Q: For more than a year, there have been stories about carbon monoxide seeping into Ford’s Explorer SUV, especially in vehicles used by police. Why don’t car makers put them in their vehicles? I know the detectors should not be placed in extreme heat and cars do get very hot in the summer, but still ... I enclose a story from March 1965 which tells of an East St. Louis man and his infant daughter being found dead at the old Cahokia Drive-In after he had kept his engine running to stay warm during the movie. A month earlier, two teens died at the Holiday Drive-In in St. Louis.
Richard Indermark, of Collinsville
A: Sometimes (fortunately for my job security not often) questioners answer their own queries with flying colors.
In an article at wheels.ca, the writer suspected that carbon monoxide was seeping inside a vehicle, so he used a common household detector to check. Sure enough, the alarm went off, perhaps saving the owner from tragedy.
Of course, this led the writer to ask the same question you did: Why aren’t such detectors required — or, at least, optional — equipment on all vehicles. With the help of Bev Gilbert of the Ontario fire marshal’s office, he arrived at the same answer you suggested: The devices can’t handle the extreme temperatures that the interiors of most cars experience.
Moreover, if you’re sitting with open windows behind some rattletrap with a faulty exhaust system in a traffic jam, you could experience a false alarm. High humidity might cause the same problem. And if you don’t trade cars frequently, you would have to remember to replace the alarm with a new one occasionally because the detection components degrade. First Alert, for example, recommends a replacement in your home every five years — about the time you might really start worrying about your car developing an exhaust problem.
Otherwise, an outdated alarm could give you a sense of false security when, in fact, you were experiencing a problem that might result in your death. And, again considering the extreme conditions, replacements might have to be done more frequently in a car.
Instead, if you suspect you have a problem, you, like the writer, might check by using your home detector for a quick test or, better yet, have it checked by a mechanic, who probably can find and repair the cause of a seepage. At no time, however, should you place the detector in the vehicle’s direct exhaust stream because that could damage the unit.
For Ford Explorer owners who might be unaware, the company announced a week ago that it is offering a limited-time free repair on 1.4 million Explorers. Those owning 2011 through 2017 models must take it to their Ford dealer for the service between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. Dealers will reprogram the air conditioner, replace the liftgate drain valves, and inspect the sealing at the rear of the vehicles, Ford said.
However, despite the urging of safety groups, this is not an official recall, so the company likely will not notify you. Even as it announced the repair on Oct. 13, the company maintained that there was no defect but was offering the service for customers’ peace of mind. The reference code for the service is 17N03. For more information, call the hotline at 888-260-5575.