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Ford Explorer Maintenance and Repair



  • firstfordfirstford Posts: 1
    I bought a 2000 Explorer XLT in Jan. 2000. Three weeks after we bought it my wife told me it had a strange squeal in the front end that went away after a few miles. I asked her if the squeal went away after braking she said no. A few days later it did it while I was with her. Took it to the dealer 3 times for he same problem. The said it was the "excluder seals" and that Ford was working on a fix because their current fix did not work. I found that out after my third trip. So they lubricated the seal each time with Lithium grease and sent me on my way. Normally this problem occurs during cool weather, which happens quite a bit in Illinois,but mine started again this summer also. I had read a posting on Edmunds and someone had said where to lubricate the seals. So instead of lithium grease I used a marine lubricant since it could handle water and was a bit more tacky than Lithium I have since put 2000 miles on it with no more squeals. We will wait to see how it handle the Illinois winter.

    Also one of my 100,000 mile Platinum plugs went cold after 17,000 miles. It made the engine hesitate when it was cold. I swear who ever the engineer was that made it to where you had to get under the vehicle to replace a spark plug ought to be the poor fella that has to replace it.

    This was my first Ford product and it has been in the shop more than all of my other GM products combined. This will probably be my last.
  • seacrowseacrow Posts: 22
    I own a 98 Explorer XLT SOHC V-6 2WD Loaded including leather and moonroof. It is pretty obvious to me that the overwhelming problem is not the vehicle, it is the service departments that most of you have. There are some flaws in design of this vehicle. I have done a lot of research on these problems and a lot of this info comes form my service writer, the best I have dealt with.

    91-current Explorers use a 4.0 OHV (overhead valve) V-6. It was the sole V-6 engine until 97 when the SOHC (single overhead cam) version arrived. They are the same engine only the SOHC uses different heads. They are based on the old 2.9 V-6 used in the Ford Ranger from 86-92. They are built in Cologne, Germany and are a very good design. Both engines are still offered, the OHV is on low-line XLS, XL models from 97-current. XLT and above gets the SOHC or the 5.0 V-8 (96-current).
    Problems with the OHV are most commonly dieseling sounds. Most of the time this is due to "piston slap". The pistons slap on the insides of the piston skirts. It can be caused by a simple manufacturing defect in a wrist pin/connecting rod of very little tolerance. Piston slap is very rare and engine failure due to it is extremely rare. It normally will not damage the engine any more than everyday use. It is more annoying than anything. Overall this is an extrememly reliable engine and is good for more than 200K of service or more without incident. Early models also had EGR problems if equipped with an EGR valve.

    Problems with the SOHC are stalling, vibrations while turning and knocking sounds on startup or hard acceleration. Stalling can be due to a bad program in the ECC (engine control computer) or a warped intake manifold/bad intake gasket. It can also be caused by fuel with high alcohol content or a loose gas cap. The ECC can be reflashed with an updated program, the intake is usually solved with a new gasket and sometimes a new intake manifold. The manifold leak causes a vacuum leak in the cylinders causing it to stall. Try different brands of gas and always tighten the gas cap. Especially the twist and click type. Vibrations while turning are caused by the power steering hose/exhaust vibrating under steering pump load on the engine. There is an update for the hoses and an exhaust bracket that makes those noises completely disappear and makes the steering smooth as silk. The knocking noise is the timing chain tensioners, specifically the tensioners. The original design had the tensioners mounted to the engine block with nylon anchors. They would break and cause the timing chain to rattle against the timing covers. After several redesigns, they have finally made them steel and should solve the problem without further incident. This noise usually starts around 20K and worsens. It normally will not cause any engine damage but is not good for the engine either. I've had all three of these problems with my 98 and all three are fixed for good. It is smooth as silk.

    Other problems are phantom wipers, premature transmission failure, premature rotor warpage, rear wiper failure and rear suspension noises.

    Phanotm wipers is caused by a defective multi-function switch. Some corrode and some were bad from the supplier. It makes the wipers activate themselves when turning the signals on or making turns. It has been updated and should not cause any more problems once replaced. 97 and newer Explorers have speed dependent intermittent wipers. The faster you drive the faster the intermittent wipers wipe (the shorter the intervals). This is a conveniece and can be turned off (see owners manual) don't confuse it with phantom wipers.

    Premature transmission failure is most often a result of lack of maintenance. The tranny should be serviced every 15-30K miles depending on towing, driving habits, etc. I think the owners manual is far to lax on freqency of this service. I think it says 50K. I do mine every 15K, I tow a lot and do a lot of city driving.

    REar wiper failure is a lot of times due to the rear wiper getting stuck in it's holder on the hatch. Try turning it on and freeing it by hand (be careful). I've done this a couple of times and it has never failed since. The holder is a little tight and needs to be loosened up. It helps to use it more often too.

