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Ford Explorer Mercury Mountaineer 2005 and earlier



  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    I had the transmission solenoid problem with my Explorer. First, of all, it's something you notice that comes on gradually. The transmission will shift from reverse to drive slower, until you notice the "clunking". In addition, it hesitates when shifting to second from third. The shift is not "crisp" anymore. Yes, my rear ending is whining also, but not enough to where the dealer wants to fix it. So it has 33,000 miles on it and during the next two days I will be shopping via the internet for a Ford extended warranty. Ford WILL NOT ADMITT to the rear end problem. They do know and will fix the bad soldnoid in the transmission. These problems-Gentleman ARE NOT FIGMENTS OF OUR IMAGINATION!!!
  • 02xls02xls Posts: 40
    B.O.B. I appreciate your defense of the Blue Oval. I know you want to feel good about the 04 you purchased and own. Say what you want about CR ratings and NHTSA and quote all the experts you want. I am certainly no expert, I am speaking from many years of owning Explorers and dealings with Ford and several dealers. Thru all of your research I am confident that you have read on this site and many others about the problem that I originally started this whole discussion about, The rear end/differential problem that the Explorers have and Ford's refusal to do anything about it! As far as your assault on the Pilot, I never said a word about Honda other than that I traded for an 05 Pilot and you brought up all your cited references about their recalls. I don't know if this new Pilot will be any better than the Explorer, I know that Honda is known for their level of quality and reliability. Check your references on that. My insight comes from personal experience and I hope that the info. I am posting here helps current and potentially future Explorer owners with their decisions and/or dealings with Ford and any rear diff. problems they may encounter.

    One more reference for you to check:

    Read Edmunds long-term test drive on the 02 Explorer. You will read at the end where they list problems they encountered. A Clunk in the transmission as well as a whine from the rear end. If these problems are so isolated it sure is odd that the 1 Explorer that Edmunds tested had these problems and so many thousands of others do not. As far as your experts you can't get much better than Edmunds! Good luck with your 04 let us know when she starts whining.
  • How can you be so confident that the majority of Explorers have (or will develop) this problem? And how do you know that Ford isn't working on a fix for it? I'm not denying some owners are experiencing them, but these problems are, in fact, with the minority of Explorers. If a large percentage of Explorers had rear end trouble it would be all over auto news, everywhere. It would not be as highly acclaimed and recommended as it is. How do you explain the government owned Explorers, racking up years and miles, trouble-free?


    That is my counter point. I am not trying to say that every Explorer is perfect, or that every dealership will perform every fix available. But that's unrealistic for any vehicle from any manufacturer. That's why I used the Pilot as an example of a competitng vehicle from another reputable manufacturer that is giving owners headaches. Reading those forums it is evident that many of it's bugs took awhile to be worked out as well. It's a great comparison.


    And yes, the experts at Edmunds noted in the 2002 long-term test of the Explorer that there was a whine in the rear end. And then in 2004, they awarded the Explorer the honor of "Most Wanted Midsize SUV under $35k," or a "vehicle we would most like to park in our own driveways." Which brings me back full-circle to my first post: the problems are minor.


    So I do support the Blue Oval, for all future potential Explorer owners.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    Cars are funny things....Had a brand new 1990 Ranger with 4 cylinder engine. The check engine was on all the time....It was getting 15mpg on hwy. Dealer could not fix it. had a roll over on icy interstate. It was totalled. I said to my self...that was my last Ford.......Bought a used 93 ranger 4.0L/5 speed with 113K miles 4 years ago from a coworker. It gets 23mpg on highway. Never had a problem with it. No oil leaks/engine problems. Now it has 153K miles.


    Also had a 97 Dodge Caravan LE that put 138K miles on it. Never had the dreaded transmission problem. It was a great Chrysler product.


    I think Explorers are the best looking SUV's out there, and I know there are good ones and bad ones. I just hope the 03 V-8 I am looking at is one of the better ones.


    Every manufacturer at some point has quality issues. How they go about 1)acknolwdeging it, and 2) fixing it, makes or breaks these guys.


    With 400K a year Explorer production, it must be finanacial disaster for Ford to admit defective rear axle.


    Toyota had oil sludge problem. First they blamed it on lack of customer understanding of oil changes!! Then when it got ugly, they said ..fine , we will replace the engines free up to 100K miles.


    My 94 Accord had distorted windshield. Honda said it was normal. I went crazy over them telling me it was normal. At last, they changed it.


    How bad is the rear axle whine? Do the V-8's have the same issue? or is it mainly V-6's? Did the 03 have the tranny selenoid problem too?



  • It is just an occasional problem on both V6 or V8 Explorers. The exact symptoms, including frequesncy and noise levels, seem to vary.


