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Ford Explorer Maintenance and Repair



  • jrc346jrc346 Posts: 337
    Thank you everyone for all of your incite. I question whether the OEM Wires are actually that good. This is the second Explorer with under 40K that I have had them go bad on. I found a set at Autozone for $55. They are bosch, and I think they are a good brand? What I think I am going to do when I get the time is start up the truck armed with a spray bottle full of water and start spraying down the wires. If it stalls or shudders, then I will clean the wires and re-lube the connections with dielectric grease. If this doesn't work, then I will buy new wires. I talked to a tech and he suggested I try this. Thanks again for your all of your help. It is much appreciated:-) Do I want to use the grease in the spark plus ends of the wires? Or is it to hot there?
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    you just want a little bit to seal around the ribs on the insulator. it was made to stand the heat. and yes, bosch wires should be good for the purpose. good luck diagnosing, and be



    poisonously careful under there... things spin and grab between the radiator and the front of the engine, and they main and kill. you don't want any part of that. no dangling stuff, take the tie off, have real good footing and don't overreach when you mist-spray water from a garden bottle on the wires. as always, lock down the e-brake when out of the car and the engine is running.
  • bigaldsbigalds Posts: 47
    I've posted about this before, but it's been a while.
    I drove a 1991 Explorer for 4 years, it was six years old when I bought it, it had old wires on it then, and had the SAME old wires on it when I sold it. It always ran perfect.
    I currently drive a 1993 Explorer, it was six years old when I bought it, it had old wires on it then, and has the same old wires on it now, almost 4 years later. It always runs perfect.
    I also have a 1997 Explorer with a 5.0L V8, I've been driving it for a year. It had old wires on it then, and has the same old wires on it now, a year later. It always runs perfect.
    So, why don't my wires burn out? I'll let you in on a little secret. The car companies want to sell PARTS and SERVICE, that's about the only way the dealers can survive. All the car parts companies also want to sell parts too. Lot's of money in the Parts business. So FORD, in their almighty wisdom, concieve, conive, and scheme to come up with ways to SELL PARTS AND LABOR. One nice easy way is to sell parts that must be replaced due to their short "lifespan", like wires and belts and such. One of FORDS "BRILLIANT IDEAS" was to figure out a way to make the spark plug wires burn out sooner, requiring replacement more often. Back in the old days of "regular ignition", the wires were cheap, you could get a new set for 10 or 15 bucks in the 60's. Suddenly, in the 70's they brillantly invented and put in production the "SUPER" high voltage ignition, more powerful, better, faster!! Really nice - No More POINTS and CONDENSER!!! Well, that WAS good....but the trick was that this HIGH VOLTAGE would not stay in the old wires because it was so powerful! So they invented better wires (silicone), thicker wires (8mm), and more EXPENSIVE wires, that got even MORE EXPENSIVE as time went on. So the great GURU's said, here is our chance to make a ton of money. Technology is able to make the voltage SO HIGH that it can burn the wires. Remember your old 55 Chevy, or 60 Ford, or that 66 GOAT, or even that old 52 Desoto?! They always set the spark plug gap to around .035". When the New ELECTRONIC High Voltage Ignition came out, they said, "Oh, this new powerful spark can jump a BIGGER GAP, so lets make the gap LARGER, because a bigger spark MUST mean better ignition"! AND SO they DID! The Spark PLug Gaps got bigger and bigger. Then they noticed that when they made the gap bigger, the voltage in the wires went HIGHER and HIGHER!!! This was because it takes more voltage to jump across a bigger gap, especially under compression. Then to their GLEE that saw that as the voltage in the wires increased, the wire insulation would be stressed, eventually deteriorate and burn!!! They REJOICED in their great discovery, and said "GOSH, WHAT AN EASY WAY TO MAKE MONEY!!! ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS SPECIFY LARGE GAPS ON OUR SPARK PLUGS AND THE WIRES WILL BURN OUT SOONER!!!! WE WILL BE SELLING LOTS OF WIRES ALL THE TIME!!!! BUY LOTS OF STOCK IN THE WIRE COMPANIES!!! BETTER YET, LETS BE A WIRE COMPANY TOO, TO RAKE IN EVEN MORE PROFITS!!!"
    So it is, now, when you look in the FORD manual at the Spark Plug Gap specification, it says .054"!!!
    SO what do I Set MY SPARK PLUG GAPS TO? .040", and they always run perfect, AND the wires DON'T BURN OUT!!!! Gas milage still the same. No negative effects, only positive effects.
    I just don't understand why people don't catch onto this simple scam by the car companies, especially after all the endless talk of the hassle and expense of the new spark plug wires.
    Be smart. Set your spark plug gaps down and save your wires, and your wallet!
    Please save this message to your hard drive (copy and paste), and spread the word!

    You'all have a nice day now!
  • jrc346jrc346 Posts: 337
    Swschrad-Thanks for your concern. I just want to make sure I have this one nailed. I don't want to be replacing and good parts. Unfortunately I let myself get a little too confident with my trouble shooting and replaced many good parts on my son's Thunderbird before I finally found a TSB stating that the reason the Check Engine Light would come on was not because of bad oxygen sensors (replaced all four at 70$ a pop), but because water and salt had contaminated the Mass Air Flow sensor. So I am doing a little more research this time :-)
    On the spark plug gap...Wont that effect the combustion? I like the idea of longer lasting plug wires, but I don't like the idea of Check Engine Light or decreased gas mileage. Now I am not saying you have a bad idea, I just don't know enough about spark plug gap to justify doing that. Maybe you can explain it a little more? I don't know if my wires are fried or just rubbing against something or what. I haven't had a chance to look at it. My wife has been driving it lately because of the snow up here. Tomorrow she is leaving the Explorer home so I can fix it when I get home. Thanks again for the tips. You have been a huge help. I'll report back what happens if you are interested.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    With the larger gap, do you find that you're experiencing more RF interference?

    As far as damage to the insulation is concerned, I am not challenging your claims but it would seem to me that a larger gap would cause current to flow for a shorter period of time offsetting the (heating) effects of higher voltage.

    I am, however, skeptical of the "planned obsolescence" theory! :-)

    tidester, host
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    and that's a most clever observation bigalds made. if the spark front is wide enough to light up the mixture, that is one sure way to increase the chance that you can quench the spark (i.e. sink the current at high voltage) and it really should help prevent insulation breakdown.

    if it does anything to change the RF interference issue, it should reduce it, but the note would be higher and more pure (as any ham adjusting their spark gap transmitter would clearly state.) put another way, this would generate a hotter, shorter spark for each ignition pulse... but see below...

    I'm not sure if it would stress the coil more or not at this point. you would not rise to a higher voltage before spark discharge, which should be good for interwinding insulation. but you would be able to conduct power to ground through the plug for more of a spark pulse, depending on whether the computer put a single pulse into the coil, or a burst of pulses. if it was a burst, you would sink more current across the same command impulse, so this would heat the coil up more, and that is bad for the insulation.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    Thanks for catching that! Yes, of course, I meant smaller!

    tidester, host
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    hee hee hee. yeah, right, only on miles between tune-ups. but at least you'd stress each plug/wire less, and with a pair, you'd likely avoid blowing the spark out when under load. that's my major question about .040. but if it's been working for big al, maybe worth a shot to see if it works for us.
  • jrc346jrc346 Posts: 337
    Ok...Well maybe he (bigalds)has a point? I am not changing the plugs just yet. When I do I will defiantly consider trying this. I want to ask around more though.
  • Is that the plugs are in series. You now have a coil that has to produce double the voltage. I'm another one who can't remember ever replacing a wire set for at least 20 years. One Explorer with over 200K and another at 130K. I check them for resistance, defects in the coating and then just put them in the dishwasher. New wires are fine if you don't want to do the diagnostics.
  • dkrilldkrill Posts: 20

    It sounds to me like the bearings, although you can narrow it down if the sound changes as you turn the car. I have 112k on my '96 EB, and just had to have the front bearings replaced for the first time. Sound gone.

    Good luck.

  • It seems that the Spark Plug Wire comments drew some quick responses, so I will give a little more information and answer some questions.
    On setting the Spark plug gap smaller, will it affect combustion? In my experience, NO. I've been doing this for many years from the early eighties till now, and the many vehicles I've driven have all run very well. The smaller gap of .040" does NOT affect performance or gas milage or RF interference or anything else. Every thing is the SAME as far as I can tell, the only difference is that the spark plug wires last a very long time. The advantage is the same even if the coil fires two gaps instead of one, because decreasing the gap or gaps, reduces the voltage in the wire, because the spark does not have to jump as far. The way the coil works is that energy builds up, it rises, it is not instant. The voltage rises from ZERO to a voltage high enough for it to jump the gap. The instant it does that, the voltage goes back down, because the spark energy is dissipated to ground, the circuit was completed. You can see this on an oscilliscope very easily. Draw a large arc with the spark plug wire and the oscilliscope goes skyhigh. Shorten the arc and the voltage goes down. Far as I can tell, a 040" arc is plenty good enough to light the combustion fire just fine. At least it lites my Fire OK! I've been doing this for many years with Chevies and Fords, and it always worked good.
    So, in a few years, post back here and let me know how it did for you.
    As for the Wheel bearings, I don't remember replacing any, I just grease them with good quality high temp grease every time I take the rotors off. I've got some good Kendall Blue High Temp Grease out in the garage I've been using for years. Now I switched over to that Synthetic grease. They say it's the best now.
    You all take care now, and please remember to say a prayer for our Astronauts.
    I gotta get me some shut eye....
  • jrc346jrc346 Posts: 337
    Bigalds. Thank you for your input. I may just use that in the future. Interestingly enough the spark plug gap on my 1979 F-150 is 042. I also want to thank everyone that helped me combat this problem. As promised I said I would report back my findings. Well this is what I found. I took my Explorer to 3 places trying to get answers. I was told by two places that I should check the wires. The last place , the Ford Dealer in my area, said wires are a good start but its really hard to tell if there isn't a check engine light. So I went home and drenched the wires in water. The car didn't miss a beat. I thought while I have the hood up I'll put this sensor back in its bracket (I saw it dangling in the drivers side wheel well). I cleaned off all of the dirt and water and tucked it out of harms way. I then looked in my shop manual and it said that the thing that was dangling was the Ambient Air Temperature Sensor. It didn't occur to me that this was causing any trouble. I thought that maybe all that did was give me the outside temp on the digital read out in the car. I gave up trying to find the problem and prepared myself to take it to the dealer ($$$). I took it for a drive and thought I would try and be as specific as possible about when this happens so that the dealer can reproduce it. However when I got on the road it didn't do it. The conditions were perfect for this issue to show up to. For the rest of the weekend the truck has run perfectly. I don't get it though. What does the AAT sensor do? Anyway I am glad the problem is fixed. God only knows if the dealer would have been able to find that. Thanks again for your kindness and help. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those Astronauts.
  • shark715shark715 Posts: 382
    I just "inherited" a '96 Explorer with the 4.0 V6. Anyone know if there is suppossed to be a washer with the engine oil drain plug? Also, does anyone know how to obtain a factory service manual for this truck? Thanks in advance for your help. I know with some Chrysler products there is mention of where to order the service book(s)in the owner's manual, but I don't see it in the Explorer's manual.
  • I would suggest that you get a subscription on the Do It Yourself for your vehicle. It is thorough and up to date. You can print out all the data that you want and put it in a binder notebook for quick reference, if you want.
    The web address is:

    The suscriptions are running $24.95 a year, and $14.95 when you renew for a year.
    I think it is a good deal, and I find it very helpful.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    ambient air temp sensor is one of the inputs to the engine computer, and it ends up being one of the inputs that determines the effective richness (injector on time) of the mixture.

    if it was swinging, picking up dirt, etc. that could make a difference indeed.

    attention to stuff that is going nowhere or hanging free next to clips is always a good thing in looking to fix intermittent issues.
  • jrc346jrc346 Posts: 337
    Yeah thanks for that information. That seems to make sense as to why that would cause my engine to run like that. I am sitting here thinking I went through all of that panic and for what? haha. I saw that problem (sensor dangling) a long time ago (3 weeks). Live and learn I guess. I am glad it turned out to be a simple matter. Thanks again for all of your help!
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Some libraries are now subscribing to Alldata. Mine did. One of these days I'm actually going to get them to pull some stuff for me!

