Ford Explorer leaking exhaust fumes in cabin and exposing you to dangerous levels of CO2?


Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Dizziness, nausea and vomiting – these are just some of the symptoms experienced by Ford Explorer drivers. Yet, Ford has refused to issue a safety recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety is investigating the problem, which involves exhaust fumes entering the cabin of 2011-2017 Explorer models causing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Ford won’t recall Explorers, despite mounting evidence exhaust fumes are leaking in to the cabin

The only thing Ford has done to address the issue is release several technical service bulletins (TSBs). In these documents, the automaker provides instructions to remedy the exhaust odor concern.

The first section of one of the TSBs released in 2016 reads:

Some 2011-2015 Explorer vehicles may exhibit an exhaust odor in the vehicle with the auxiliary climate control system on. Customers may indicate the odor smells like sulfur, or that exhaust odors are entering the vehicle cabin. This condition may be worsened when the climate control system is in recirculate mode and the vehicle is heavily accelerated for an extended period. Whether and to what extent any customer or occupant of a 2011-2015 Explorer vehicle experiences the exhaust odor will be affected by driving habits, weather and individual sensitivities.

The bulletin then goes on to outline what dealership technicians should do to fix the issue. The first procedure involves reprogramming the air conditioning control module software. Then, several steps are taken to reseal various body components such as the liftgate drain and under-bumper air extractor.

If that doesn’t work, technicians are instructed to move on to the next procedure: replacing the muffler with an updated model.

Ford will perform these repairs free of charge. But why hasn’t a recall been issued?

Elizabeth Weingandt, safety communications manager at Ford, said, “Explorers are safe. Ford’s investigation and extensive testing has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day.”

“The safety of our customers is paramount,” she said. “We encourage customers with carbon monoxide concerns to bring their vehicle to their local Ford dealer for a free service designed to reduce the concern.”

This is coming from a company that, in the early 2000s, refused to recall Explorers with faulty tires. That is, until the tires started blowing out. Not very reassuring.

It also doesn’t help that the Explorer owner’s manual reads: “Do not drive your vehicle if you smell exhaust fumes. Carbon monoxide is present in exhaust fumes. Take precautions to avoid its dangerous effects.”

Regulating agencies intervene

Over 1,300 Explorer owners have reported the exhaust gas issue to federal safety officials. The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety came to their defense by sending a letter to Ford CEO Hackett, requesting a recall of 1.33 million Explorers.

The Center’s executive director, Jason Levine, weighed in on the issue.

“Ford needs to stop sending mixed messages to Explorer owners and passengers, including senior citizens and parents of young children, that the vehicles are ‘safe’ and that repairs are available only for ‘peace of mind. Since some Ford dealers are responsibly replacing cracked exhaust manifolds, it is time for Ford to take a more serious step, recall all of these vehicles and inspect and replace cracked exhaust manifolds.”

As for theNational Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA), it has an open investigation into the concern. Currently, it’s in “engineering analysis status, which is the step before the agency can formally demand a recall. The NHTSA has admitted that its preliminary findings show elevated cabin carbon monoxide levels at times. Ford says its dispatched investigators of its own to look into the issue.

Ford Explorer owners speak out

Explorer owners aren’t staying quiet.  Many of them have openly voiced concerns over the carbon monoxide issue.

Recently, a man in New York filed a complaint with federal officials reporting his 2017 Ford Explorer had exhaust fumes in the cabin.

“My car has already been repaired once and is in the shop again. … Ford is not being very helpful because I don’t want the car anymore. It is a huge safety concern and I don’t want my wife and toddler in the vehicle at all,” he wrote in the filing.

A couple from Louisiana said they can no longer drive their 2015 Explorer, because it left them sick. The dealership refused to take it back. So, now it just sits under their carport while they continue to make payments on it.

In Florida, a man says his son got so sick that he threw up, after riding in the back of their Explorer. The SUV had been to the dealer several times without resolution.

Similar stories are being told all over the country. One that has made numerous news headlines, is that of Steve Simmons from Raleigh, N.C.

