The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into exhaust odors leaking into passenger compartments of certain Ford Motor Co. Explorer models. There has been at least one crash, according to NHTSA. The investigation, launched on July 1, arises from 154 complaints by owners of model year 2011 to 2015 Ford Explorers who expressed concerns they may be exposed to carbon monoxide due to the leak. The complaints say operating the vehicle at steep grades or speeding up to merge onto highway ramps may contribute to the presence of exhaust gas. NHTSA says the use of recirculation mode in Ford Explorer air conditioning systems also may cause the problem.
One of the complaints said the exhaust odor issue caused a low-speed crash, but resulted in no injuries, NHTSA said. The investigation comes after Ford issued two service bulletins to address some of the issues that may cause the exhaust leak. In December 2012, Ford suggested sealing and undercoating areas of the vehicle’s floor and body seams, as well as replacing the left-side air extractor, to fix the issue. The automaker also suggested installing drain valves in the vehicle’s rear lift gate.
In July 2014, a new bulletin added software changes to the recirculation mode of Ford Explorer air conditioning systems. The fix would allegedly help limit the exhaust smell during times of high exertion by the engine, but NHTSA found that the changes resulted in little to no improvement based on responses by vehicle owners. Between 2011 and 2015, Ford sold more than 895,000 Explorer vehicles in the United States. Over that time, the Explorer represented more than 7 percent of Ford’s annual vehicle sales.
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