    The tranny solenoid problem affects some of the 5r55-series transmissions used in several Ford products including the Lincoln LS V6 and V8. This tranny was used both with the V6 and the V8 in the Explorer as well.


    Mine had a slight whine from the rear of the vehicle, starting at 15mph and fading at 20mph (in 1st or 2nd gear). My dealer said this was no big deal and was related to the delayed/harsh engagement. Sure enough, it went away when the solenoid job was done, for some reason.


    Test drive the vehicle at various speeds in a quiet area with the stereo off and windows cracked. If you don't hear it, it's not there there; and, there is no reason to assume your vehicle will be affected in the future.
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    "Mine had a slight whine from the rear of the vehicle, starting at 15mph and fading at 20mph (in 1st or 2nd gear). My dealer said this was no big deal and was related to the delayed/harsh engagement. Sure enough, it went away when the solenoid job was done, for some reason."


    Mine also went away when the solenoid was replaced. I was very pleased. Then it resurfaced (same EXACT noise) in 3,000 miles......
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    There is a dealer sight on the Internet (Do a search and hopefully you will find it) that is offering an ESP warranty to 75,000 miles and/or 5 years for $850.00. If you sign up by December 31st- it is only $670.00. This is for the "ESP Basic" plan which if I read it correctly also covers the rear-end. I will call them and my local dealer to verify this! I didn't plan on spending this money, but I refuse to let myself be wide-open. There are other plans for different miles/times, but this one works best for me. I don't plan on keeping it longer than 5 years!
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Warranty from who (whom?)?


    Please see the Rules of the Road link above - it's ok to mention the dealer name, and that would make finding it easier.


    (thanks Nvbanker).


    Steve, Host
  • I've heard that Ford is working on a couple of fixes.


    First, the transmission fluid is a synthetic blend and some people are having alot of luck with simply changing the fluid (there is a rumor that the fluid mix being slightly off can affect how the tranny performs and cause soft, high-pitched whines). Notice that customers who have had flushes at around 30 to 50k are reporting extended mileage with no worries. When the solenoid job is done the mechanics have to take the pan off, but only the fluid that was in the pan at the time ends up getting changed. (FYI the solenoid is related to the flow and pressure of the fluid as well). I think this is why the noise seems to be related, and why changing only some of the fluid can have an effect (whether permanent or temporary). Let us know when you reach 30k, if a fluid change has an effect! (I don't think its necessary before 30-50k miles unless your noises/harsh shifting is really bad, where you think it might be wearing on the parts).


    Second, the TSBs for the rear ends are saying something about improper fluid mixture, with a fix coming.


    Wouldn't it be funny if all of this just came down to fluids?


    Does anyone know if you can run full synthetic in these transmissions? My last car was a 626 ES-V6 with a 5-speed, and it started having some trouble shifting at about 60k. The service advisor stated some synthetic fluid would fix it. WOW, what a difference- I went from having to fight with the shifter to moving it with one finger, and it stayed that way for the other 40k I drove the car.
  • 02xls02xls Posts: 40
    I believe what you are referring with the fluid in the rear end may be what is mentioned on the Explorer problems board in post #3200. I think the person there stated that an additive was put in the rear end and it did not make any difference.
  • While recently on a long drive the ABS indicator in my 2002 Explorer XLT 6-cyl came on (I had driven around 300-350 mi.). For the next few days it would come on, but after having it on the road for 10 or 15 minutes. After a few days it would not come back on. This was about a month and a half ago. I did some traveling for Christmas and it came on again (had driven around 300-350 mi. again). Anyone know what this might be (simply a sensor or worse)? Thanks.


  • No, I don't think it's something that some sort of additive would fix.


    I tracked down my sources, which were in recent Ford Technical Service Bulletins:






    This is after the earlier TSBs where they had not yet developed a fix other than to change the rear end out. So hopefully, the vehicles that are affected by this could benefit from a fluid change as long as it is done to the new specs.
  • It could just be a sensor, especially if you don't hear or feel anything indicating that the brakes need attention. Inspect the brake system, or have your dealer plug in to the diagnostics computer to see if there are any trouble codes.
  • 02xls02xls Posts: 40
    Just curious, but when you say new specs are you referring to the TSB in July or is there something more recent than that to fix the problem? Some people posting about repairs to their trucks recently are still saying Ford is replacing the entire rear end as a fix. Post #3214 Problems & Solutions board on an 03 MM said the dealer replaced the entire rear end. No mention of just an additive or fluid change.
  • The July TSB regarding fluid is more recent than the TSB that states "improved gearset available" concerning the rear end. I just assumed that the more recent bulletin would be Ford's more recent fix.