Simmons, a retired IBM marketing project manager, started experiencing dizziness and blurred vision just 16 days after purchasing his Explorer. His doctor sent him to Duke Raleigh Hospital where he was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The retiree insists there is no other way he could have been poisoned – it must have been the Explorer. He doesn’t smoke and has carbon monoxide detectors throughout his house.

After leaving the hospital, Simmons called the dealership and demanded they take the vehicle back. They obliged by allowing him to trade it in for an F-150. Not completely satisfied, he launched a website where other Explorer owners can vent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is responsible for 400 deaths per year in the U.S. So, these customer concerns should not be taken lightly.

Federal agency finds potential cause for the exhaust fumes

Most customers assert that the free repairs from Ford don’t fix the problem. According to the NHTSA, the root cause may be cracked exhaust manifolds.

The exhaust manifold routes spent combustion gases from the engine to the exhaust pipe. The NHTSA found many Police Interceptor versions of the Ford Explorer have exhaust manifold cracks. In one dash camera video, a California police officer swerves off the road and into a tree, presumably after breathing the fumes. Civilian version Explorers may suffer from the same problem.

Ford has acknowledged the issue with the police interceptors but won’t take responsibility. The automaker claims the vehicleshave problems due to modifications added by the agencies, such as emergency lights. Several law enforcement officers have filed lawsuits.

Will the next-generation Explorer have the same issue?

The next-generation Explorer will go on sale in 2019. According to reports, it will be built on brand-new platformed, designated the D6. It presently rides on the D4 platform, which it shares with the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT.

There are currently three engine options offered in the Explorer. The list includes a turbocharged four-cylinder, a naturally aspirated V6 and a turbocharged V6. Sources guess both turbocharged engines will live on. This means the exhaust gas issue could continue, unless Ford addressed the design flaw.

The Explorer may have the potential to poison occupants with deadly gases, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying it. In 2016, the Explorer sold over 248k units, making it the 14th best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

If you think Ford Explorer may be exposing you to carbon monoxide and harmful exhaust fumes fill out our form to the right or call us NOW at ? 844-685-9200 for a free, no obligation case evaluation.

Thousands of people have already complained to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration about exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide poisoning. Lemberg Law is standing by, ready to pursue lemon law or warranty claims against Ford. If your Explorer is defective, you could get a replacement vehicle, a cash settlement, or a vehicle repurchase. You have rights under the law, and we’ll fight for those rights every step of the way. We’ll go toe-to-toe with Ford to get the justice you deserve.

Sergei Lemberg

About the Author:

Sergei Lemberg is an attorney focusing on consumer law, class actions related to automotive issues, and personal injury litigation. With nearly two decades of experience, his areas of practice include Lemon Law (vehicle defects), Debt Collection Harassment, TCPA (illegal robocalls and texts), Fair Credit Reporting Act, Overtime claims, Personal Injury cases, and Class Actions. He has consistently been recognized as the nation's "most active consumer attorney." In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid before the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case Duguid v. Facebook. He is also the author of "Defanging Debt Collectors," a guide that empowers consumers to fight back against debt collectors and prevail, as well as "Lemon Law 101: The Laws That Lemon Dealers Don't Want You to Know."

See more posts from Sergei Lemberg
  • Sheryl

    I have a 2016 Ford Explore Sport- I have an exhaust leak and called Ford to see if they would cover it. They won’t do anything. Also the hood is bubbling . I have the Pearl White paint that is way more expensive. Poor paint job and they won’t even cover it. 31,000 miles and garage kept. Last Ford I will buy.

  • Charles S

    I have a 2014 ford explorer limited 4×4 3.5 v6 with 100,000 or so miles on it and I have the same problem with exhaust coming into the cab.

