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Ford Explorer Maintenance and Repair



  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 253
    Spent a good deal of my day on the phone with Costguard today, which took at least an hour, after being put on hold for 10 minutes at a time by 5 different representatives who'd answer, ask for the policy number, and then put me on hold again. Finally I spoke to a guy who laid everything out and explained it to me, and he also added "we don't want this part to go out on you." I said "well, if you don't want it to go out on me, why won't you fix the darn thing?" He went through the whole "it's a wear item" deal again and I said "okay, you're contradicting yourself here. You won't pay for to repair this problem, yet you say you don't want it to go out on me. Well I can understand why, because if it were to go out on me when I was say...doing 70 on the interstate, it wouldn't be very pretty and your company would get sued and you'd lose your job and have to work at Wal Mart selling tires and batteries." He had no comment on that. He did mention however that the measurements the mechanic gave him were "no where close to being excessive. Those ball joints could last you another 20 or 25 thousand miles." We'll see about that. He also stated that if the measurements had indicated "excessive" movement, Costguard "might" cover it. After getting nowhere with Costguard, I called Ford. The Ford rep I spoke to was very friendly, eager to help me, and quite informative, although she basically told me the same thing. Even if I had a Ford extended warranty, it would only cover the ball joints if they were defective or if they failed. She said "if you can get the mechanic to state that the joints were actually defective and not that they were simply wearing, you might get some coverage on that." I also asked her if this was a common problem, to which she stated that no, most calls she received about ball joints were from owners with vehicles 7 or 8 years old with 100k miles or over.

    So, I called the mechanic and asked him what he thought about it. He said it's simply that Ford is making the things cheaper. He said he put a set in a 2003 Ford pickup last week that had 26k miles on it, and the owner wanted new tires because the tires had wore irregularly. Upon inspection, they saw the ball joints were bad, took it to the Ford dealer to have them replaced under warranty, and they wouldn't do it. They said "they aren't worn enough to replace them under the warranty." If Ford is going to cheaper materials on something as vital as ball joints, then you can count me out of ever owning another one. I know you say I shouldn't boycott Ford because of one bad vehicle, but I've seen and heard testimonies from numerous people with the same problem, and it is just what the mechanic said: Ford is making them cheaper to save a few bucks. All it'll take is a few people to die in accidents caused by faulty ball joints, and they'll have another Firestone sized lawsuit on their hands.

    Now, for the light at the end of the tunnel. If I don't find something I think I can afford this weekend, or if I can't find a gracious dealer to pay off my Exploder, then I will get the repair done next week. I called around and got estimates today as well, and they ranged from $555 from "my" garage, to the one I'm actually going to use, who quoted $100 labor plus the cost of the parts. If I can get it done for less than 300 bucks I'll be happy.
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    I am very sorry to hear about your problems. However, the person who quoted you $100.00 plus parts either didn't know what he is doing, or will mark the parts up 500% or 600%. Beware of that estimate. It's too cheap!
  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 253
    Yes, exactly. This guy is extremely cheap. He works by himself at a garage thats beside his house. He doesn't believe in ripping people off and is simply making an honest living. My grandpa has used him for years, and when we'd tell him about our outrageous repair bills, he'd chuckle and say "I bet (guy's name) could've done it for half of that." A friend of mine had him rebuild the engine for his '67 Mustang, and said he did a great job. I'll keep ya posted, but I'm not leary in the least bit.
  • My 03 MM Awd which has 73k miles just had the entire rear end replaced (covered under ESP 100k mile protection plan) to solve the "whine" problem, I can tell you that the noise is still there. The dealer claims that any noise that I now hear is tire noise, BFG stock 17 inch tires. I even went so far as swapping out the tires with a buddy of mine who had Michelins for a test ride...the noise was still there. I do mostly highway driving, this is not my first SUV have had many over the years, I average between 35-40k miles a year and have been doing so for the past 20 years and I can tell what is tire noise and what is not, this is not tire noise. Looking at replacing the MM real soon.
  • nitromaxnitromax Posts: 641
    Upon inspection, they saw the ball joints were bad, took it to the Ford dealer to have them replaced under warranty, and they wouldn't do it. They said "they aren't worn enough to replace them under the warranty." If Ford is going to cheaper materials on something as vital as ball joints, then you can count me out of ever owning another one.


