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Ford Explorer Maintenance and Repair



  • Several problems with this vehicle at 76k miles.

    The engine makes a rattling noise right before shifting into 2nd gear. It sounds like clattering valves. Higher octane doesn't help.

    When slowing down to a stop it makes a hard clunk, I can't tell if it's the transmission or the driveshaft.

    The transmission shifts slowly. Sometimes I think it's going to stop shifting all together.

    Now the a/c system is messing up. I think the "flap" is stuck. It won't change from vent to defrost or heat.

    As far as the body, the only problem is the clearcoat peeling off on the black sections around the doors and rear hatch.

    Anyone else with these problems?
  • we just had the same problem [..driver's side door..the wife's 98 explorer] our case it seems the rod that comes down from the outside handle was not lifting back up enough to clear the mechanism and was jamming the unlocking lever.
    I opened the yellow plastic tab on the connector at the bottom of the rod, pulled the rod out of the connector, pulled it DOWN a little bit and reset it in the connector and closed the tab.
    Now it is working OK. ......might only be a short term fix, but that is where the problem is. I might try to use a little spring to lift the rod if the problem returns.[Also need a new inside door handle as that was ruined in the struggle]. Oh yes ..take out the bottom left window makes access much easier.
  • For awhile I've noticed that at times when I use the left turn signal it blinks really fast. Today on my way home I rolled down the window halfway and my door ajar light came on. I rolled it back up and down and it kept happening. I left the window alone and the ajar light kept coming on and going off. When I parked and opened the door the overhead light did not come on, but it did when I shut the door.
    Any help would be appreciated. Has anyone experienced this, was it very expensive to fix?
  • It must be one of the OTHER door switches that is acting up. CHeck the other doors, including the back hatch window and door. Open and close them all until you find the culprit.
  • Then why would the overhead light and the left blinker act up as well?
  • The overhead light could be on because one of the door switches is not closing properly. The Turn signal may not be directly related to the problem with the windows and door and lights. The problem may be simple or it may be complicated. There is a "GEM" module that controls most of the electrical items inside the car. The first thing to do is investigate and check all the switches and wiring external to the control module, and then investigate the control module. You may need an automotive electrical expert or dealer to look at it.
  • Someone at work said that it was a known issue with late 90's Models of Ford Trucks and SUV's. He said he had the same issue and it was something with the sensor in the door. HE said WD-40 Fixed it. We will try that later.
  • I got the gaskets from a dealer for a better price than before. I pretty much have everything (great website btw thanks!). The only thing I'm wondering about is the Camshaft timing. Is there a kit I can rent or a way to get all the information I need to do that?

    Thanks again!
  • Like I said to another poster,
    You can go to to get the information for your car, they have everything you need, cam timing and everything else, for $24 for a one year subscription.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • Hey E.D.

    I already subscribed to and printed everything I need. I put camshaft timing into the search field and am not really turning up any information. Any hints on a better way to find it?

  • Hey E.D.

    I found the information on how to set the timing, the only problem is, I can't find where to get the "special tools" needed to set the timing correctly. Any ideas of where I can rent/buy such tools?

