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Potential 'design issue' in newer Ford Explorer models

Newer Ford Explorers may have a potentially deadly flaw where exhaust is reportedly getting inside the SUV.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating following 450 similar complaints claiming carbon monoxide is leaking or finding a way in.

It comes at a time when police departments are adding or transitioning to Ford Explorers.

Dash cam video captured a California police officer’s Explorer going off road and crashing into a tree. Newport Officer Brian McDowell said he blacked out. The police report said he didn’t have any drugs or alcohol in his system.

“I had that nauseous feeling and feeling like I had a headache,” McDowell said. “Plus or minus one second and maybe I wouldn’t be here on this Earth for my kids.”

Doctors couldn’t find any medical reason why he passed out. Later, McDowell learned hundreds of drivers behind the wheel of newer model Ford Explorers had been complaining about the exhaust where carbon monoxide reportedly leaked right into the cabin.

ABC 6 On Your Side photographer Ben Frecker experienced it firsthand while on the interstate.

“It smelled like sulfur,” Frecker said. “[It was] definitely some sort of exhaust and it entered the cabin and it was pretty strong and I was concerned.”

Ford has known about the issue since 2012. Repair bulletins aimed to fix the problem.

Frecker said while it only happened once to him, he still is taking precautions.

“I’ve put a CO detector in my car just out of abundance of concern,” Frecker said. “It has yet to go off.”

ABC 6 On Your Side found police departments across central Ohio are adding Ford Explorers to their fleets. Right now, hundreds of them are on the roads.

Explorers are one of the most common cruiser models. Columbus Police is transitioning to Explorers right now. It’s the primary vehicle being bought for patrol.

Other departments tell 6 On Your Side they have not experienced any issues. No agencies mention testing or investigating to be sure.

Officer McDowell is suing Ford over the potential flaw. His lawyer mentioned other departments across the country have reported similar complaints.

In a deposition, Ford said it’s a “design issue” that remains unresolved.

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