    Perhaps the state inspection agency should have a talk with Ford.


    Yeah, like that'll happen.


    Sorry to hear about your troubles. I'm a former Ford owner myself; 1980 Mercury Capri, 1987 Mustang, 1988 Bronco II, 1994 Ranger, 1997 Exploder.....2002 Acura

    See a trend here?


    My Acura dealer has treated me like a loaner TL whenever I bring it in for it's scheduled service...54,000 miles and going strong.


    Is there a reason why you want an SUV? You mentioned several other SUVs you were considering. The reason I ask is that vehicles with 4WD tend to have more mechanisms that can fail. More compicated tranny, transfer case, extra differential, locking hubs.

    If you just need it for snowy weather perhaps you could consider a good used FWD car with traction control. (Nissan Maxima comes to mind) Slap on some Arctic Alpin snow tires and you're good to go. (I have two sets of with summer tires and one with winter tires, and I can swap them in under an hour)


    Sorry, I'm digressing.
  • nitromaxnitromax Posts: 641
    My 03 MM Awd which has 73k miles just had the entire rear end replaced (covered under ESP 100k mile protection plan) to solve the "whine" problem, I can tell you that the noise is still there.


    I've heard stories about some dealers who just clean an item and then give it back to the customer...placebo effect. They then collect the money from the warranty company.

    Can you verify that the rear-end was changed?
  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 253
    I love Maximas, and I actually found one in the vicinity of where I'm going in NC. It's a special edition with 75k miles, all the goodies, and was in my price range (I think it was a '00 or '01), but I like to go off road once in a while, and we do get some doozy snowfalls in the winter here in SW Va. I feel like I "need" an SUV or a pickup truck (I'm also considering 4 door Tacomas, but they're still kinda high). My grandparents have a farm, and are getting too old to care for it, and I have to go over there once in a while and check things out, make sure the guy who's leasing it is doing his part, etc, and I just don't see me driving a shiny black maxima through a cow pasture. I doubt I'll trade, I've just about talked myself out of it, but I know I won't be keeping this thing for the full 5 years. I kept my last one for 3, so I'll probably be the same with this one.
  • I cannot be 100% sure they really changed it. I have been working with this dealership for 7 years and they are pretty good, so I can only hope that it was really changed.
  • Kubus,


    Have you heard anything more about the recall you speak of. In May of '04 I had to pay 1/2 of an $850 rear-end bill (Ford, unbelievably, picked up the other half) and now there is a leak where the axel enters the pumpkin on the drivers side. Ford says it's about a $200 job to replace the axel seals and has nothing to do with the repair of the rear-end in May. Any advice or information would be much appreciated.


  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 253
    Well guys, I'm down here in NC now, and I went car shopping today. I drove an '01 4Runner, liked it but didn't love it. I drove a '99 4Runner and fell in love with it. It's an SR5 Sport, loaded with a moonroof, rear air, hood scoop, etc. The only thing has 138k miles on, but it drove just as good as the '01 that had 59k on it. The price is $12,650.


    Sitting right next to it was a '99.5 Nissan Pathfinder LE, which only had 79k miles on it. It's fully loaded with leather, heated seats, Bose sound system, moonroof, etc. Price on it is $14,950. I didn't get to drive it tonight, but I'm going back on Saturday to do so and crunch some numbers.