    I'm not really sure if you can just change the fluid in the rear diffs or if that fix would even improve one that had already gotten bad because of the improper fluid (e.g. same rear with new fluid). I guess they might still have to replace one. That would be something to ask the service advisors, it's beyond my technical ability. I'd definately want to ask if the rear they put on had the new fluid or if it had been manufactured before the change (to avoid a new (old stock) rear with the old fluid).
  • I finally got the dealer to fix my rear liftgate glass under this recall. The bad thing is that while waiting for the parts my hinges deteriorated to the point that the glass panel sagged more on the right than on the left and the resulting torque at the lock/hasp in the center caused the plastic panel below the glass to split up the middle. The dealer says that this problem is not covered by their recall... I say why did the plastic split in the first place? It is obvious to me that had the hinges not gone bad, the whole assembly would not have sagged and caused the plastic panel to crack. The repairs are estimated at over $650.00 by Capital Lincoln Mercury (Matteson IL). I would like to hear from any other owners that have experienced similar problems (NOTE The crack appeared on the coldest day of the year 12/24/04 while I was packing the vehicle for a trip to Michigan. It may be unusual and isolated, but it is still related to the defective hinges and I shouldn't have to pay for the repair).
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    "Lombard Ford Rte 44 PO Box 709 Winsted, CT"


    I just purchased mine a few minutes ago. It took about two minutes. Please be prepared with your credit card, VIN, and miles on the vehicle! I'M COVERED!!!!

    Price was as stated above.
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    I had the transmission flushed and solenoid changed at the same time. It did indeed make the sound go away....for about 3,000 miles! Then it was back. What I get between 50mph and 65 mph is a "distinct Hum". IF you go below or above those speeds, it goes away. Of course you notice those speeds are pretty much LEGAL HIGHWAY SPEEDS, at least in California!
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    Just came back from test driving a 02 XLT V-6 with 46K miles. I thought it drove fine with no unusual noise from the rear end. It had the usual truck tire noise, but no rear axle noise.


    The seats in Explorer could use improvement. Ford should benchmark Lexus RX300 seats.


    If we work out the price part, and I end up with the 03 XLT sport V-8, I will come back with tons of questions.


    Thanks for the hints.


  • ANT14ANT14 Posts: 2,687
    Please do the V8....
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    If your talking about the PAINTED REAR PANEL directly underneath the glass hatch, that too is a well known problem. It hapened to me and was fixed under warranty (after three tries) without any questions from the dealer. The problem I had is they jobbed it out to a glass company (I know-body work to a glass company ?-I don't know why!)And the glass company used the wrong adhesive. This problem (If this is the one your talking about) is well known. Others on this board have had it. I JUST LOVE DEALERS!!! (yea....right)
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    This IS A WIDE SPREAD PROBLEM. You have no way of knowing if/when that rear end MAY HAVE been changed. All I know, is that I would NOT PURCHASE without an ESP warranty! If it has been changed, it can reappear within 5,000 or so miles.
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    The last I had heard, that's a module that may go bad, and can reform, go bad again, etc. But likely is dying. I'm hoping you're still under warranty. This usually happens much much later in life in these trucks, like around 100,000 miles, so a dealer should be able to help with a download of error codes.
  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 254
    Another Explorer problem that I'd like to hear more about is the ball joint issue. I have been told by several mechanics that Ford in general, not only on Explorers but all Ford Trucks, have cheap ball joints that go bad in 50k or less. The mechanic I spoke to the other day was replacing a set in an '03 F150 that had 26k miles on it, and the joints were bad enough to cause uneven tire wear. The truck was taken to the dealership where the owner was told the joints couldn't be replaced under warranty because there wasn't enough "play." How bad does it have to get before they'll replace them? I've got 50k on my '99 Explorer and it needs them. I'm not sure if its only Ford trucks in this area, or Ford trucks in general, but a ball joint isn't something that should be made cheap. If one fails on you when you're doing 70 on the interstate, it won't be pretty. How common is this problem? Is it only on the '98-'01 models?
  • Sounds like your tranny should be good to go now but what about the rear? Has that been changed (sorry if you have posted this info already I am new to these forums)- and do you know if they are actually using different fluids now?
  • I test drove a 2002 with 55k miles, and the only problem it had was with suspension bushings (causing it to sqeak over speed bumps). The owner had done nothing to it except for change the oil, and the ball joints were fine. I think it happens especially on some Rangers too.
  • Comments on Ball Joints & Rear Axles to All:

    There have been numerous posts about the Ball Joints and Rear Axles on the Explorer and Mountaineer Boards, I thought I would try to clarify a few things. I realize that most of you are not mechanics as I am, and that you are mostly are the mercy of the car dealers, but some good information may be useful to help you understand what is going on with your vehicle and avoid some of the "run around" the dealers try to give you.


