The Ford Police Interceptor Utility (PIU) has been a tried and true police fleet staple since it started to replace the Crown Victoria in 2012. Based off of the commercial Ford Explorer platform, the Interceptor Utility was nearly identical with a few subtle differences.
In recent years we have started to see the first generation PIU fleet vehicles start to hit public auctions like Publicsurplus.com as they reach their retirement age/millage limits and are being replaced with the 2nd generation PIU's (2020+). Where a 2013 Ford Explorer might cost a buyer somewhere in the $10,000-$16,000 range, a PIU of similar age and millage can often be picked up for $4,000-$8,000.
If you are fortunate enough to secure yourself a retired PIU you will most likely find yourself wanting to make things a little more comfortable by swapping in Explorer components. I call this "de-policifying" and I have a whole YouTube channel dedicated to it which can be found here.
One of the most common questions I get asked is where do you recommend finding the Explorer center consoles, seats and other interior components. I personally "de-policified" three PIU's, one Tahoe, one Crown Victoria, and Two F-150's, so I have figured out how to get creative with sourcing parts. Here are the three best ways I have found.
Facebook Marketplace and Local Classifieds
Searching local classifieds is a goldmine for parts. The beauty of Facebook Marketplace is that it is the same everywhere in North America. If you strike out in your immediate area you can search elsewhere in the state, or even jump states and search in a neighboring state. Craigslist is the same, but it is starting to phase out since Facebook has a much more user-friendly interface and most people are already using it's planform anyway. Some states will have specific classifieds that the locals are familiar with. In Utah there is a website called KSL.com which has maybe the best classifieds website I have used as far as user base. In Alaska many people use Alaskalist,com but it seems to not be quite as good as Facebook Marketplace. The point is that there are many classifieds websites where people may post.
When you get to a website, you need to know what to search for. The ideal candidate would be someone who owns a totaled our, or mechanically defective Explorer and is parting it out rather than selling the entire vehicle. When these get listed up you want to get to them fast before someone swoops in and offers to buy the entire vehicle.
Searches such as "Explorer Parts" is where you will probably find the most luck. Also keep in mind that since it is not a running vehicle they will most likely not list them in the vehicles category.
When you find a good candidate be sure to message or call the owner first to make sure what you are looking for is still there. A lot of times when a part sells the owner is not going to make that update on the listing. I highly recommend trying to pull the parts yourself for two reasons. First because you will get a first hand experience on how to install it in your PIU, and second to make sure you get all the parts you will need including hardware, mounting brackets. and wiring harnesses. I usually try to make on offer contingent on the fact that I will pull the parts so they don't have to take the time.
If you strike out on finding anything on classifieds, your next best option is local businesses. As years go on you will start to see more and more 2011-2019 Explorers appear in Pick-N-Pull type yards, but as of 2023 they are not common, and unless you get there right after they place it in the yard a lot of parts will quickly disappear or get ruined. A more reliable option is to figure out what late-model salvage yards are local in your area. Most of these yards do not allow you to enter their yard. Instead you have to deal with a sales person. This is not always a bad thing since there is a higher chance small parts won't be missing or broken, but you have to be extra diligent to ensure they know to get ALL of the parts you need. If they think you are a serious buyer and willing to drop $500+ there is a good chance they will escort you to the vehicle so you can inspect the parts before they pull them for you. This is a good chance to take pictures of everything you want. Or just ask if you can be there while they pull them. You may get lucky.
Many of these yards are harder to locate because they don't advertise to foot traffic. They like to deal directly with shops and dealerships instead of with finicky individuals who want to make sure that they don't forget to grab the cup holder liners. I used to work at one of these yards. Your best bet is being very friendly, and don't give off the impression you are going to be a needy pain. The more money you plan on spending the better chance they will work with you.