    I also looked at an '02 Pathfinder SE that had 35k miles on it, was a 5 speed which I think is pretty rare, and was $17,900. It was in the same network of dealerships as the '01 4Runner I drove, and the salesman said he could get any vehicle from any lot in their network brought to him for me to come and look at, drive, etc. So I'm going to check it out too, and see if they might could get it low enough to be in my price range as well. So, I'm shopping.


    But, the old Explorer drove about the best it has in a long time on the way down here. I think it knows something is up. Normally it'll downshift on the slightest hill with the cruise control on, but it cruised just as easy never changing gears, even when I had to slow down to 60 and speed back up to 70. My gas mileage seems to be getting worse, I used to could get about 300 miles out of 3/4 of the tank (I always fill it up at 1/4 of a tank) but here lately it's been closer to 225. I've been smelling antifreeze pretty strong again so I know it's still leaking somewhere.


    Do you know if I traded in a vehicle that I'd bought an extended warranty on but hadn't had it the full term of the warranty, would I get a refund for the remaining part of the warranty?


    So what do you guys think? A 4Runner with 138k miles, or a Pathfinder with almost half the mileage?
  • nitromaxnitromax Posts: 641
    Do you know if I traded in a vehicle that I'd bought an extended warranty on but hadn't had it the full term of the warranty, would I get a refund for the remaining part of the warranty?


    I highly doubt there is any refund. The best you'll do is allow it to be transferrable...which "should" increase the trade in value.



    So what do you guys think? A 4Runner with 138k miles, or a Pathfinder with almost half the mileage?


    I would suggest spending the $20 or so and getting a carfax subscription. I think they last for about three months and you can plug in any cars VIN number to check it's history. A one-owner car would be a good sign.


    Good luck on your hunt.


    ...yeah, it sounds like your Explorer is feeling the heat.

  • 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.
  • Does anyone know if a wheel alignment is required when the differential is replaced? The dealer says it is a "bolt in" replacement and will be done in one day.


    After looking at the differential, it appears the rear wheel alignment should not be affected, IF they can replace the differential without removing any suspension parts. There are two adjustable tie bars for toe adjustment?


    If the A frames or tie bars have to be unbolted, looks like an alignment check/adjustment would be required.
  • Having same problem with Explorer '02 with just 40,000 miles. Also the clutch is bad and the dealer wants $1,000 to fix. Son is products liability attorney - do you think this is a wide spread problem? Just went off warranty. Any info will help as this is not an inexpensive fix for a car that maintenance has been done regularly.
  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 253
    Did I mention that the 4Runner is Certified? The dealer that has it got it from a Toyota dealer who Certified it, then he sold it to a gentleman who traded in his Jeep for the exact same reason I'm trying to get rid of the Explorer, it was one problem right after another. The gentleman put 3000k miles on it, then rode by the lot one night and saw an '02 with lower mileage on it, and traded this one back in on the newer one. I'd say with the age of the vehicle, it's probably a 2nd owner.


    As for either of the Pathfinders, I'm not sure on them yet. I will find out more tomorrow, that is if I recover from the massive hangover I will more than likely have after tonight's new years party :).
  • chuck1chuck1 Posts: 1,405
    If the "car was "certified" by a previous dealer...and then sold to another dealer? This doesn't make much sense to me. I have learned something in my many years living on this good 'ol Earth....when it comes to a used car/truck, someone always has a story to tell. So here is some advice.....MAKE SURE YOU CARFAX IT AND THEN TAKE IT TO YOUR OWN MECHANIC FOR A ONCE OVER.....DON'T LISTEN TO ANYONE'S STORY!!!!
  • wifemmwifemm Posts: 16
    Well, it's been a year and it happened again @ 29K miles Exact same symptoms, engine attempts to crank but can't turn over as if it's not getting gas. Step on gas pedal couple of times and finally starts with flooded engine of course.


    No codes on OTC, dealer calls Ford and they recommended replacing IAC valve I glad that I bought the ESP with no deductible :-)


    Still like the truck versatility, handling, decent gas mileage avg about 16 in the city and 21 on highway now (not bad for AWD)......just wish it could be rid of this little gremlin!


    Happy New Year!!
  • jcat707jcat707 Posts: 168
    Lately when I have been riding in my friend's 03 Explorer, I hear this whistling sound. It only happens when the it is cold outside in the winter. It did this last winter and came back this winter. It was nowhere to be found during the fall, spring and summer. Is this the infamous rear end whine that I have been hearing about?
  • idntnvuidntnvu Pulaski, VirginiaPosts: 253
    I didn't trade this weekend. Gonna take the old Explorer back home, get the ball joints replaced this week, and pinch pennies for other problems.


    I only drove a couple of 4Runners, didn't get to drive the Pathfinders. But from what I've read, the seats are more comfortable, and the Pathfinder has a more car-like ride, which I don't really care about, a truck's a truck, so I don't care how it rides. I had a Sidekick for cryin' out loud. The seats in the 4Runner just didn't suit me, and from what I've read, the '01 and up Pathfinders are the better ones, namely because of the 240 horse 3.5 liter engine. So, thats what I'll probably go with, one of these days. I'm gonna save up and also pay double payments on the Explorer so that when I do trade, I have a better chance of now owing more than it's worth. So for now, I'm still a Ford guy. What a shame too, because I got a bunch of Ford stickers proclaiming how proud I am to drive a genuine Ford product.


    Unless Ford decides to step up and stop making their parts so cheap, it'll be a cold day in Palm Beach when I own another one. I know what you're gonna say to that (especially nvbanker), but I've talked to several mechanics now, and many other Ford owners, and it's not just Explorers. All Ford trucks with the exception of maybe the Escape, suffer from premature ball joint failure, and I don't care what Ford or anybody else says, the ball joint HAS failed when it develops play. Thats about where I'm at.


    Anyway, hope ya'll had a good new years! I survived, but barely. I got food poisoning some how and spent the day in the bathroom. Happy New Year to me.


    By the way, have you guys noticed any mistakes in your post that weren't in it when you clicked "post"? Several times over the past few days I've double checked my post before I submitted it, and when I read over it after it was posted, some of my words were missing. Hmmm.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    and when I read over it after it was posted, some of my words were missing.


    That should definitely not be happening. As far as I know, there have been no other reports. If it happens again, send me or Steve a note indicating which post it was, time of day, what was missing and which browser you used.


    tidester, host
  • I've seen several posts of the air bag light flashing - then staying on steady. Is replacing the air bag sensor that some mention a do-it-yourself project?


  • It seems like some dealers are much more helpful than others. I am, in general, satisfied with my 2003 Explorer, XLT 4x4 V-8. That being said, it isn't pefect. Heater plenum control box has been replaced, ~$400 item plus 18 hours labor to take apart dash and reassemble--coil on plug replaced on #8 cylinder--injector replaced on #2 cylinder. All of this has been replaced under warranty with no hassle from my local dealer (and I didn't even buy it from them). I have also had the rear end noise problem. Initial diagnosis by dealer led them to order a new differential; amazingly, when they re-installed the original differential, the noise was gone. This might be helpful to some owners, perhaps those of you with Explorers out of warranty can have the differential inspected and re-installed according to factory specifications rather than having to pay for a new differential. I did get a new differential under warranty. It brought a new problem, a resonant booming because the original drive shaft would not "index" properly to the new differential. The dealer promptly ordered a new drive shaft which eliminated the resonant booming. Everyday mileage is 17-18 mpg, trips see 19-20 mpg. This is only about 2 mpg less than my 1996 4 cylinder, 5 speed manual Nissan 4x4 pickup. The Nissan died twice in 70000 miles resulting in tows to the local dealership. The Explorer, with its problems, still was able to be driven in to have its problems fixed. Some SUVs are probably better; according to the posts of other brands, many are more problematic than the Explorer. Happy driving!
  • biomanbioman Posts: 172
    You are assuming the sensor is the problem. It might be the wires connecting the sensor to the airbag(s). The initial flashing of the airbag warning light on the dash is actually a diagnostic error code. It will flash the code once or twice and then go to a steady on state. While my 99 Explorer was still under warranty it had to have a wiring harness replaced when the airbag warning light indicated a problem. If you are sure it is the sensor and you have the factory procedure available you could try it, but a mistake could be expensive and dangerous.
  • jdw1jdw1 Posts: 1
    I have a fuel leak apparently from the fuel supply line at the left front corner of the intake manifold. It started leaking when I tried to jump start my wife's Maxima yesterday. Obviously, I hooked up the cables wrong. I remember a recall for this problem several years ago which I never took care of.


