For months, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has tracked carbon monoxide inside a particular model of its police cars – the law enforcement edition of the Ford Explorer. Police officers in several states have crashed or nearly crashed in the SUVs, and they say carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause.
So far, CMPD has sent 14 of its 148 Explorers from the affected model years off to Ford for repair. They’re relying on carbon monoxide detectors and officers’ complaints to determine whether to send the cars away, and now all 14 are back on the road – but there’s a money question.
Ford announced on Friday that it will pay for certain repairs related to the carbon-monoxide issue, including a change to the air conditioning system to introduce more fresh air during heavy acceleration.
That repair coverage is good even if the cars have after-market modifications, the company said. Something as simple as adding police lights can involve drilling holes in the car, though CMPD Maj. Sherie Pearsall said the department’s Explorers’ lights and equipment are part of a special kit and don’t require after-market modification.
In a press release, Ford said its investigation has found that exhaust may be getting into cars’ passenger compartments through holes created after the car left the factory.
The CMPD Explorers went to Ford for repair before the company offered to pay, so now the department is finding out if Ford will reimburse the cost of fixing those 14 cars.
Only two CMPD employees have complained about smelling exhaust and potential health issues, Pearsall said Monday.
Ford said it hasn’t seen proof that any crashes were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, and the company said no elevated levels have been found in non-police Explorers.
Records of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating the issue, show that civilian drivers with 2011 and later Ford Explorers are also noticing the smell of exhaust in the passenger compartment.
The NHTSA found that part of the exhaust system in the police Explorers is experiencing cracks, which might explain the smell in police cars. The next part of the NHTSA’s investigation will examine this issue more deeply, including whether non-police Explorers have the same issue.
Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester