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Ford Explorer Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Carbon Monoxide Leaks into Passenger Cabin

Ford Motor Company faces a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of owners of Ford Explorer vehicles, indicating that design problems with the popular SUV may allow exhaust to leak into the passenger cabin, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Harvey Britton Ford and Kathy Regenia Ford in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on July 14, seeking class action status to represent all owners of Ford Explorer vehicles built between 2011 and 2015.

“This model has a distinct and dangerous characteristic: It leaks exhaust emissions (which includes carbon monoxide) into its passenger cabin,” the class action lawsuit states. “The potential exposure to exhaust and carbon monoxide renders these vehicles unsafe to drive.”

The lawsuit comes shortly after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it was launching an investigation into Ford Explorer carbon monoxide risks after receiving more than 150 reports of exhaust seeping into the seating area.

The issues may have caused at least one auto accident, which took place at low speed, with no injuries reported, according to the NHTSA announcement. However, the bigger concern for safety regulators and vehicle owners are the potential side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, which could cause severe and long-lasting health consequences if individuals are exposed to the fumes for long periods of time.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause headaches, nausea, light headedness, confusion and loss of consciousness in severe cases.

Reports filed with the NHTSA indicate that the problem appears most common when operating the vehicle under full throttle applications, such as climbing a steep grade or merging onto freeway ramps. Some reports have also linked it to use of the air conditioning system in recirculation mode.

The class action lawsuit indicates that the named plaintiffs bought their Ford Explorer new in 2014 in North Carolina. They brought the vehicle in for maintenance on several occasions, complaining of an exhaust odor when the vehicle was in use. The smell inside the passenger compartment began just weeks after it was purchased, the complaint indicates.

“Neither Ford nor its authorized dealerships have been able to fix the vehicle,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs continue to experience the exhaust odor when accelerating the vehicle. On multiple occasions, plaintiffs have plugged in a carbon monoxide detector inside the vehicle. More than once, the monitor’s alarm has sounded while plaintiffs have been driving the car.”

Ford appears to have been aware of the problem for some time. The NHTSA and the class action lawsuit note that in December 2012 and July 2014, the company issued two “technical service bulletins” instructing dealers on ways to address the problem. However, some owners reported that the repairs did not alleviate the issue.

Carbon monoxide is one of the leading causes of poisoning deaths in the U.S., since the toxic gas has no color, odor or taste, lacking irritating factors that typically allow someone to detect it’s presence. While the vehicle fumes containing carbon monoxide should be more apparent, if individuals fail to leave the vehicle or promptly recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, they may suffer severe injury.

Prolonged exposure to the gas could potentially lead to loss of consciousness, death or permanent brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Image via IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock.com

10 comments

  1. Tina Reply

    Bought a 2013 limited new feb 2013..complained first week after brought in for a passive alarm to be put in telling them was a strong odor like fumes.
    Burnt toast smell..hair…something ..was told t

  2. Bobbi Jo Reply

    I just brought my vehicle in for the same thing. Dealer couldn’t find any leaks. Placed a 4 gas detector alarm in my vehicle and although the alarm didn’t sound, the carbon monoxide hovered around 20. All the research I did said that isn’t good for long time exposure.

  3. Kimberly Reply

    I purchased a 2013 Ford Explorer Limited and had the problem with the exhaust fumes coming into the vehicle. I brought it to the dealer several times to be told it was the way I drove the vehicle causing the problem. They never could find a fix. I eventually turned my case into the Better Business Bureau to be told the best thing is to get rid of the vehicle because the ford dealership did not record all the times it was brought in for the problem. I did not feel safe driving the vehicle and hated to expose my children to the fumes. I ended up trading it in and took a huge loss on the vehicle. I just could not drive a vehicle every day that was unsafe.

  4. Frank Reply

    I have a 2014 explorer sport. I’ve noticed over the years the exhaust smell, but thought it was normal.

  5. Karla Reply

    I had a very bad accident in my 2014 Ford Explorer. I was heading to St. Louis when I rear ended a van going 65 mph. I have video showing the wreck. I felt like I blacked out. I still have nightmares since the accident. It’s hard for me to drive. I feel like I have a very good case. I could smell strange smells, but never thought anything about it.

  6. Claudette Reply

    I’ve experienced some light headedness and nausea after driving for prolonged period of time. I’ve noticed a constant peak in my blood pressure and dull to moderate headaches. All of this after driving.
    Trying to determine what to do. I was already on hbp meds already and has dr. To change but symptoms still occur

  7. Ethan Reply

    We bought our 2014 explorer last month. For the past 2 weeks my 5 year old has been coughing badly and we have been getting this smell inside the vehicle like propane or gas. I did not know of this issue until I googled it and found all sorts of different people having the same issue. I called ford and stated the issue and was instructed to take it to the local dealer and have a diagnosis done at my expense and if any issues were found that they might be able to help with repairs.

  8. Madison Reply

    It is not just the Ford Explorers. I have a 2014 Ford Taurus that has done the same thing since purchase. First to be told it was new engine burn off, then something in the dash, then they repaired the gaskets. Nothing has fixed the issue. I tried BBB and the CA-DMV complaint board but of course Ford says my case does not reach the level of lemon law. Apparently they want to wait until I crash like the police man did and almost died. I also hear this is on the Flex’s, some F150’s, and a Lincoln model.

  9. Terrell Reply

    My wife and I just lemon law our 2016 for explorer to ford motor company, have documentation for seven repairs for carbon monoxide odor, wife had a blood test and CM was found in her blood. I can’t find how to file with class action on this explorer. Help is needed.

  10. Tony Reply

    Bought a 2013 Explorer new for my wife. She started to devolope serious head aches and still is being treated by two Doctors. We didn’t realize she was being poisoned by carbon monoxide. Got a card in the mail to register for joining a class action law suit. Have not heard a word from the firm and they no longer take phone calls. This was probably a scam by Ford.

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