Many people buy SUVs to keep them safe. But while the Ford Explorer's size may help insulate passengers somewhat in collisions, owners have been complaining about another issue: They say their vehicles have been making them sick. Bloomberg notes that upward of 3,000 Explorer owners have filed complaints on fifth-generation Explorers built between 2010 and 2018, citing headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even "unspecified loss of consciousness," and the problem seems to stem from exhaust that may be seeping into the vehicle's cabin, perhaps causing carbon monoxide poisoning for anyone in the SUV. Drivers, including members of police departments, have tested positive for carbon monoxide exposure, and other owners, concerned by the headlines, have started driving around with portable carbon monoxide detectors, with varying results.
And that's the problem, Explorer owners say: The issue is sporadic and erratic, so testing doesn't always turn up elevated carbon monoxide levels. Per Ford records turned over to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, leaks were found in several dozen Explorers over a four-year span starting in late 2011, and those leaks appeared to be the result of bad exhaust-system welding. When the poorly welded parts were replaced, driver issues seemed to disappear. CNET's Roadshow asks: "Why ... hasn't NHTSA or Ford issued a recall?" The NHTSA has been investigating the issue for at least three years, meaning a recall may eventually come. If that happens, Bloomberg notes, it would be expensive for Ford, which would have to pull back a million-plus vehicles, potentially costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the 2020 Explorer has been redesigned. (Read more Ford Explorer stories.)