Center for Auto Safety Calls on Ford CEO Hackett to Recall 1.3 Million Ford Explorers for Carbon Monoxide Leaks

January 23, 2018
Contact: Jason Levine, (202) 328-7700,
Center for Auto Safety Calls on Ford CEO Hackett to Recall 1.3 Million Ford Explorers for Carbon Monoxide Leaks – Complaints are up 900%
Washington, D.C.—Today, in a letter to Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett, the Center for Auto Safety renewed its request for Ford to conduct a full recall of 1.3 million Model Year 2011-2017 Explorers because of suspected Carbon Monoxide leaks. This follows the Center’s call for action in October 2017, after Ford failed to take seriously the thousands of consumer complaints which had been filed with NHTSA, Ford, and the Center for Auto Safety.
In the eighteen months since NHTSA opened its investigation in July 2016, complaints to NHTSA have increased 900%. NHTSA has received at least 1,381 complaints from Ford drivers and passengers experiencing Carbon Monoxide exposure in the passenger cabins of Explorers. These complaints do not include the over 2,000 complaints Ford previously disclosed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, excess exposure to Carbon Monoxide is responsible for more than 400 deaths every year in the United States. Exposure to Carbon Monoxide is particularly dangerous because the gas is odorless and symptoms—loss of consciousness, nausea, headaches, or light headedness—mimic flu-like symptoms, delaying reaction time from victims and emergency personnel in determining the root cause of the injury.
“In response to thousands of complaints by Ford owners of being exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, and despite the owner’s manual for their vehicles noting the ‘dangerous effects’ of exposure to Carbon Monoxide, Ford continues to insist there’s nothing to see here,” said Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. “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,” Levine added.
Appropriately, the Ford Explorer Owner’s Manual contains the following warning: “Do not drive your vehicle if you smell exhaust fumes. Carbon monoxide is present in exhaust fumes. Take precautions to avoid its dangerous effects.” Yet, in response to reports of exactly this circumstance since at least 2012, Ford refuses to properly protect its customers.
In July 2017, NHTSA indicated the most likely culprit for the exposure of Ford consumers to potentially lethal amounts of Carbon Monoxide was cracked exhaust manifolds. Nonetheless, Ford issued a Customer Service Program (CSP-17N03) focused on less expensive and potentially less effective repairs such as reapplying weather sealant and reprogramming the climate control in order to give customers “peace of mind” but stated the “vehicles are safe.” The CSP did not vary dramatically from previous technical bulletins Ford has quietly been issuing since 2012 to address the same issue. (See: TSB 14-0130, and TSB 16-016.)
In the intervening months, the Center for Auto Safety has continued to be contacted by Ford customers experiencing symptoms related to CO exposure in their Explorers. Some had brought their Explorers in to dealerships to receive repairs prior to the issuance of CSP-17N03. Others brought their Explorers in afterwards. In both instances, the only customers expressing satisfaction with the service seem to be those who had dealers going beyond the CSP and replacing the exhaust manifold.
Below are samples of five out of the almost 1,400 complaints NHTSA has received regarding exhaust fumes leaking into Explorers:

  • Ford Customer in Ramona, CA purchased a 2015 Explorer. Complained of exhaust smell when accelerating resulting in flu-like symptoms, headache, and loss of sense of smell. Multiple trips to her Ford dealership since 2014, did not resolve the problem. After an attempted repair in 2017, Ford Customer’s CO detector reported levels as high as 53ppm. Even after November 22, 2017 repair attempt, detector continues to record CO in vehicle.
  • Ford Customer in Lafayette, LA purchased a 2015 Explorer. Complained of foul odor every time she drove the vehicle. Upon taking an out of state trip in 2017, she had trouble staying awake, complained of headaches, and believes her cat passed out due to CO exposure. Dealership told her the odor was “the new smell burning off the exhaust.” Independent analysis found cracks in the exhaust manifold.
  • Ford Customer in Upper Marlboro, MD, purchased a 2015 Explorer. Early on this Ford Customer complained of an odor but was told the odor was because it was a new car. After each of two trips in the vehicle for 25-30 miles, her granddaughter had to be taken to a hospital due to CO symptoms and was diagnosed as having had a seizure. Her grandson vomited twice after a lengthy car ride. She tested her vehicle and found CO in the cabin.
  • Ford Customer in Fair Oaks, CA was driving a 2015 Explorer, and reported feeling nauseous, sleepy, and suffering from headaches. In December 2017, despite receiving the service under CSP-17N03, customer continued to report feeling ill inside the vehicle.
  • Ford Customer in Ottumwa, IA, was driving a 2014 Explorer with an 18-month-old infant in the rear of the vehicle. The child became unresponsive, necessitating the driver pull off the highway and call 911. After release from the Emergency Room, the child was placed back in Explorer and within 5 minutes again became unresponsive. Rolling down the window assisted in bringing the child back to responsiveness. Dealer provided no assistance.

In its letter to Ford CEO, Jim Hackett, the Center wrote:
“Despite the thousands of complaints, incidents, and injuries, there are no reported deaths associated with this dangerous defect – yet. It is easy to imagine a roadside crash caused by Carbon Monoxide exposure resulted in a fatality but was written off as ‘drowsy driving.’ It is possible that Ford and Ford’s customers have just been lucky up until this point, but the time for Ford to take more serious action is now, before that luck runs out.”
Related Information
Center for Auto Safety Letter to Ford
Press Coverage
Ford Urged to Recall 1.3 Million SUVs Over Exhaust Fumes, Bloomberg
Safety Group Demands Explorer Recall Over Carbon Monoxide Complaints, NBC 4
Ford gets more pressure from safety group to recall 1.3 million Explorers, Automotive News
Ford Urged to Recall 1.3 Million Explorers, The Drive
Safety group urges Ford to recall 1.3 million Explorers, Consumer Affairs
Feds investigate Ford Explorer SUV after owners say it’s making them sick, Detroit Free Press, USA Today
NHTSA Investigation
Preliminary Evaluation – PE16-008 – Opened July 1, 2016
Opening Resume
NHTSA Information Request (IR)
Ford IR Response
Closing Resume
Engineering Analysis – EA17-002 – Opened July 27, 2017
Opening Resume
Ford Press Release: Ford Announces Complimentary Service for 2011-17 Retail Explorers
Ford Owner Bulletin
Ford Memo to Dealers
Technical Service Bulletin 16-0166
Technical Service Bulletin 14-0130
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