By Paul Feldman/FairWarning

Amid complaints by consumers about fumes and carbon monoxide seeping into the cabins of Ford Explorers, the nation’s No. 2 automaker next week will launch a free servicing program.

Ford continues to insist that the vehicles are safe, despite complaints from more than 2,000 motorists who say they have been inhaling exhaust in their Explorers. The car giant says its dealers will provide the free fixes on 2011 through 2017 models starting Wednesday to reduce “the potential” for problems and to satisfy “customers’ peace of mind.”

Federal officials, however, told FairWarning in a written statement that their investigation into the Explorers “is active and ongoing” and that the company’s new program “does not bring closure to this issue.”

Some safety advocates say Ford should conduct a full recall of the more than 1.3-million vehicles at issue – and, if it doesn’t, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should demand action.

“Instead of a patronizing suggestion that its customers are imagining things, what would actually provide consumers ‘peace of mind’ would be knowing that the interior of their vehicle provides a safe environment for themselves and their family,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, in a written statement.

In its announcement, Ford says motorists have until Dec. 31, 2018 to bring in any of the SUVs. An internal investigation, Ford safety communications manager Elizabeth Weigandt said, did not find “carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day.” But to “reduce the potential for exhaust to enter the vehicle,” she said, dealers will reprogram air conditioners and, in the rear of the vehicles, replace liftgate drain valves and inspect sealing.

Levine said in an interview that the “sorts of things they’re doing certainly suggest they are attempting to fix a problem,” Still, he said, Ford’s failure to initiate a recall means that fewer people will bring in their Explorers, raising the possibility of drivers becoming overcome by the exhaust and someone getting seriously injured or killed.

“This is shortsighted, pennywise and pound foolish,” Levine said, in part because he believes a recall might still be deemed necessary later on.

NHTSA said in July that preliminary testing suggested carbon monoxide levels “may be elevated in certain driving scenarios,” but provided no further details. The regulatory agency also said it was looking into whether exhaust manifold cracks could explain the odor cited by consumers.

The agency suggests that motorists smelling exhaust fumes or having concerns about carbon monoxide exposure contact NHTSA at (888) 327-4236.

This story was produced by FairWarning (, a nonprofit news organization based in Pasadena, California, that focuses on public health, consumer and environmental issues.