  • I would recommend calling around to local auto parts and tool supply houses. If they don't have them, ask where they may be found or rented. Call some automotive machine shops and Repair Shops asking about buying ot renting tools. There are special tool companies that call on the auto repair shops and sell them tools, like Snap On, MAC and so others, they may be expensive though. If no luck locally, you can always search the internet, Google everything you can, you should be able to come up with something.
  • I have a 02' Explorer, v6, loaded with 74K miles and have been having problems with the tranny and sloppy shifts. First it's inconsistant, (hot/cold doesn't matter). I have taken it to the local Ford dealer several times now. First they flushed the tranny and installed a shifting additive. Seemed to help for approx. 5K miles now it's acting up again, worse. It has a slow and sloppy shift in all gears especially into OD. If I turn "OD Off" it seems to help but still will do it on occasion. The dealer, at the last visit, said no error codes came up and nothing to do. Any suggestions?
    I have been a ford guy from age of 16 on but with all the tranny problems I have had with all my fords at the 80K mark I am considering jumping ship. :confuse: It just seems that the ford tranny has always been the weak link.
  • I have said this over and over again, but here goes one more time. The FORD EXPLORERS with the SOHC V6 have problematic engines and problematic automatic transmissions. The model year 2002 and up have problematic rear axles due to the new full floating design and the aluminum rear axle gearbox housing. If you do your research and homework, you will find this to be true. That is why I own a 1997 Ford Explorer XLT V8 and a 2000 Ford Explorer XLT V8. These are good strong engines, transmissions and rear axles. I learned my lesson by owning 1991 and 1993 Ford Explorers, the V6 OHV engines were reliable, but the automatic transmissions were JUNK! I had to rebuild the transmissions in both of those vehicles more than once. I swore never again to buy anything again without finding out EVERYTHING about it FIRST. The Internet has made this research much easier now. It may be too late for you now, but next time look before you leap, study and research before you buy! Read all the Forums about the car you want to buy. Look for all the weak points, not just the features that you are looking for. Put reliability near the top of your list. You can't enjoy your car if it's broke down or giving you problems.
    Do yourself and your friends a favor, Bookmark this messege and send it to all your friends.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 11,852
    i would try a different dealer. my '02 gradually shifted worse until i had the tranny flushed at 30k. just had it done at 60k again. not sure why they would put an additive in.
    2017 Ford Fusion SE 2014 Ford F-150 FX4
  • 0435004350 Posts: 26
    My AT transmission just went on my 02 XLT at under
    40 K miles. Rebuilt transmission parts and labor is $4,200 + $ 140 for re-welding bolts. Car was in shop 900 miles ago and vehicle got excellent report as to condition on everything. 3rd gear is gone. Vehicle had normal transmission fluid level now. Also, the standard transmission service was done at 29K miles by dealer.
    Another 02 XLT was in dealers shop with 68K miles, also with
    transmission problems although I don't know specifics.
    What's going on with this, especially at such relatively
    low miles?
  • Again, you did not mention what ENGINE you have or what TRANSMISSION you have. Unfortunately, you are apparently not familiar with all the serious problems that these vehicles have been having for the last 4 years. Why do you think FORD is cutting back on half of it's workforce and production? I have been talking about this and expecting this for many years now. They can't build this junk, and expect to stay in business. I've been on these Edmunds Forums for over 10 years, I used to go by a different name. Please go to the top of the page to the SEARCH bar, and use it. Look for transmissions, rear axles, engines, etc. You will be totally amazed at all the problems that have been talked about on here. Then go to other forums all over the Internet, and you will find the same thing.
    I've owned 4 Explorers over the last 8 years, and I will CERTAINLY not own another FORD again. My next vehicle is going to be a Honda or Toyota!
    Please bookmark this messege and send it to all your friends.
    E.D. ISF
  • I have an '03 Explorer XLT V6, 32000 mi. I had a new (for me) problem today. After driving up up and down a mountain pass(10000 - 11000 ft.) at slow speeds thru some mud and a little snow and part of the time in 4high, I returned to the highway and stopped to use a restroom. The car sat about 10 minutes, when I attempted to start it I got nothing. I had power, lights, alarms etc. but it would not crank or anything. I made sure it was in park, undid the gas cap etc, nothing worked. After about 45 minutes sitting waiting for a local mechanic to come, the car started right up (just as the mechanic pulled up). It reminds me of vapor lock in the older cars - the car just has to sit a while. I drove back home (about 80 mi), parked, washed the car and it started ok again. Does anyone have any idea what could cause this? Thank you.
  • 0435004350 Posts: 26
    It is the 6 cyl automatic. BTW, in an attempt to soften the
    blow about mine going at under 40K, the service writer
    said they had an Escape with a defective transmission
    come in with under 1K miles recently. I don't know if the
    dealers care since they'll get paid regardless, but major
    repairs like this get billed to Ford when under warranty
    or to Ford ESP if under their extended service plan. Does Ford sub-contract these transmissions when originally
    installed new or are they manufactured by their own plant?
    My opinion is the reason Ford is hurting now is more related to the price of gas and still some residual from the rollover issues of the late 90s.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 11,852
    i have an '02 and my brother in law has an '03(both with v-8). we have driven them pretty hard over the years. both have had some repairs, covered under warranty, although not always the first time.
    we both agree they are the best overall vehicles we have ever owned. that is meant as a compliment, not that we drove a pos prior to what we have now.
    2017 Ford Fusion SE 2014 Ford F-150 FX4
  • well, it seams that i have a problem. a while ago i had a serious overheating problem in my 1993 explorer. so, i flushed the radiator, changed the oil(it was mostly sludge),new spark plugs, new filters, new thermosdat(it was completely destrotyed and the obvious cause of the first overhating, the whole nine yards. then today, while up driving in the mountains, it happened again! when i start to go up a hill, the needle buried itself within 30 sec. the water pump is working and there are no leaks in the hoses as they are new. what i dont understand though, is when im driving on a flat surface, the temp rises. please help!!!!
  • I can help you with this, but remember, I'm a long way from you, and I have to depend on the information that you provide. I had a 1993 XLT, it was a good vehicle, except for the automatic transmission. How many miles on yours? How is it equipped? First, what JUMPED OUT at me was when you said "changed the oil(it was mostly sludge", that was a shocker. You should never let the oil get like sludge. How often do you change your Engine oil and filter? You should do an oil and filter change every 5,000 miles, or if you use a good Full Synthetic, a little longer. What kind of oil and filter do you use? Do you keep up all maintenance on the vehicle? Do you change the auto trans fluid and fuel filter every 30,000 miles, and change air filter every 15,000 miles or sooner if it gets dirty? Also, the thermostat being completly "destroyed" is very strange. They usually just stick closed or open, but I never heard of one that was "destroyed". As a first step, please be sure that all maintenance is kept up. Next, check for all the obvious things. Is the condenser and radiator clean? Is the fan and fan clutch in good shape? Does it pull plenty of air through the radiator? Is the cooling system clean inside? Is the system tight with no leaks? Are you loosing and coolant at all? Does the radiator and overflow tank stay full? If you are loosing coolant, then there is either an External leak at a gasket, hose or water pump, or an Internal leak at a gasket, usually a head gasket. Look for any oil in the coolant and any coolant in the engine oil. If the coolant level is good, clean, and it is tight with no external or internal leaks, and airflow is good, then we must look at circulation inside the system. You said you flushed it, but with what and how? There may be a restriction or clog in the radiator. If you can safetly feel the front of the radiator, feel for any differences in temperature while the engine is running. Cooler spots indicate a clogged radiator. Make sure the water pump is operating properly. Make sure the thermostat is not stuck closed. Buy a good one, not a cheap one. A good thermostat is good insurance. Also check the hoses, to be sure that they don't collapse, the lower hose can collapse when you give it the gas, if the internal spring inside has rusted out. Also check to see what temperature the cooling system operates at under different conditions. How accurate is your dash temperature guage? You can check the actual temp of the radiator and hoses with one of those infrared thermometers.
    Check all this out and let us know what you find.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • My opinion is the reason Ford is hurting now is more related to FALLING SALES.
    I doesn't really matter to the owner who pays for the warrenty repairs, but they are still out of the use of their vehicles and they have all the aggravation to go through.
    And what about a guy like me who buys a used vehicle 6 years old out of warrenty and plans to drive it for 6 years? He has to buy a reliable vehicle that won't break down and cost him money.
    Meanwhile, the Honda and Toyota drivers are driving merrily down the road with big smiles on there faces.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,564
    You should have it checked for a blown head gasket, as you have all the symptoms.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • it has approx 196,000 miles on it and i have not had a single problem with the transmission. welll, uh what i meant by the sluge thing was that, since it overheated 5 times in a day, it turned everything to slugde. the last time i changed the oil was only 2 thousand miles ago, with fully sinthetic high mileage oil. and there are absolutely no leaks anywhere, and everytthing remains full. i was also thinking somewhere along the lines of a clogged radiator, but when i flushed it everything was fine and has not leaked. and the thermosdat was nota pretty sight and i most likely over exxadurated when i said it was destroyed. the oil filter was disgustin and black, and the air filter was also black. i fouind this weird because i had fuly serviced it only a few thousand miles ago. and, i do not go cheap on the parts or oil i use for this car, as i want it to last a while longer
  • a blown head gasket?! it runs perfectly fine except when i start up a pretty steep hill, such as driving up in the mountains
  • "it has approx 196,000 miles on it and i have not had a single problem with the transmission. welll, uh what i meant by the sluge thing was that, since it overheated 5 times in a day, it turned everything to slugde. the last time i changed the oil was only 2 thousand miles ago, with fully sinthetic high mileage oil. and there are absolutely no leaks anywhere, and everytthing remains full. i was also thinking somewhere along the lines of a clogged radiator, but when i flushed it everything was fine and has not leaked. and the thermosdat was nota pretty sight and i most likely over exxadurated when i said it was destroyed. the oil filter was disgustin and black, and the air filter was also black. i fouind this weird because i had fuly serviced it only a few thousand miles ago. and, i do not go cheap on the parts or oil i use for this car, as i want it to last a while longer"

