Are exhaust leaks poisoning police officers?

Dave Brown
February 27, 2018
By Dave Brown
Possible issues with exhaust leaks into police SUVs have caused concern for police officers and led to investigations by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). No recalls have been issued and investigators have not yet determined a conclusive cause, but the aerodynamics of SUVs in general make these types of vehicles more prone to sucking in fumes from the back. Even the smallest unplugged hole in the rear body or floor area can cause intake of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) gas under certain conditions.

 I recommend dealers inspect and repair any holes in the rear from poorly blocked holes or improperly fitted aftermarket equipment, and check exhaust manifolds for possible cracks.

 Some U.S. agencies have been installing CO detectors but these do not come without compromises. Battery-powered devices designed for home use will tend to give false positives due to vibration or traffic conditions, and temperatures extremes can affect the circuitry. Portable CO detectors, designed to plug into the 12-volt outlets, vary widely in quality and may not warn properly in the harsh environment of a Canadian police vehicle.

Passive CO detector cards have been common in small aircraft for many years. These inexpensive cards can be hung anywhere in the passenger compartment and use a patch that changes colour if CO is detected. They typically last 12-18 months after opening the package.

 However, any detector system will be challenged by the variable climate in Canada and should not be relied upon to replace a proper dealer inspection.


Dave Brown is Blue Line’s firearms and police vehicle contributor. He is a tactical firearms trainer and consultant based in Winnipeg, Man. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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