Feds investigating popular Ford SUV after gas smell reported

Clark Fouraker is on your side. 8/22/2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—A man on the First Coast says he has a problem with his car, which is one of the most popular American made SUV's on the market - a Ford Explorer.

When he drives, especially on roads with high speed limits, gas that he says he believes to be carbon monoxide comes into the car.

"It smells like exhaust in the cabin," says Colin Olson. "Some people describe it as burnt egg smell. It will smell really bad for a few minutes and then it will just be gone."

Olson originally bought a 2015 Explorer from a Jacksonville dealership.  

Concerned about the smell, he took the car back to the dealership he bought it from. A long road of maintenance appointments, internet research and Olson says concern for his health followed.

"I got it right in, right away to the service department," he says. "There was a technical service bulletin. It's not an official recall."

Ford made multiple attempts to service the car.

The automaker had issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) titled Exhaust Odor in Vehicle.  The bulletins serve as a guide sheet for mechanics on what to do for a specific consumer complaint.

"Sometimes the fumes are so bad inside that it gives me a head ache," Olson says.



Earlier this month, Ford settled a multi-year federal class action lawsuit.  

The complaint called the 2011-2015 model years of the Explorer "dangerous and defective." It says "exhaust and other gases, including lethal quantities of carbon monoxide, may enter the passenger compartments."

When the judge approved the class action lawsuit, he said "plaintiff's showed substantial evidence demonstrating that the exhaust contamination system is a systemic problem caused by a combination of design and manufacturing defects."

"The parties reached a general agreement on terms, but details need to be worked out before it's submitted to the court for approval," a Ford spokeswoman wrote in an email to us.

Federal court records say attorney's for both sides will go before the court next month.



The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also investigating complaints against the 2011-2015 Explorer.

Documents published on the agency's website about the investigation suggest more than 630,000 cars could be impacted by the investigation.

"The NHTSA investigation is ongoing and we will continue to cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation as we always do," says Ford via email.

Currently, no recalls have been issued. An investigation by NHTSA does not mean a recall is forthcoming.

"If it's true that there's carbon monoxide leaking into the cabin, it's a very serious issue and Ford needs to deal with it immediately," says Kelsey Mays.

Mays is the Senior Consumer Affairs Editor at Cars.com, a website owned by First Coast News' parent company.

He says there's no threshold number of complaints needed to trigger a federal investigation.

"Certainly this is a significant number of people that have complained to them and so the fact that NHTSA has moved to an investigation and not a recall indicates Ford is probably going to have to provide more information," Mays says.


When Olson took First Coast News on a drive in his 2016 Explorer, we brought a Sensorcon carbon monoxide detector.

We paid about $150 for it on Amazon and used it to get non-scientific results about the levels of Carbon Monoxide in Olson's car.

During our drive on Interstate 295, the readings went as high as 23 parts per million (ppm).

We tested 5 other cars, including an older model Ford Explorer, driving at interstate speeds under similar conditions.

In those other tests, Carbon Monoxide levels never went above 1ppm.

Federal agencies say at levels between 35 ppm and 70 ppm people can begin to have mild exposure symptoms.

"Without having administered or seen this test performed, we can’t speak to outcome," a Ford spokeswoman writes. "Safety continues to be one of the highest priorities in the design of our vehicles and we are committed to designing and building vehicles that meet or exceed applicable laws and regulations."


FROM 2015 TO 2016

After at least 4 attempts to repair Olson's 2015 Explorer, an arbitrator under Florida's Lemon Law required Ford replace it with a 2016.

"Ford was pretty much forced to replace my vehicle," Olson says.

Concerned the 2016 is no better than the model he had before, Olson tried to use Florida's Lemon Law a second time.

The arbitrator denied to force Ford to replace the 2016 Explorer.

With a baby on the way and his family's health on his mind, he's still trying to get rid of his Explorer.

"I want to get rid of this car," he says. "I want my money back. I'm done."

(© 2016 WTLV)


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