More troubling is the fact that repair bulletins haven't managed to fix the issue.
According to the NHTSA, the ongoing spate of incidents where Ford Explorers built between 2011 and 2015 has so far not caused a single injury, but when took a ride along with Newport Beach Police Department, it found evidence suggesting otherwise. According to customer complaints, which have gone from 154 to over 450 since an NHTSA investigation launched, the problem is first apparent when the smell of sulfur begins to infiltrate the cabin.
The gas leak is most likely to occur when the engine is under load, such as when climbing a hill or accelerating, and when the air conditioning is on and set to the recirculation setting. Police officer Brian McDowell claims that the issue is what led to him to crash a 2014 Police Interceptor Utility model into a tree when responding to a non-emergency call. According to the dash cam footage, the officer lost consciousness for an unknown reason and drove into a tree, dislocating his shoulder, fracturing his eye socket, and causing traumatic brain injury. McDowell has no memory of the incident and when alcohol and drug tests came up clean, doctors weren’t sure why McDowell had passed out.
Then McDowell heard about the issues Ford has been having with keeping its toxic exhaust out of the cabin and filed a complaint. While Ford has known about the issue for some time and has attempted to fix it by posting three repair bulletins, some who have taken their Explorers in for the fix claim that the repair doesn’t remedy the problem. In 2015, the automaker filed a deposition acknowledging that the flaw is a design issue and is working on a fix. A concerned NBPD has installed carbon monoxide sensors inside patrol units and has worryingly found that some detectors are going off. This doesn’t bode well for the automaker, which has had high profile safety issues in the past.
These include exploding gas tanks in the Ford Pinto and similar issues issues with fires in the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, but more concerning is the fact that the exhaust problem may still be growing given that some customer complaints have involved new 2016 and 2017 Explorer models. We’ll keep you updated as the NHTSA and Ford work to determine how to fix these issues but for now, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to shop for some carbon monoxide detectors.