    Is your transmission an Automatic? You are very lucky to have 196,000 miles on it with no transmission problem, especially if it is an automatic. It is amazing to have sludge in an engine in 2,000 miles AND overheat 5 times and one day! That's pretty tough on an engine! How hot did it get each time, did it boil over? Overheating will destroy and engine quicker than anything. The post #5417 that I left for you on Sept 30 has all the information that you need. You need check and follow though on each item, it is like a flow chart, a logical process to arrive at the solution to the problem. Don't skip a step or leave anything out, make sure you cover all the bases. As I said, if you are not loosing any coolant and the system is tight and not leaking internally or externally, then the next logical step it to check the circulation of the coolant. The biggest factor there could be a clogged radiator, but you must be sure that the thermostat is opening and that the bottom hose is not collapsing when you accellerate up a hill. When engine is cold, start it up and feel the upper hose about once a minute to see when the upper hose gets hot, meaning the thermostat in opened. If you have doubts about the thermostat opening, or only partially opening, remove it and put it in a pan of cold water, set it on the stove, put thermometer in the water, and heat it up, and watch to see what temperature the thermostat opens wide open. I always test a thermostat before I put it in to be sure it works correctly. If you have doubts about the radiator, a radiator shop can flow test it for you or if you got one of those laser thermometers like I said in my previous post, you can measure the temperature of the radiator tanks and the temperature of the upper and lower hoses. The lower hose carries the coolant back to the engine and should be at least 10 degrees cooler than the upper hose. 20 degrees cooler would be better. But if there is very little difference in temperature between the upper and lower hose, that means the radiator is not transfering heat, and that is where the problem would be in that case. Either get the radiator rodded out, or replace it. Then put in a good 50%/50% mixture of antifeeze and distilled water.
    Squeeze the bottom hose hard, it should not flatten, it should be stiff or have a spring inside of it to keep it from collapsing. If the hose is not hard, replace it.

