It may be one of the best selling SUVs on the market, but for hundreds of owners and several law enforcement agencies, its exhaust fumes are cause for serious concerns.
Explorer owners describe it as a sulfur or rotten egg smell coming into the car, and as CBS reports, it’s this rotten egg smell that possibly caused one officer’s vehicle to crash, nearly killing him.
Dash cam video shows the moment Newport Beach police officer Brian McDowell’s life changed. He was responding to a non-emergency call when he passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Ford Explorer police cruiser and crashed into a tree.
“I just think, plus or minus one second, and I maybe wouldn’t be here on this earth for my kids,” McDowell said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in July 2016 that it is looking into the 2011-2015 Ford Explorer models after identifying more than 150 complaints about the exhaust problem, including concerns about the potential exposure to carbon monoxide, according to a posting on ClassAction.org.
After months of extensive medical tests, McDowell’s doctors found no reason for his blackout, and records show neither drugs or alcohol were in evident in his blood system.
“I just had that nauseous feeling and just feeling like I had a headache,” McDowell said. “I just went out. Just like that,” he told CBS.
But CBS News discovered the complaint that was once roughly 150 customers has grown to more than 450 complaints, some involving 2016 and 2017 models, which are not part of NHTSA’s investigation. While declining to comment further, NHTSA maintains there haven’t been any serious injuries — something McDowell’s attorney, Brian Chase, disputes.
McDowell has scars from a dislocated shoulder, fractured eye socket and traumatic brain injury, but no memory of the accident.
“When I saw that they said there were no injuries, we immediately got NHTSA on the phone,” Chase said. “I gave them all the information we had in the lawsuit.”
An Army veteran took the CBS reporter for a ride in his 2015 Explorer, which has been in for repairs for exhaust issues five times.
Ron Booth said he’s really worried about what he’s breathing in while he drives his SUV. The class action lawsuit claims that certain Ford Explorers may be releasing fumes containing carcinogens including benzene and “lethal quantities” of carbon monoxide.
A few minutes into the drive: “Now you can smell it. You can definitely smell the exhaust smell right now, and we get that all the time,” Booth said to CBS. “Ford has tried to fix it and they can’t.”
Newport Beach police told CBS they had implemented new “safety measures” in the vehicles after McDowell’s accident.
“Just as a precaution, carbon monoxide detectors have been installed in all the patrol vehicles … some of those detectors had gone off,” McDowell said.
Officer McDowell has filed a lawsuit against Ford over his injuries. His isn’t the only exhaust-related case. In August, Ford agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed in Florida. The amount of the settlement is unknown and won’t be finalized until May. Another class action filed in New Jersey is still pending. Ford has denied all the allegations in that case.
According to USA Today, the automaker has not issued a recall to fix the alleged defect. But the company did issue two “technical service bulletins” in 2012 and 2014, which instructed dealers to attempt to fix the defect when motorists bring in vehicles for other repairs.
However, “some vehicle owners reported little or no improvement after” those fixes, according to NHTSA’s investigation document.
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