Make us your home page
Instagram

Ford offers to inspect, repair 1.3 million Explorers for free amid carbon monoxide concerns

Ford is offering customers who own Explorers manufactered between 2011-2017 free inspections and repairs amid carbon monoxide concerns. [Chris Carlson  |  AP]

Ford is offering customers who own Explorers manufactered between 2011-2017 free inspections and repairs amid carbon monoxide concerns. [Chris Carlson | AP]

DETROIT – Responding to consumer concerns about exhaust fumes, Ford is offering to inspect and repair Explorer SUVs at no cost to owners.

Ford maintains the vehicles are safe, but said it's making the repairs available in response to customer concerns about exhaust odors and carbon monoxide.

"Our investigation has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day," Ford spokesman Mike Levine said.

Ford has sold more than 1.35 million Explorers since 2011, when the vehicle was redesigned and the exhaust problems began. The move announced Friday comes as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues to investigate complaints of fumes and carbon monoxide leaking into the passenger cabins of police and consumer versions of the SUVs.

Ford previously focused repair efforts on police versions of the Explorer, but civilians continue to complain to the agency about exhaust fumes and symptoms such as nausea, headaches and drowsiness.

The company said it will send letters to owners of 2011 through 2017 Explorers starting the week of Nov. 13 telling them to take their SUVs to dealers for the work. Mechanics will check for leaks in the rear lift gate gaskets and drain valves. If any leaks are found, they'll be sealed or gaskets will be replaced, to prevent fumes from entering, Levine said. They'll also reprogram the air conditioning to let in more fresh air.

Ford will pay for the work regardless of mileage, age of the vehicles or whether they're under warranty. It also will reimburse owners who previously paid for repair work, Levine said. The service will be available starting Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018, Ford said.

The customer service campaign is not a recall, although safety regulators could still push for one. NHTSA began its investigation of Explorers in July of 2016.

"NHTSA will take appropriate action as warranted, and any future decisions will be based on the findings of the investigation," the agency said in a statement.

Ford started repairing police versions earlier this summer after departments reported that carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes was making officers sick. The company said at the time there was no reason for owners of non-police Explorers to be concerned.

But over the past six years, more than 1,100 civilians have complained to the government about exhaust fumes seeping into Explorers, causing headaches, burning eyes, nausea, sleepiness and an odor like burning hair, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. In addition, Ford has received more than 2,000 complaints, warranty claims, reports from dealers and legal claims related to exhaust odors.

Even for such a big seller, 1,100 complaints about a single problem is unusual, especially because exhaust fumes almost never find their way into passenger areas, said Allan Kam, a former attorney with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who now is a consultant to consumers and manufacturers.

By comparison, the government has only two complaints about exhaust in the cabin of the Jeep Grand Cherokee for the 2011 through 2017 model years. The Grand Cherokee is an Explorer competitor with comparable sales for those years. In addition, the government had only one exhaust gas complaint for the 2010 Explorer, the year before the new model came out, The AP found.

In complaints to the government posted on the NHTSA website, several owners have said attempts by Ford dealers to fix the problem have failed. Many expressed concerns about small children and pets riding in the rear seat, where the smell seemed to be concentrated.

In 2014, a Florida woman sued Ford, claiming she and her daughter were suffering from chronic headaches due to carbon monoxide in their Explorer. Under a settlement reached in August, Ford had agreed to send out a nationwide notice to Explorer owners offering partial reimbursement for exhaust odor repairs performed on 2011-2015 Explorers. But that settlement is on hold because an owner filed an objection.

The fix announced Friday would go further than the settlement, because it would offer full reimbursements to owners of 2011-2017 Explorers.

Levine said Ford is confident the repairs will handle the problems. "This will reduce the potential for exhaust to enter the vehicle," he said.

Several police agencies have pulled Explorer Police Interceptors off the road due to complaints from officers about fumes and carbon monoxide. Ford has said the gas is leaking from the tailpipe into the police cabins due to non-factory outfitters that drill holes into police SUVs to install extra equipment such as lights and radios. Ford has offered to pay to seal the holes.

Police in Austin, Texas, pulled nearly 400 Explorers off patrol in July because of carbon monoxide concerns and reports of officers getting sick. Some of those vehicles have been repaired.

Ford offers to inspect, repair 1.3 million Explorers for free amid carbon monoxide concerns 10/18/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 11:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city's approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.

     Barricades along Beach Drive at the intersection of Fourth Avenue NE have been erected for security at upcoming holiday events at North Straub Park. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  2. Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will 'get it in the neck.'

    National

    TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you.

    Nelson
  3. St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Monday approved a lease for the Manhattan Casino, a landmark building in the city's historic African-American business and entertainment community.

    St. Petersburg has reached an agreement on a new restaurant at the Manhattan Casino.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

    Nation

    Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

    Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the "Charlie Rose" show from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011. They ranged in age from 21 to 37 at the time of the alleged encounters. [Associated Press (2016)]
  5. Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa's Bloomin' Brands

    Retail

    TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you're not trying to swim somewhere.

    Barry Rosenstein, principal owner of hedge fund Jana Partners. Jana took a 8.74 percent stake in Tampa's Bloomin' Brands, parent of Outback Steakhouse and three other restaurant chains, because Bloomin' is perceived as an underperformer. Jana may push to sell the company. [Courtesy of Jana Partners]