Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Your Patrol Car?

June 13, 2017

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Your Patrol Car?

by Ian D Scofield

If there is one place that is supposed to be sacred it is your patrol car.  During your shift, it is your office (on wheels).  Recently though, officers have been running into a problem.  The least of the problem is the smell of rotten eggs inside the cruiser.  This is a smell that isn’t pleasant but more than that, it is dangerous.

That smell of rotten eggs is carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas emitted by the engine of a car.  These gasses will kill you. 

The carbon dioxide is coming from a leak or multiple leaks throughout the car.  Ford has stated that these leaks have been fixed and/or patched.  They also released programming to these cars that is aimed to help mitigate these issues.

The affected models are 2011 through 2014 Ford Explorers.  Some of these patrol SUVs are starting to be phased out in departments but other agencies can’t afford to replace whole fleets.  Ford, police departments, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have received complaints about 2016 and 2017 models but there has been no concrete evidence of the problem stemming to these vehicles.

For released recommended fixes and bulletins to their dealerships but problems have continued after these.  Bulletins were issued both in 2011 and 2015.  No recalls have been issued for leaks in the exhaust systems of the affected Ford Explorers.

To help keep officers safe, many departments are installing carbon monoxide detectors in their patrol vehicles.  Should the engine start to leak, they will be alerted by the detectors.

Despite all of this, many officers are reporting that they are still experiencing issues with their cars.  A February incident and another in March are two extreme cases of this carbon monoxide leak. 

In the February incident, an officer crashed his Ford Explorer into a tree after passing out from the carbon monoxide.  The officer suffered a dislocated shoulder, traumatic brain injury, a fractured eye socket, and memory loss.  After all of the injuries suffered in the accident, he can’t even remember how he got them.  That may or may not be a good thing.

An officer in March started getting extremely sick.  After it was determined that he was suffering from carbon monoxide treatment, the officer was being treated with a hyperbaric chamber. 

Other officers have reported feeling sick with symptoms similar to carbon monoxide poisoning.  If you drive an affected model of Ford Explorer, make sure that you keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Physical Weakness
  • Mental Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble Breathing/Shortness of Breath
  • Trouble Thinking
  • Blurred Vision or Loss of Vision

If exposure to the carbon monoxide isn’t stopped it can result in unconsciousness and then in death.

Carbon monoxide doesn’t always smell.  Officers who are smelling it are actually smelling the result of the combustion in the exhaust.  If you experience the above symptoms but don’t smell anything, there is still a chance that you might be exposed to carbon monoxide.

There is good news in relations to the leaks involving Ford Explorers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the incidents and the continuing issues even after Ford received complaints.

Keep your nose open in Ford Explorer patrol vehicles to help keep yourself and other officers safe.  If you suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning in your patrol vehicle, it isn’t just you at risk.  Others are at risk when your car loses control.  Be safe and stay safe.

About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at

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