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A problem identified five years ago in some Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles is causing increasing complaints among consumers. According to federal regulators, exhaust fumes appear to be leaking into the interior of some of the vehicles.

Back in 2012 and 2014, Ford issued technical service bulletins that told dealers how to fix the problem. The steps included applying undercoating and sealant as well as a software upgrade. Recalls were not issued.

However, in July of last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation on 2011 through 2015 Ford Explorers. NHTSA took this action after over 150 customers complained of "smelling exhaust odors in the occupant compartment." Some "expressed concerns about exposure to carbon monoxide," according to the agency. NHTSA said that some consumers who had the recommended fixes done "reported little or no improvement after."

The problem seems to be occurring in later models as well. Over 450 people with models as new as 2017 have reported the problem. The smell has been described as resembling "sulfur or rotten egg."

Ford recently settled a class-action suit involving the fumes. The company asserts that the exhaust seeping into vehicles "poses no safety risk." However, it says it will cooperate with the investigation and urges customers to take their vehicles to a dealer for repair.

By reporting problems with vehicles and taking action via class-action lawsuits, consumers can help spur action by federal regulators and automakers. There is power in numbers. Besides reporting defects in this way, if someone has been harmed or injured by a vehicle defect, it's wise to seek legal guidance.

Source: USA Today, "Feds probe exhaust fumes filling Ford Explorer," Nathan Bomey, Feb. 13, 2017

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