  • Michael B

    2014 Ford Explorer Limited with 160,000 miles on it started fuming the cabin have to open windows to breath. Replaced exhaust and mechanics cannot figure out why its happening

  • Pat O

    Same issue on my 2017 Ford Explorer. I took my Explorer to the Ford dealership to address the exhaust fumes issue. It subsided but a year later, it is back. They stated that the issue is new and would not be covered by any recall that was previously addressed. They now want the vehicle for 3-5 days and are charging me to identify the problem. I smell the fumes every time I start the vehicle and while I am driving. My wife and I are coughing and have burning eyes for hours after riding in the vehicle. I just want it fixed.

  • E.M. W

    I have a 2014 Ford Explorer Admin Police Package, heavy duty everything, V6, AWD. It now has 255000 Miles on it, and has been a great vehicle as it is used every day as a high mileage use vehicle. 2 Weeks ago, exhaust fumes started filling the cabin when I am stopped in traffic, and have the HEAT on. It is SO bad , I have to open the windows every time I stop the car. It has been to the dealer last week, and they did phase 1 of the recall, which did NOTHING. It is going back in tomorrow, and I am hoping they get to the bottom of the issue. The smell is coming from UNDER THE HOOD, and getting sucked IN to the cabin when the vehicle stops moving. It is making me sick every time I drive it, even just to the dealer. I truly hope they can fix it soon, as it is my ONLY vehicle, and needed for work.

  • Tad B

    I Have a 2014 explorer with exhaust in the cabin. Burns your eyes its so bad. I told them multiple times to look up front of the exhaust system. The manifolds. You can clearly hear the engine is loud from that area. So instead they ignore my input and instead try to do a half ass repair on the tail gate. Really folks!!! I even had the technician come out after the so called fix and stick his head in the car and he told me that there was exhaust in the car. Now here’s the 3 trip to the dealer for the same issue, inconveniencing me in a big way because I’m now with out a car to get to work. How long will they ignore the issue before some one gets killed????

  • Jonathon W

    I have a 2013 Ford Explorer and just started noticing a strong exhaust smell in the cabin. Is there anything that can be done about this? It has over 148,000 miles

  • Trisha S

    2015 ford explorer same issue with the smell of exhaust makes me and family really sick. why wont ANYONE do anything about this . Why wont the ford dealer do the right thing and take back thier crappy cars that are making peopl sick and they know it. Let us exchange…

  • Jerry

    Bought a 2021 ford explorer, excellarted hard the rotten egg smell that usually stays outside filled the cab. It also when fuel tank is full has a sloshing banging sound in the tank.

  • Nehemias F

    We have a 2019 explorer and we smell the fumes inside the car, we just got it, brand new, we need to take it to the dealer..

  • Dana c

    I have a 2014 with 65000 smell gas fumes have had a headache and cold since we bought it but ford says no recall on mine

  • Ricardo T

    Meador Ford in Pocatello, ID refuses to act on exhaust usdue.

  • RYAN

    Same issue on my 2018 ford Explorer. The explorer went to the ford dealership for repair 2x and they could not find the problem. They asked me to take it home drive it and take it back to ford when I smell the toxic gas in the cabin. Ford USA called me and said they won’t buy the explorer back from me but promised to get it fixed. Im taking the explorer to ford on Monday and I don’t plan to take it home unless they’ve solve the issue. My whole family got sick and still sick up to now with COUGH AND COLDS.

  • Reid E

    I have brought up smell since I bought the car. I’ve brought up headaches to wife after longer drives. I am pissed that they didnt even notify me and mortified at what I could be exposing my children to.

  • Crystal j

    Have been enjoying this 2015 explorer for 39 months. Noticed extreme gas fumes 3 weeks ago. Repairs done today yet noted same odor on ride home!

  • Jonathan R

    I have a explorer sport 2013 and i habe the same problem after tje tsb was done.

  • Victor P

    With regard to the problem with the Ford explorers, we are based in the Philippines and have numerous complaints of the same problem. Ford dealerships have done the required TSBs but the problem still remains.

    All I see are actions being done in the USA, but what happens to countries where the Explorer have been exported to like the Philippines? Will a recall if ever, include export countries? Thank you.

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