More local law enforcement agencies make changes after SUV concerns

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Three more local law enforcement agencies have made changes amid growing concern over a potential problem with Ford Explorers leaking carbon monoxide into the passenger cabin.

The I-Team first told you last week that agencies including the SBI and a handful of local police agencies had installed CO detectors in the Explorers in their fleets and now more have followed suit.

Fayetteville police report outfitting all 12 of their Explorers with the devices after one of their officers detected the poisonous gas leaking into his SUV. The Wake County Sheriff's Office and Moore County Sheriff's Office have done the same, with six and eight Explorers retrofitted, respectively.

In Charlotte, where much of the fleet is made up of Explorers, police sent 14 back to the manufacturer and are installing CO monitors in 148 others.

Clayton's police chief is considering outfitting the department's Explorers with carbon monoxide detectors.

In San Antonio, which is effectively ground zero in investigations by the Federal government, police grounded their entire fleet of the potentially troubled SUVs. One officer there, as well as another in a separate city, are suing Ford, claiming CO leaks caused them to get into accidents.

The I-Team checked with Ford Motor Co. for a response. After this story aired, Ford issued a statement to the I-Team:

"Safety is our top priority and we are concerned for those involved. We are working with the Auburn Police Department and have a team in Massachusetts on the way to inspect their vehicles and modifications made to them.

We have not found elevated levels of carbon monoxide in non-Police Ford Explorers. To address police customers who drive modified vehicles in unique ways, we are covering the costs of specific repairs in every Police Interceptor Utility that may have carbon monoxide concerns, regardless of modifications made after leaving Ford's factory.

Ford dealers will check and seal off the rear of the vehicle where exhaust can enter, update the air conditioning to bring in more fresh air during heavy acceleration typical of police driving and check for engine codes that could indicate a damaged exhaust manifold.

We have tested Police Interceptor Utilities with exhaust odor concerns, finding variable levels of carbon monoxide, depending on how well the rear of the vehicle was sealed after installation of police equipment. Unsealed holes can allow exhaust gases to enter the vehicle during aggressive acceleration and high speed driving unique to police use.

If a customer believes their vehicle may be experiencing an issue, they should bring it to a Ford dealer for inspection. Customers also can call a dedicated hotline at (888) 260-5575."

Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission is expanding its investigation. More than 1.3 million Ford Explorers between the years 2011 and 2017 are being looked at. Last week, the agency upgraded the status of its probe from "investigation" to "engineering analysis," one step closer to "recall." The federal government made the move after finding more than 2,700 complaints of exhaust odors in the vehicles, three crashes and 41 injuries, mostly loss of consciousness, nausea, and headaches.

"It's premature to draw conclusions from what happened today in Auburn after reports of carbon monoxide at levels of 13 parts per million in the vehicle," Ford told the ABC11 I-Team. "According to the Massachusetts Environmental Affairs, 'most people do not begin to feel the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning until they have been exposed to levels of at least 200 parts per million for several hours or more.' Given this discrepancy, more investigating is required."
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