    Rotor warpage is present on almost all newer vehicles and is mostly due to driving habits. The brakes get hot and something as simple as driving through a mud puddle or a car wash quick cools the rotors and they will warp. The tires and suspension on Explorers help amplify the problem. Just living with it seems to be the best. Mine are slightly warped on both my F-150 and my Explorer and it comes and goes with weather and brake usage. Don't ride the brakes, brake hard, and do your best not to get hot brakes too wet. Also, air wrenches can warp rotors too. Always request hand torquing of lug nuts whe you have service performed.

    There is an update on the rear suspension bushings that will solve the bed spring sound some of you have.

    that's about all I know about the Explorer. when I get time I will dig out my invoices and post part numbers and any others TSB numbers I have. I do not work for a dealer but I am lucky enough to have a good service department. Ford has designed many updates to parts and worked to correct some of these problems. I think that many of you aren't hearing of them for some reason. My Explorer has had almost every problem I mentioned except for the tranny problem. All of this was fixed in one trip and four days sooner than projected. Ford sells almost half a million of these a year. Most folks I know haven't had any problems with Explorers but for as many as they build there are bound to be some problems (many times supplier problems not Ford). Sometimes it's common sense problems (rotor warpage) that folks aren't aware of. I love mine. I drive the hell out of it and the great service department has made the problems seam minor. I hope this info helps. Take it to the dealer with you. I will post part/TSB numbers ASAP. Good luck.
  • mrmnm30mrmnm30 Posts: 1
    I am picking up my 2000 Explorer XLT with the Sports Package, leather and sunroof on August 14th. It is currently being built. After reading all this, I am quite nervous. I decided to get the Explorer because I kept hearing great things about it. Now I'm not so sure. Anyway, lets see what happens. Seacrow, if you could... can you give me the name and address of the dealership where you get you vehicle serviced? I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it's anywhere near my house. I live in NYC. If you could provide name, address and number of the dealership that services your Explorer, I would greatly appreciate it. Feel free to e-mail the information.
  • jnitsjnits Posts: 2
    Thanks to the postings on this website and information from a local Ford dealer mechanic, I was able to correct that noisy camshaft chain problem common to these engines. I recently purchased a lease-return 1997 Explorer XLT with 48K miles on the SOHC engine and no warranty because this was a private sale. I didn't notice any engine noise when I test drove this vehicle because it only made noise after starting when the engine was hot. After reading every posting describing this problem, I called the service departments from 3 local Ford dealers and was given estimates for the repair ranging from $500 to $1800. One of these service writers put a mechanic on the phone who knew the history of this problem. This is what he told me:
    The problem is the left camshaft hydraulic chain tensioner located behind the thermostat housing and threaded into the left cylinder head. When a hot engine is started, the oil pressure is low enough to prevent the tensioner from working properly causing the chain to rattle until the oil pressure increases gradually silencing the noise. Ford has produced 3 different tensioners for this chain with the second and third designs supplied to their dealers to correct this problem (usually on warranty vehicles). The third design corrected the problem on my engine. The first design tensioner can be identified by the gold color of the 1 1/8" head (looks like a bolt head). The second design looks the same except it is black. The third design is black and has a 2" extension protruding from the top of the bolt head.
  • jnitsjnits Posts: 2
    The part number for the 1997-2000 SOHC EXPLORER/MOUNTAINEER ENGINE TENSIONER KIT supplied by Ford (third design)is XU2E-6K254-AA. It sells for $24.43. It includes an oil volume reduction plug which is just a 6" plastic rod installed into the oil galley passage located below the hydraulic tensioner. A Torx head pipe plug must be removed to install this rod. I was able to install this kit in about 3 hours. It's tough to get to these parts but it can be done without any special tools.
  • seacrowseacrow Posts: 22
    The dealer I use is Sarasota Ford in Sarasota Fl. It is the highest volume dealer on Floridas west coast. My service adivsor is Paul. Ten years ago this dealer was the pits for sales and service. Now it is great in both areas. Don't worry so much about the problems. I know several people with 99-00 Explorers that have had no problems. I seem to have all of the problems. AS long as my dealer can fix them right I could care less. I intend on seeing 150K plus out of my Explorer. Aside from the problems I mentioned, it is built well with high quality materials, great fit and finish and not one of the problems made me worry about getting stranded, etc. The dealer acted like they were no big deal, they have fixed a lot of them which made me feel better than if they said "unable to duplicate" which is what I used to get from them. Good luck and enjoy.

    hicaira, I understand how you feel. If I did not have such a great dealer, which seems to be the norm on these boards, this Explorer would be long gone.