Search online for "salvage yards near me" and just start making calls. One great way to find them is to check if a Team PRP yard is in your area. Team PRP is a network of partnered independent salvage yards who share their inventory information with each other to act as sister companies. If a PRP yard near you does not have the part you are looking for, they can check if one of the 100+ yards in their system has one they can ship in for you. Keep in mind that just because a part is not in their inventory does not mean it is not in the yard. Many yards stick to inventorying larger ticket items like body parts, wheels, engines, etc... and may not have consoles or carpets listed, even if they have them. They will usually still sell them but it requires asking them to go check if it's there. As said before, try to go with them to see for yourself.
Another yard to search for is LKQ. They are a large company with many yards. They are notorious for being rough with pulling their parts so expect broken tabs and cut wiring harnesses. Also keep in mind that their descriptions may be misleading. a listing for "console" may mean the center console, or the roof console where the map light is.
The reason I rank eBay last is because you will not get to see the item in person before you buy it (unless you get lucky and have someone local selling it). You can request additional pictures but this can be a frustrating process for both the buyer and the seller. You will most likely be paying for shipping expenses, and things could break in transit. You will need to be extra careful that they include all the parts needed for the install. In some cases they may have already removed the console and crushed the rest of the car without pulling all of the mounting brackets and/or trim pieces, so examine the listed pictures carefully and don't assume anything. When you search for your console be sure to select the "used" filter so you hide all the new products.
If you have a first generation PIU then you should be searching for Explorers from 2011-2019. Keep in mind that there was a mid-generation update half way through which made some minor changes, but enough that could mess up your project. The two ranges are (2011-2015) and (2016-2019). The center consoles will bolt in the same, but some parts on the console are different. So when possible try to get an entire console from any of those years rather and mixing and matching console components. In my YouTube videos you will see a 2013 PIU with a 2018 center console. The seats should be the same however you may need to get creative with the wiring if you cross the year ranges.
Keep in mind that all Explorers came with a console-mounted transmission shifter and all PIU's (with the exception of some supervisor cars) are column-mounted. When you buy a console it will probably come with the shifter. You will want to remove this as it will not function, and it looks goofy. You can usually sell the old shifter on eBay. Behind the transmission shifter is a round dial for drive-mode control. In non-equipped Explorers that hole has a little round pocket. On the backside of the console is the rear climate controls for the back seats. Most PIU's do not come equipped with the rear climate system so these controls do nothing. Personally I like to remove the shifter, the round knob, and the rear temperature controls and replace them with more useful parts. You can get creative with what you install, but I do offer some great options for storage pockets, and USB charging. I can also make custom panels for switches, or anything you need. Just reach out to me on the "Contact" page of this website.
When you remove the shifter you will notice that there are still transmission gear indicating letters on the trim panel. These are integrated in the panel and can not be removed. I recommend using a high-quality interior vinyl wrap to cover them up. I found a near-perfect color match for the common silver color found on many explorers. Regardless which color you go with, I recommend using one which uses 3M brand material. It is much easier to work with and lasts much longer.
Some Concluding Tips
Before you set out to pull a console from a donor Explorer here are a few things you should do
- Watch install/removal videos of Explorer consoles/seats/other parts on YouTube so you know what tools to take with you.
- take pictures/videos of bolt locations and small trim panels before you start removing them so you have something to reference later.
- Bring zip lock bags and a sharpie to label where various bolts came from.
- Bring a portable battery jumper pack with you. You can use it to move powered seats as needed to get to bolts if the car battery is dead or missing.
- Take some detailed pictures of your PIU first (unless you are taking it with you) so that if you spot any additional parts you may want, you can check to see if you need them or not.
- Bring a telescoping magnet as you may drop some bolts or sockets where you can't reach them
- Bring an electric impact driver for seat bolts. They are usually rusty or have locktite applied.
- Consider that Explorers which have been hit on the side may not open the doors on that side which may make pulling some parts very difficult.
Hopefully this has been of help to you. Good luck with your project!