Ford won’t recall Explorers, despite mounting evidence exhaust fumes are leaking in to the cabin
The only thing Ford has done to address the issue is release several technical service bulletins (TSBs). In these documents, the automaker provides instructions to remedy the exhaust odor concern.
The first section of one of the TSBs released in 2016 reads:
Some 2011-2015 Explorer vehicles may exhibit an exhaust odor in the vehicle with the auxiliary climate control system on. Customers may indicate the odor smells like sulfur, or that exhaust odors are entering the vehicle cabin. This condition may be worsened when the climate control system is in recirculate mode and the vehicle is heavily accelerated for an extended period. Whether and to what extent any customer or occupant of a 2011-2015 Explorer vehicle experiences the exhaust odor will be affected by driving habits, weather and individual sensitivities.
The bulletin then goes on to outline what dealership technicians should do to fix the issue. The first procedure involves reprogramming the air conditioning control module software. Then, several steps are taken to reseal various body components such as the liftgate drain and under-bumper air extractor.
If that doesn’t work, technicians are instructed to move on to the next procedure: replacing the muffler with an updated model.
Ford will perform these repairs free of charge. But why hasn’t a recall been issued?
Elizabeth Weingandt, safety communications manager at Ford, said, “Explorers are safe. Ford’s investigation and extensive testing has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day.”
“The safety of our customers is paramount,” she said. “We encourage customers with carbon monoxide concerns to bring their vehicle to their local Ford dealer for a free service designed to reduce the concern.”
This is coming from a company that, in the early 2000s, refused to recall Explorers with faulty tires. That is, until the tires started blowing out. Not very reassuring.
It also doesn’t help that the Explorer owner’s manual reads: “Do not drive your vehicle if you smell exhaust fumes. Carbon monoxide is present in exhaust fumes. Take precautions to avoid its dangerous effects.”
Regulating agencies intervene
Over 1,300 Explorer owners have reported the exhaust gas issue to federal safety officials. The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety came to their defense by sending a letter to Ford CEO Hackett, requesting a recall of 1.33 million Explorers.
The Center’s executive director, Jason Levine, weighed in on the issue.
“Ford needs to stop sending mixed messages to Explorer owners and passengers, including senior citizens and parents of young children, that the vehicles are ‘safe’ and that repairs are available only for ‘peace of mind. Since some Ford dealers are responsibly replacing cracked exhaust manifolds, it is time for Ford to take a more serious step, recall all of these vehicles and inspect and replace cracked exhaust manifolds.”
As for theNational Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA), it has an open investigation into the concern. Currently, it’s in “engineering analysis status, which is the step before the agency can formally demand a recall. The NHTSA has admitted that its preliminary findings show elevated cabin carbon monoxide levels at times. Ford says its dispatched investigators of its own to look into the issue.
Ford Explorer owners speak out
Explorer owners aren’t staying quiet. Many of them have openly voiced concerns over the carbon monoxide issue.
Recently, a man in New York filed a complaint with federal officials reporting his 2017 Ford Explorer had exhaust fumes in the cabin.
“My car has already been repaired once and is in the shop again. … Ford is not being very helpful because I don’t want the car anymore. It is a huge safety concern and I don’t want my wife and toddler in the vehicle at all,” he wrote in the filing.
A couple from Louisiana said they can no longer drive their 2015 Explorer, because it left them sick. The dealership refused to take it back. So, now it just sits under their carport while they continue to make payments on it.
In Florida, a man says his son got so sick that he threw up, after riding in the back of their Explorer. The SUV had been to the dealer several times without resolution.
Similar stories are being told all over the country. One that has made numerous news headlines, is that of Steve Simmons from Raleigh, N.C.
Simmons, a retired IBM marketing project manager, started experiencing dizziness and blurred vision just 16 days after purchasing his Explorer. His doctor sent him to Duke Raleigh Hospital where he was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning.
The retiree insists there is no other way he could have been poisoned – it must have been the Explorer. He doesn’t smoke and has carbon monoxide detectors throughout his house.
After leaving the hospital, Simmons called the dealership and demanded they take the vehicle back. They obliged by allowing him to trade it in for an F-150. Not completely satisfied, he launched a website where other Explorer owners can vent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is responsible for 400 deaths per year in the U.S. So, these customer concerns should not be taken lightly.
Federal agency finds potential cause for the exhaust fumes
Most customers assert that the free repairs from Ford don’t fix the problem. According to the NHTSA, the root cause may be cracked exhaust manifolds.
The exhaust manifold routes spent combustion gases from the engine to the exhaust pipe. The NHTSA found many Police Interceptor versions of the Ford Explorer have exhaust manifold cracks. In one dash camera video, a California police officer swerves off the road and into a tree, presumably after breathing the fumes. Civilian version Explorers may suffer from the same problem.
Ford has acknowledged the issue with the police interceptors but won’t take responsibility. The automaker claims the vehicleshave problems due to modifications added by the agencies, such as emergency lights. Several law enforcement officers have filed lawsuits.
Will the next-generation Explorer have the same issue?
The next-generation Explorer will go on sale in 2019. According to reports, it will be built on brand-new platformed, designated the D6. It presently rides on the D4 platform, which it shares with the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT.
There are currently three engine options offered in the Explorer. The list includes a turbocharged four-cylinder, a naturally aspirated V6 and a turbocharged V6. Sources guess both turbocharged engines will live on. This means the exhaust gas issue could continue, unless Ford addressed the design flaw.
The Explorer may have the potential to poison occupants with deadly gases, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying it. In 2016, the Explorer sold over 248k units, making it the 14th best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
If you think Ford Explorer may be exposing you to carbon monoxide and harmful exhaust fumes fill out our form to the right or call us NOW at ? 844-685-9200 for a free, no obligation case evaluation.
Thousands of people have already complained to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration about exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide poisoning. Lemberg Law is standing by, ready to pursue lemon law or warranty claims against Ford. If your Explorer is defective, you could get a replacement vehicle, a cash settlement, or a vehicle repurchase. You have rights under the law, and we’ll fight for those rights every step of the way. We’ll go toe-to-toe with Ford to get the justice you deserve.