    I worked at a Toyota dealer in 93-94. I saw many a Camry with engine problems right off the truck. Avalons had windshields falling out and a host of other problems. They were always fixed and no one cared. If a Ford had a problem, people say "I will never own another Ford" Many of Fords problems are no worse than Toyotas in most cases. It is the biggest brainwash I have ever seen. People will actually spend 10K more for a Toyota and if it has problems you'll never hear about them. My fathers 92 4x4 pickup V-6 auto. is the biggest POS that any of my family memebers have ever owned. He drives his company Explorer to avoid driving the truck. He is on his fourth pass side front hub, third AC compressor, brakes every 8K, there is a rattle in the A pillar that no one can find (very strange problem). He has babied the truck it only has 70K miles and still smells new. AS a 80's Toyota fan, I am truly shocked that ever Toyotas quality has fallen in the last 15years the way it has. I had a 84 Celica GT once that was absolutely one of the best looking, designed and most reliable cars in history. Toyota builds nothing close to that now. It's a real bummer. They ALL have problems now.
  • 456ttt456ttt Posts: 13
    Engine is very rough. Engine check light is on. Dealer says it needs intake gaskets ($325.00). Said it was a known problem but that Ford was not paying for the fix if car is out of warranty. Anyone have this problem and what did they do about it ?
  • njdevilsrnnjdevilsrn Posts: 185
    Well, not even a month after I continued my Ford bashing on this site, I have succumbed to Ford again, but I'm optimistic about this one.

    After a couple of shouting matches in the service and sales department of my Ford dealer, I got them to help me out of my 1999 Explorer. Name a problem Explorer is notorious for, this truck had it, and then some. In 15 months of ownership, this truck was out of service for 17 days. It had the windshield replaced (factory defect), horn replaced (broke), 3 trips for pinion seals, ball joints and support arms replaced, rotors replaced, a broken rear suspension link assembly, the timing belt tensioner problem, and a mysterious steering problem which would cause the truck to loose its path in turns after the front end made a loud clunk.

    Last week I purchased a 2000 Explorer XLS Toreador Red with the Sport Package. Bottom line, if anyone out there in the New Jersey area sees a 1999 Platinum (dark gray) Explorer XLT with appx 14000 miles on it on a used lot or auction. DO NOT BUY IT!!! It is a death trap.

    Hoping to have better luck with this one, njdevilsrn.
  • I have a '95 Explorer XLT with 63K miles. Most days it works fine. Every couple of weeks we get in, turn the key and the engine will turn over but not start. It doesn't even sputter which makes me believe it's electrical versus fuel-related. In reviewing posts on this BB I noticed SKY767 mentioned the same problem in post #559, but I didn't see any responses. Have others experienced similar problems and have they been fixed?

    There are other electrical problems as well--driver-side passenger window won't operate; 4WD is activated without the button being pushed; and, new for today, the dome light stays on in spite of all doors being tightly shut and swtich on dash being turned off.

    Meanwhile, in what my review of this BB indicates is SOP, the dealer is passing the buck. First they said the gap on the sparkplugs was incorrect (it wasn't). Then they said it was the aftermarket alarm on the we disconnected it and the troubles have continued. I agree with many of the other sentiments posted here--dealers want to do nothing more than sell cars, they could give a damn about fixing them under warranty (we bought an extended warr.). It makes it all the more clear while I prefer imports. The Explorer is my wife's, but not for long if this trouble continues. My car is a trouble-free volvo 850 wagon, a manufacturer which unfortuatnely, since I bought the car, has been purchased by Ford! Thankfully they aren't serviced at the same dealerships!

    Any suggestions you have, please let me know. Post them here and/or email me at


    P.S. We just bought new tires, Michelin LTX's ($415 at Costco). The Explorer, when it actually starts, drives twice as well as it did with the OEM Firestones--more quiet, smoother ride and better handling. It was every bit worth the extra $50 versus getting Firestones. Now, I just hope we can get the electrical issues resolved or we'll be trading it and the new tires in on an import.
  • mazman1mazman1 Posts: 229
    I think your no start condition may be your fuel pump (or vapor lock). Have you taken the tank down below 1/8 of a tank... that puts a lot of strain on the fuel pump, and an over heated pump may fail... also, there is a problem with Explorers that have less than a 1/4 tank and are parked on a hill nose down.. the tank is rectangular, and the gas moves away from the pump!

    Also, it that is not the problem, maybe you can try to burp the gas cap, and try to start the car again.

    Good luck.
  • Thanks for your input (post #98). I confirmed with my wife, the last time the Explorer (turned over but) wouldn't start there was 3/4 of a tank of gas. We also tried burping the gas cap which used to do a great job of relieving the vapor lock on my sister's '68 Mustang, but did nothing for the Explorer!

    Any other suggestions? I am not ready to trade it in, but don't like the thought of my wife being "stranded" again. We actually looked at a (I hate to say it) minivan (Toyota Sienna) tonight. But I continue to pin my hopes to the collective knowledge of Edmunds readers and posters!

