HomeCar CultureCommentaryIs that a police or civilian Explorer in your rearview mirror?

Is that a police or civilian Explorer in your rearview mirror?


So you’re hustling back from your Labor Day weekend — or at least you’re trying to hustle back but traffic is slowing you down. You see your chance to pass the pokies, but as you pull out to make your move, you spot a Ford Explorer in your mirror. Is it a civilian vehicle, or perhaps a police special looking for a speeder to ticket?

The folks at Blue Springs Ford Parts, an online retailer of original-equipment Ford, Lincoln and Mercury parts, feel your anxiety and has provided a handy spotter’s guide to the 2018 Ford Police Interceptor version of the Explorer.

Police car, Is that a police or civilian Explorer in your rearview mirror?, ClassicCars.com Journal

“Who hasn’t had a moment when the left lane is wide open and you’re celebrating it with a little more pressure on the pedal and feeling good?” Rob Wagner, parts director at Blue Springs Ford Parts, is quoted in the company’s news release.

“Seeing a white or black Explorer approaching behind you is definitely a buzz kill.

“We wanted to find some quick ways to tell if you’re about to be pulled over. Fortunately, Ford made some updates to the 2018 Explorer that are going to help us all.”

Blue Springs notes that not only are families buying SUVs, but so are police departments, especially since Ford retired the Crown Victoria in 2011. 

“Here,” the company says, “are some highlights from the graphic to help drivers spot the correct vehicle:

  • The 2018 Explorer has upside down L-shaped turn signals on the front end. The current Interceptors have C-shaped turn signals.
  • A roof rack can be identified with a quick glance. While the police vehicles have the option for a roof rack, most don’t have it. The odds are good an Explorer with the rack belongs to a private citizen.
  • The side mirrors reveal a lot of info: 2016+Iinterceptors have a row of lights at the top of the mirrors. The 2018 Explorer has lights along the bottom half of the mirror or no lights at all, depending on the trim level.
  • Most, but not all, new Explorers have a strip of chrome on the front bumper cover. All 2016+ Interceptor Utilities don’t have chrome on the bumper cover.
  • If the SUV is rolling up alongside you, check out the wheels. Interceptors have 18-inch steel wheels and seldom have plastic covers. Civilian Explorers have 18-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels.

“Of course, now you have to throw in the element of used Interceptors that are for sale to the public,” says Wagner. “All of this is just for fun. Ultimately, the best thing to do is follow the laws and keep yourself and everyone else safe.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. To compare the different years is already the issue .. 16 interceptor and a 16 explorer sport has almost the same similarities as they both have black – dark accents / no chrome and the C turn signals / L turn signals , both are actually foglights .. which 16’s have the C like fog lights and the 18’s have the L like foglights .. turn signal is within the headlight unit .. and as for the roof rack civilians are and also have done what’s called “ roof rack delete “ where they remove the racks and give it that undercover look .. and civilians are tinting there front windshield as well so it makes it that much harder to figure if they have the lights within the windshield all together .. wheels vary as civilians get a hold of these wheels off retired police vehicles . Or own retired police vehicles sold locally or audits .


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