(KTVU) - The Federal Auto Safety agency says it's expanding its year-old investigation into possible carbon monoxide leaks in Ford Explorers, 2011 to 2017, especially police vehicles.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be sickening, debilitating and deadly.
Ford Explorer SUV's are among the most common police vehicles in the nation. But now, based on more than 2,700 police and consumer complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decided to expand its investigation into where some of the Explorers have dangerous carbon monoxide leak defects.
In fact, the Austin, Texas Police department is pulling all 439 of its Explorers from service after one of its officers fell ill from carbon monoxide poisoning and dozens of other officers in several departments complained of ill effects.
“We know that it's unsafe and we know how unsafe it is and we know that on the outside they could die in that unit," said Charley Wilkison of the Texas Law Enforcement Association.
"This is an issue that over my 30 years of law enforcement, we've never faced an issue like this" said Assistant Chief Troy Gay of the Austin Police Department. Initially, Ford denied any knowledge of the problem but has said it is cooperating with the Federal investigation.
Ford suggested that police might have affected the cars as they added equipment to them for law enforcement.
Until all of this is figured out, the Richmond Police department and many others are buying very cheap insurance, but very effective insurance: carbon monoxide detectors.
Richmond is the latest department to install detectors, as San Francisco already has.
"We have not had any problems with them. But, there have been reports from other law enforcement agencies and other individuals that use this vehicle of carbon monoxide positioning. So, in an abundance of caution, six months ago, SFPD decided to install a type of alarm system that would alert the driver and the occupants inside whether or not the levels of carbon monoxide were poisonous," said SFPD Officer Grace Gatpandan.
The California Highway Patrol, a major Explorer user, would neither confirm or deny a problem but issued a statement saying: "Like all vehicles, occasionally complaints arise and the CHP takes them seriously and addresses them on a case by case basis."
After our initial report aired, Ford released the following statement:
"We have not found elevated levels of carbon monoxide in regular Ford Explorers. To address police customers who drive modified vehicles in unique ways, we will cover the costs of specific repairs in every Police Interceptor Utility that may have carbon monoxide concerns."