Ford engineer teams find problems in police SUVs
Ford Motor Co. says it has repaired more than 50 police Explorer SUVs for multiple municipalities where officers had been sickened by carbon monoxide while driving those vehicles.
The company said it has engineering teams working with multiple law enforcement agencies around the country to address a growing number of reports of suspected carbon monoxide leaks in the cabins of Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.
Some departments pulled the vehicles from the road over related safety concerns. The SUV is made on the same platform as the consumer Explorer and recently became the most popular police vehicle in the country.
In Austin, Texas, an officer briefly fainted while driving one of the vehicles. Roughly a week ago in Massachusetts, an officer lost consciousness at the wheel Wednesday and struck a civilian’s vehicle.
The problems come amid what both Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say is an unrelated investigation into 1.33 million regular and police Explorers due to an exhaust issue that has not yet led to a recall.
The Dearborn-based automaker said in a statement Tuesday night that company engineers have consistently found “similar types of holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some Police Interceptor Utilities” that had equipment put on them after leaving Ford’s factory.
Those holes are improperly sealed and allow exhaust to leak into the vehicle, the company said.
Ford’s investigation into the issue, which has been reported by multiple police departments and led the Austin, Texas Police Department to pull 400 of the vehicles from service less than two weeks ago, is ongoing, the company said.
The company reiterated in the statement that it will continue to pay for repairs related to the carbon monoxide leak. Ford is checking and sealing the rear of the vehicle, providing new air conditioning calibrations to bring more fresh air into the cabin during heavy acceleration, and checking the engine codes for indication of a damaged exhaust manifold.
David Green, Austin city spokesman, said officers first complained of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms in February. In March, the city launched an investigation. Twenty officers tested positive for elevated amounts of carbon monoxide in their blood, three of whom have not been cleared to return to work.
The Interceptors accounted for 61 percent of Austin’s police vehicles. Green said the department had to change patrols to put two officers to a car rather than the usual one.
“We are not willing to return these vehicles to the street until we’re confident that there’s no risk to employees,” Green told The Detroit News.
NHTSA has an unrelated open investigation covering an estimated 1.33 million Ford Explorers — both police models and regular models — from 2011-17 model years for reports of exhaust odors in the main cabin.
The investigation comes after 2,719 reports fielded by NHTSA and Ford. Eleven of those involve the police interceptor versions.
NHTSA opened the preliminary investigation more than a year ago after it received more than 150 complaints from civilians about exhaust fumes. The investigation was expanded at the end of July.
Ford said the exhaust odors reported in regular Explorers are unrelated to the carbon monoxide reports. “If a vehicle has such an odor, customers should bring it to a Ford dealer to address that issue,” the company said.