    And what was this you said "the oil filter was disgustin and black, and the air filter was also black. i fouind this weird because i had fuly serviced it only a few thousand miles ago", Very strange indeed. I drive mixed city and highway and I change my fully synthetic motor oil and filter every 7,500 miles and it hardly gets dirty, and I change the air filter every other oil change (15,000 miles) and it hardly gets dirty at all.
    I don't know where you are driving, but it sounds like severe service, and you will need to do your services more often.
    Good Luck,
    E.D. ISF
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,564
    It can run fine with a blown head gasket...the defect in the gasket can be very small and can be a crack or tear between an exhaust valve and a water jacket. It does not have to admit water to the oil necessarily.

    Anyway, it's best to eliminate this cause right off the bat with a cooling system pressure test.

    Otherwise, rapid overheating on a steep grade is generally a water circulation issue, meaning a bad radiator. Flushing is useless if the radiator is really plugged or rotted out.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • yes, its an automatic. when it first started overhaeating, it would take about a min or so for the needle to go from cool to buried hot,and took about an hour to cool down enough, AND i had a nice bump in the underside of the hod where the radiator cap blew off, lol it popped back down i suspect this is why there was slugle. and i constantly drive in the mountain gravel roads, where theres alot of dust. i am up there more than i am in the city, and i am really quite pleased with this i dont blame her for geting tired. since i did not have the time to do anything on it myself, i sent it to a friend of mine's shop and he said everything was in perfect order. but, i didnt have him check the radiator. a clogged one you say? earlier today the temp started to rise again, but only to about half way and did not raise any further so it sounds logical, ill have it checked out a.s.a.p. thank you very much for your insight

  • uhhhuhhh. i think it is the radiator and i really dont blame it for being tired. i drive it realy hard and if it breaks i'll fix it
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