    Can I fix this myself? I am a pseudo shade tree mechanic... I hate to shell out the $$ to have the car towed 15 miles to my dealer and then pay their high labor rates.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    lordy, don't know where to start. airbag propellant is something on the order of a half-stick of dynamite in power. static electricity can touch 'em all off. replacing the usual two front airbags is well over a thousand dollars, if you have canopy bags and seat-side airbags, several thousand more. EMTs and firemen train every year on how to avoid airbags when they rescue folks because it puts emergency responders in the hospital or in the grave.


    and you want to replace the central trigger switch yourself and need to ask questions about it.


    hmmmmmmmm, I think the proper answer here is "stay the !!!!!! away from any orange wiring, the airbags, and associated cover products."


    they keyword here is "orange"... anything orange in a modern car is airbag stuff. that's for mechanics with insurance that offer loaner cars IMHO.


    unless, of course, you LIKE working with electric caps and explosives, in which case you could look around for training in the airbag system, say at a local vo-tech, because if you LIKE this, you also like not having the stuff blow up when you're holding it.


    ((( not planning on touching mine with a ten foot pole. )))
  • keeferbkeeferb Posts: 81
    We are considering a 2005 Explorer for our next vehicle. Does anyone know if the rear-end whine has been resolved for this model?


  • 02xls02xls Posts: 40
    I can tell you this, if Ford has fixed the problem on the 05's then why do they have no fix on the 02-04 trucks. Until Ford either changes suppliers or re engineers the rear end of these trucks I believe you are taking a chance by buying any 02-05 Explorers. As others on this site have stated not all Explorers will have the rear end whine. However be prepared that if you happen to get one with the problem, under warranty or not, plan on many trips to the service dept. and depending on your dealer lots of run around. IMO if you are foolish enough to by this vehicle plan on forking out more money for the ESP, you will be sorry if you do not.
  • pnewbypnewby Posts: 277
    02 Eddie B V6, no whine only problem was a Service Engine Soon light that came on after I foolishly let Valvoline Instant Oil Change talk me into a bottle of "fool injector cleaner". Sorry you've had problems because my 96 and '02 have been the 2 best vehicles I have ever had. Still have the '02 and just bought a new Freestyle. Hope it is as good.
  • Hi all,


    I noticed the other day that something in the front suspension (only) is making noise when compressed, such as when driving over speed bumps or dips in the road ('04 X, 13K). The system has not lost any functionality; she still rides great, handles fine around turns, and even when it's making the noise the shocks and springs do their job (no bottoming out or bouncing).


    I'll run it by the dealer tomorrow or Tuesday to see what they make of it. I remember seeing on here somewhere that another guy had a similiar noise and it ended up being a loose bolt on some stabilizer or tie rod. Does anybody have any insights? It sounds, for lack of a better description, like a really worn out suspension; you know, creaking/groaning. Not very loud though.
  • ajmtbmajmtbm Posts: 245
    we have an 02, had the same problem. brought it the dealer, he said it was a common problem with the bushings. they had them in stock (usually a good clue that it is a common prblem), and replaced the front bushings, have not had a problem since (18 months or so)
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