxide detectors in vehicles and pulled 40 cruisers out of service after a number of officers complained of feeling lightheaded or dizzy when behind the wheel.

Initial investigations have cited issues that occur when the SUV accelerates with the A/C set to the recirculation setting – a common situation for patrolling law enforcement officers, especially after idling for extended periods of time. The NHTSA also discovered that the Interceptor Utility was prone to cracks in its exhaust manifolds, which allowed additional leaking of fumes into the cabin, and Ford found holes and unsealed spaced in vehicles in which police departments installed custom police equipment. The NHTSA has stated there is currently insufficient evidence that alleged injuries or crashes resulted definitively from carbon monoxide poisoning, but has expanded the investigation in order to look into the matter further.

Ford, which originally claimed that there were no safety risks associated with exhaust odors, have admitted that the leaks are an issue to be addressed and will be working with federal NHTSA regulators during the investigation. No recalls have yet been issued for either law enforcement or civilian models of the Ford Explorer, but Ford has announced that it will be covering costs associated with repairing carbon monoxide problems specifically with Ford Interceptors.

As the investigation continues, regulators will be paying close attention to not only the nature of the exhaust fume leaks and incidents involving crashes or injuries, but also whether the leaks could and should have been prevented by the automaker. These investigations could prove critical to victims harmed in incidents where they believed carbon monoxide fumes caused injuries or led to preventable wrecks.

As a nationally recognized law firm with proven experience handling cases involving defective products and auto parts, Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Keen & Littky-Rubin is closely tracking the progress of the investigation into Ford Explorer exhaust fume leaks. We are also actively reviewing cases from any individuals who may have experienced adverse health consequences or were involved in crashes as a result of exhaust fumes leaking into vehicle compartment.

If you have questions about auto defects, product liability, and your rights, contact our firm for a FREE consultation. Our West Palm Beach-based attorneys proudly serve clients throughout Florida and the nation.