Is Your Ford Explorer Poisoning You?

According to CBS News, the Ford Explorer is the best-selling SUV in America. Anyone who drives the nation’s highways certainly knows the Police Interceptor model is extremely popular with law enforcement. The all-wheel drive sport utility offers increased storage and snow capability while retaining many of the comforts and handling of a sedan. But growing concerns about possible carbon monoxide poisoning has caused many departments to question the safety of using these vehicles.

The earliest known case involved a Newport Beach (CA) officer who suffered life threatening injuries following an on duty crash. The officer reportedly blacked out, causing him to crash his Ford Explorer Police Interceptor into a tree. Doctors spent months attempting to determine the cause of the blackout and were baffled – until additional reports started surfacing regarding possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

In July 2015 the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the possible link between carbon monoxide poisoning and the Ford Explorer. Both civilian and LE models are being reviewed and the final report has not yet been released. Yet additional reports continue to surface.

(A Ford Interceptor police car that crashed in September 2015. The officer is suing Ford, charging an exhaust fume leak caused him to pass out.)

Numerous departments have pulled the vehicle from their fleet and Ford faces multiple lawsuits, including those filed by officers involved in crashes or who claim debilitating injury due to poisoning. But many departments are still using these vehicles for day to day patrol and many officers are unaware of the potential danger.

If you are driving a Ford Explorer here is what you need to know:

1. Ford has not yet issued a recall. Ford has admitted “isolated incidents” of operators claiming possible carbon monoxide poisoning while operating the Ford Explorer. But, lacking an official finding by NTHSA it is unlikely Ford will admit a wider problem especially in the face of pending litigation. Ford did issue two technical service bulletins – notices to dealers and service departments- notifying of a possible problem and suggested a remedy.

2. The problem does not appear limited to earlier models as once thought. Early reports claimed the problem was corrected in 2016 and later models, this is not correct. The original NTHSA investigation only involves 2011-2015 models but that is because no problems were yet reported for 2016 models and 2017 models were not yet available. Reports are now coming in involving 2016 models so ANY Ford Explorer should be suspect.

3. Idling is not the biggest concern. Many officers mistakenly believe the problem is caused by exhaust entering the passenger compartment while idling, such as many do while completing paperwork or conducting traffic observation. But reports of earlier incidents indicate the issue is most likely to occur while driving. Accelerating while running the air conditioner in the recirculate mode appears to be a common trigger.

(Newport Beach officer Brian McDowell was responding to a non-emergency call when he passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Ford Explorer police cruiser and crashed into a tree)

4. Carbon Monoxide is potentially fatal. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur quickly and go undetected until levels are near lethal. Plus, the added danger of experiencing a crash adds to the danger of driving one of these vehicles. If you experience any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning you should seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY. Symptoms include dull or unexplained headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, weakness, vomiting or nausea, confusion, shortness of breath or unexplained black out.

5. If you must drive one of these vehicle use caution. Pulling all suspect vehicles from service is the best method of avoiding possible poisoning, but it is not always an option. If these vehicles are in your fleet you should have it serviced by the local dealer immediately and consider installing a carbon monoxide detector.

Officers face enough danger while on duty without falling victim to a faulty piece of equipment. Hopefully, the NTHSA and Ford address this issue ASAP. In the meantime, every officer who operates one of these vehicles needs to remain aware of the potential danger and be prepared to address the threat.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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