    BALL JOINTS: The ball joint is designed to hold the suspension parts TIGHTLY with NO PLAY, the same as all other parts of the front end suspension system, including the struts and bushings. This is because the wheels are set at precise steering angles, and those angles must be maintained to assure maximum tire life and safety, even with very strong forces applied to them during accelerating and braking. Ball Joints are made of hardened steel, consisting of one part that is the ball with a threaded stem, that fits into a harden steel cup, a strong spring to hold the ball tight in the cup, has grease in it and sealed with a rubber seal. When new, it moves very stiffly and has no play. As the ball and cup receive normal wear, they remain tight to each other and have no play. As they get older and start to wear out, they begin to develop some play. With the vehicle raised up with front tires off the ground, there should be NO PLAY in ANY of the front end parts when the front of the front wheels are grasped and pulled together and then when they are pushed apart. Only the very SLIGHTEST amount of play should be detected at each wheel due to wheel bearing play. To check the Ball Joints, a jack has to be placed under the lower control arm close as possible to the wheel, raise the wheel off the ground, to "unload" pressure from the ball joints, then pry up on the wheel and at the ball joints to detect any play. ANY front end parts found to have ANY play should be replaced with new. The "acceptable amount of play" that is referred to in these post is a SAFETY ISSUE, meaning that the ball joint should be replaced before is actually FALLS APART. I maintain that there is NO ACCEPTABLE PLAY in the front end steering and suspension system for maintaining proper wear on the tires. Apparently FORD will allow your front end suspension system to get "loose" before they will fix it, as a safety issue, but I maintain that the BALL JOINTS and/or FRONT END PARTS are already worn out when they get to the point that they develop play.


    REAR AXLES: Rear axles should normally operate quietly and reliably for the life of the vehicle. Only the very SLIGHTEST sound from a rear axle could be considered normal. Any sound from the rear axle that is noticeable or bothersome while driving is not normal. First thing to check is for the proper lubricant and to be sure it is filled to the proper level. There should be no sideways play at the pinion gear bearing (push/pull side to side where the driveshaft connects to the rear axle). Check Axle bearings on each side for play or noise. Other than that, there is nothing you can do without going inside the differential gears. Parts inside that can go bad or make noise are commonly the Carrier Bearings and the Pinion Bearings. When these bearings wear and become loose, they allow excessive play between the pinion gear and the Ring Gear (which is mounted on the Carrier), which most often creates the Whinning or Howling or Growling Sounds. Other parts may also fail, such as the spider gears and axle gears. It seems common at the Dealers to replace the defective axle with a new one, but often the problems reoccure. There seem to be a lot of failures with these axles. It would be helpful to know where most of the problems are occuring, whether in the bearings or in the gears. Those of you that are having these problems could perhaps inquire of details of the nature of the failure, and report your findings here.

    Working or Vehicles should only be done by a qualified professional mechanic. Remember, Safety First.
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    I will be happy to repost my comments I made earlier.


    I had the transmission solenoid replaced and the whining from the rear went away. It re appeared within 5,000 miles. As far as the rear end is concerned, it is whining at highway speeds between 50 to 65 mph. Any speed under or over these-it goes away. My dealer said it is not making enough of a noise to be concerned with. They said when they go really bad-they are really loud!! At any rate-I just purchased a Ford ESP warranty for around $700.00 that covers the drive train inc. the rear end. I didn't want to-but if you own one of these vehicles it looks like an extended warranty is called for!
  • I am glad I don't have to deal with the dealers, as I buy my vehicles when they are out of warranty and do my own repair work. It's a pain doing everything myself, but I found it is much less of a pain than dealing with them. Besides, it's not that hard if you have the skill and equipment. Since most of you are not mechanics, it is esstential to have a good ESP, especially one with NO deductable.

    Chuck1, that dealer is so full of it when he said "when they go really bad-they are really loud!!". That's just plain nuts! He is just trying to convince you that a little noise is "normal", or "acceptable", but he is a bald faced liar! A whine is NOT acceptable. If you test drove a vehicle and the Rear Axle was whinning, would you buy it? I don't think so. Most commonly, a whine that occurres at certain highway speeds is usually because the bearings are loose, causing a small misalignement between the Pinion Gear and the Ring Gear. The normal backlash between the Pinion Gear and the Ring Gear is usually about .008" to .010", with about a 10 inch/pound preload on the Pinion Gear Bearings. If the bearings loosen up, the backlash will increase and the Whine will start becoming noticable when backlash reaches about .030" or more. Most often the Pinion Gear and Ring Gear are not damaged, if correct lubrication has been maintained, and new bearings and new shims and new lubricate will return proper backlash to the gears, and the noise will disappear.
  • hgoliohgolio Posts: 6
    Can you share info as to where you purchased the ESP. I would be very interested. If you prefer, you can e-mail me at Thanks
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