  • I'm contemplating the purchase of a 2001 Explorer. I've read the above comments but wonder if the Explorers are getting better as time goes on. It seems like Ford really doesn't think their designs through. It's only after drivers suffer with poor performance that Ford fixes problems. To me, this is a stupid engineering cycle.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that for a little more money, I can get a Ford Explorer XLT. Should I save the extra money and steer clear of the Explorer or is it worth the risk? I've never owned an American car and am hesitant because of their poor reputation.

    Thanks for any help.

  • Should you buy the Explorer? Well it is the best selling SUV out there. Don't let the comments on this page fool you. The majority of the people have spoken, just not on this forum. By the way the 2002 Explorer is going to be very different from the 2001.
  • seacrowseacrow Posts: 22

    it sounds as if the fuel pump may be going. It will happen without regular filter changes on MPI engines. There is also a chance that one of the ignition components is overheating, coil pack, etc. does it do it hot or cold or anytime it feels like it?

    For the dome light, I believe there is a TSB on the door jamb switches. It was a supplier problem on some F-150, Rangers and Explorers with the door jamb switches inside the door.

    The window is probably a defective switch or motor, it happens (even with Siennas and Volvos)

    dokealoke, Ford sells more Explorers than Toyota sells Camrys. The car in which most folks refer to as the benchmark for reliability. I used to work at a Toyota dealer, I can honestly say buy what you want. These days you are taking the same chances with all makes, you just hear about more American car problems because there are more American cars. Good Luck.
  • jaqustojaqusto Posts: 1
    I saw this article in the USATODAY.

    It states that their MAY be a problem with the firestone tires that Ford is putting on their SUVs (including the explorer).

    It appears that the tread comes off some of the tires during operation. The article states that there is data to support that this has even happened with the tires when the vehicle was traveling less than 20 MPH (though 55-75 MPH is more typical)and less than 2000 miles of use.

    I am concerned as I have just purchased my second Ford Explorer (loved the first one, and so far so good with the 2nd) and they have the Firestone tires.

    Has anyone had this terrible experience with the tread coming off, and if so, did you contact Ford/Firestone?

    What did they say?

    Any info would be appreciated.


  • njdevilsrnnjdevilsrn Posts: 185
    I was wondering if anyone out there has any opinions about the Ford ESPs. I know they push them when you buy the car, but I was wondering if anyone out there has any experience or opinion over whether they are worth it or not. I've heard some people tell me that by purchasing one, you are betting against yourself. From others, the things are real wallet-protectors. I have a truck I now hope to keep for at least 10 years. Ford has a bunch of plans, the Extra Care ($1400 for total 6 year warranty, 75,000 miles) or Premium Care ($1800 for same period) look interesting. Responses would be appreciated.
  • lmc5lmc5 Posts: 16
    I have a 1997 Explorer XLT and it has been the biggest piece of junk I have ever owned. I purchased the 100,000 mile extended warranty and it was the smartest thing I ever did. The deductible is $100.00 and I have used it twice. The vehicle has been in the shop at least 20 times but Ford has paid for the repairs because it was usually caused by them not fixing something right the first time. Between the awful quality of this vehicle and the sorry service departments (I have been to three dealers and they all have been bad)
    I can honestly say I will never buy another Ford.
    By the way, I currently have mine for sale.
    Good Luck, and purchase the extended warranty.
  • sanandtonsanandton Posts: 342
    Buy the warranty if you are absolutely sure you will keep the explorer longer than three years. I can ensure you that you will have at least one major problem with an explorer. luckily all three of my explorers developed them before the 36k mile mark. The main reason I don't still have one is that I kept wondering what is next and I didn't buy the warranty up front. I checked into it after the fact and it was a lot more expensive.
  • mazman1mazman1 Posts: 229
    I think you can get the extended warranty for a lot less money. Check into it and ask the dealer guy to come down a bit. I have received several letters from Ford asking me to buy the ESP warranty and offered it at lower cost than the dealer did (i guess the difference is the dealer's commission). Also, if you dont buy ESP from the dealer up front, you have up to one year after purchase to buy it from Ford directly.

    I'd say that the warranty at a $1300-1500 price is probably a good bet, since the odds are pretty good that you will have a major service done after 36,000 miles.
  • sarge45sarge45 Posts: 1
    I am considering purchasing this car, I have calculated the price to be $35,511 starting with Edmunds TMV of $30,175 and adding in destination and the invoice price of the options on the car. The dealer says I need to add in $483 for Lexus Dealer Advertising and lets not even talk about the 2% dealer holdback which is his "cost of doing business" I have offered $36,00 cash and no trade, given that we are coming up on the end of the model year, I think it's a fair price. The dealer is saying $37,200. I'll still need to pay title and taxes. Any thoughts??
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