1.3 million Ford Explorers now under federal investigation in exhaust fume probe

The Austin Police Department removed all Ford Police Interceptors from its fleet because of an ongoing carbon monoxide issue. Meanwhile, there is an investigation into the consumer version of the Ford Explorer.

Federal officials were in Austin inspecting the police version of the Ford Explorer, shortly afterwards, it was announced the investigation into the consumer model would expand.

After thousands of complaints against the Ford Explorer, NHTSA or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it wanted to know more about why so many people are reporting exhaust odors and fears of carbon monoxide. NHTSA upgraded its probe from an investigation to an engineering analysis, which is one step away from forcing Ford to a recall.

The probe includes years 2011-2017 Ford Explorers, an estimated 1.3 million of the SUVs.

Ford issued a “Technical Service Bulletin” back in 2012 for exhaust odors stating if consumers smell the exhaust odors, they should take it to a dealership to get fixed.

Something attorney Brian Chase said means Ford knew it had a problem years ago, “They have admitted they can't fix it, to now act like oh well that's just an interceptor problem, we know that's not true, because NHTSA now has over 2000 consumer complaints. I represent people, families that drive these cars.”

Chase represents a dozen people in a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company for carbon monoxide poisoning, half of which are officers, the others are civilians.

NHTSA inspected multiple vehicles including the police interceptor models here in Austin.

It said it found no evidence or data to support claims that injuries or crash allegations were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.  But CO levels may be higher in certain driving conditions which it's still evaluating.

While the agency did find the police interceptor version is experiencing exhaust manifold cracks, which may explain exhaust odors, NHTSA said it wanted to find out if Explorers used by civilians are experiencing the same thing. Ford is confident that won't happen.

Hau Thai-Tang is with the Ford Motor Company. “If you are the driver of a non-police Ford Explorer there is no reason to be concerned. We've not found elevated levels of carbon monoxide in any Ford Explorer. While there have been reports of exhaust odors in some Explorers, those instances are unrelated to carbon monoxide which is odorless,” he said.

Chase said he is glad NHTSA is looking into the issue, but wishes it would've happened sooner.

“Thank god they're acting now, because no one has been killed yet, at least we are aware of, but it's just a matter of time, these cars need to be taken off the road,” he said.

Chase recommends if you do drive a Ford Explorer in the affected years, although it may not be 100% effective to install a carbon monoxide detector or keep your windows rolled down a little bit just in case.

Chase also confirmed Sunday; he is now in talks with a fourth Austin Police Department Officer in the lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company.