MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A CBS News investigation has learned American automaker, Ford, may be closer to a major recall that could affect police departments across the country.
The development comes amid exhaust complaints with the company's best-selling Explorer that's making officers sick.
Mechanics in Montgomery County, Maryland are finding cracked manifolds in their Ford Explorers so often.
"We believe this is a manufacturer's defect," said Dir. of Montgomery County's Dept. of General Services David Dise.
Dise, who oversees fleet maintenance for the county, believes the problem could be affecting up to 80-percent of the fleet - most are police cruisers
The exhaust manifold collects gases from an engine's cylinders. A crack could release carbon monoxide into the engine bay and through the vents of a vehicle's cabin.
"If you're running your air conditioning or your vent system that's the air that's coming through the engine compartment," said Dise. "So you're sucking carbon monoxide into the cabin if you have that kind of a leak."
While Ford engineers are not convinced the cracked manifolds are causing the exhaust complaints, the cracks are common enough to prompt Ford to actively consider a potentially costly recall.
There are an estimated 135-thousand Explorer police cruisers on the road today.
Police departments in more than a dozen states, including Florida, have raised concerns about possible carbon monoxide leaks.
Ford has declined multiple requests for an interview, but did release a video statement saying:
"There's nothing that we take more seriously than providing you with the safest most reliable vehicles to support your life saving work," said Ford Product Development and Purchasing Executive Vice President Hau Thai-Tang.
In February 2015 a police officer driving passed out in California. He believes it was carbon monoxide and is now suing Ford.
Following more than 2,700 complaints, federal regulators last week expanded their investigation to cover model years 2011 to 2017, saying "preliminary testing suggests CO levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios."
"They live in these cruisers for, you know, 8 hours at a time, maybe longer," said Auburn Fire Department Captain Shawn Steele.
In Auburn, Massachusetts, a third of the town's cruisers are out of service after 6 officers were treated for carbon monoxide exposure.
One passed out behind the wheel and rear ended another vehicle.
The Local Chiefs of Police Association told CBS News at least 15 police agencies in that state alone have "sidelined" Ford explorers and are "awaiting a solution from Ford" adding "the concern among Massachusetts police chiefs is exceptionally high."
CBS News has learned police departments across the country are rushing to inspect their Explorers and add carbon monoxide detectors.
Ford said it is working with police departments to address problems. No final decision has been made on a recall.
for more features.