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Ford considers recalling Explorer police vehicles

CBS News reports that Ford may be closer to a major recall due to carbon monoxide leaks in its Explorer model, particularly in the police Interceptor Utility. (Source: CBS Austin)

CBS News reports that Ford may be closer to a major recall due to carbon monoxide leaks in its Explorer model, particularly in the police Interceptor Utility. Last week, the City of Austin announced it was pulling more than 400 Ford Explorers from the street, including 397 police SUVs.

And there are a lot of questions about one engine part -- the exhaust manifold.

Shawn Nicholson owns Riethmeyer's Auto Shop in Northwest Austin. He showed me an exhaust manifold, a heavy, curved engine part made of cast iron. "This bolts to the side of the motor, takes all the exhaust out of the engine, carries it to the tailpipe," he said. He has been doing more work on cracked engine manifolds in civilian cars the past few years. "Some you can see, some you can't." But it's a critical safety issue.

"Probably the biggest concern would be exhaust getting up under the hood or coming into the passenger compartment," Nicholson said.

Monday, the city of Austin finished switching its more than 400 Explorers for older Crown Victorias it had as backup or reserve. That was after more than 70 carbon monoxide incidents. Twenty police officers had measurable carbon monoxide in their blood. Three were sickened enough to be put on no duty. One of those three returned to limited duty on Monday.

A city spokesman told me cracked manifolds are one of the problems they have seen.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Nicholson. He says police vehicles are worked hard. "I think those cars by hours running probably comparable to a 5-year-old consumer vehicle."

The Ford Motor Company responded to the CBS News report by saying:

"All of our testing to date has not shown cracked manifolds contributing to the carbon monoxide levels in police interceptor utilities. We continue to investigate."

Nicholson, meantime, says across auto brands, cracks in the manifold are more common. "We seem to replace a whole lot more of these guys now than we did ten years ago."

A city spokesman told me that there are still 6 city owned Ford Explorers on the streets -- they are EMS vehicles and hard to replace. But he said, they are working on that.

Ford has not yet made a final decision on a recall.

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