    Steve, Host
  • I have had this vehicle "XLT" for 21 months now and this is the 3rd time I have had transmission problems. I do NOT tow anything just a lot of highway driving - 79,000KM/48,000 miles. AT First was a transmission replacement at 30,000KM or 18,000 miles, then a transfer case replacement at 59,000KM/36,000 miles and now the Transmission again at 79,000KM/48000miles.
    They say the transmission slowly loses pressure and therefore doesn't 'engage' in gear. Anyone have this experience? This last repair is out of warranty and they are charging big bucks. Any advice??
  • jrc346jrc346 Posts: 337
    It looks like there is a TSB on this problem. It says only to 2001 Explorers. However it sounds like you have the same problem. Here it is. The best of luck.

    A/T - Slipping Shifts/Delayed Engagements/DTC's Set
    Article No.

    TRANSMISSION - 4R44E - 4R55E - 5R44E - 5R55E -
    TROUBLE CODES P0732, P0733, P1762 SET -

    1995-2001 EXPLORER
    1995-2002 RANGER
    1996-1997 AEROSTAR
    1999-2002 EXPLORER SPORT

    1997-2001 MOUNTAINEER

    Article 02-8-2 is being republished in its entirety to update the DTC codes, build dates and to update the Service Procedure.


    Some vehicles built prior to 12/1/2001 may exhibit the following shift and engagement conditions:
    ^ Low line pressure readings while in DRIVE at

    ^ No 2nd gear

    ^ No 3rd gear

    ^ No engine braking in Manual 1st

    ^ Slipping shifts and/or delayed engagements

    ^ DTCs P0732, P0733 or P1762 may be present

    This may be caused by improper pressures controlled by the Transmission Main Control assembly.


    If the conditions described are verified, the Main Control may need to be updated to the latest level or completely replaced. Refer to the following Service Procedure for details.



    Verify that one or more of the following conditions exist:
    ^ Low line pressure while in Drive at WOT

    ^ Slipping/delayed shifts

    ^ Slipping/delayed engagements

    ^ No 2nd and/or No 3rd gear

    ^ No engine braking in Manual 1st

    ^ OD Band failed OFF

    ^ DTC P0732, P0733 or P1762 set

    1. Verify that one of the conditions listed above exist with the vehicle.

    2. If the condition exists, drain the transmission fluid from the pan.

    3. Remove the fluid pan and fluid pan gasket, discard the gasket. Refer to Workshop Manual, In-Vehicle Service, Fluid Pan And Gasket Procedure.

    4. Inspect the fluid in pan for major contamination.

    a. If major contamination IS present, refer to Procedure A, to replace the Main Control Assembly.

    b. If major contamination is NOT present, refer to Procedure B, to Update the Main Control Assembly.

    5. After completing procedure A or B, verify the condition has been corrected.

    6. Clear all DTCs.

    Procedure A:

    1. If major contamination is present, follow normal Workshop Manual procedures to repair internal transmission damage. If the transmission is repaired remember that the the Main Control (7A100), Fluid Pan Gasket (7A191) and Fluid Filter (7A098) must be replaced. Refer to the application chart for the correct Main Control assembly to use.

    Procedure B:

    1. To UPDATE the main control to the new level, follow the steps listed in the Service Kit 1L5Z-7M203-JA (ALL KIT CONTENTS MUST BE USED). A new separator plate (7A008 or 7Z490), upper/lower separator plate gaskets (7C155 and 7D100 used only with a 7A008 plate), fluid pan gasket (7A191), and a fluid filter (7A098) must be used. ALL NEW PARTS MUST BE USED. Refer to Parts Application Chart for parts selection.

    2. Install the Special Service Tools 307-333 and 307-334 (1 each) onto the main control (Figure 1).

    3. Install a new service Separator Plate (refer to chart), make sure that the new plate has hole # 50 deleted, install the three (3) screw and tighten to 7 N.m (62 Lb-in).

    4. Install a new separator plate to case gasket (7C155) if installing the 7A008 style separator plate. DO NOT INSTALL a 7C155 GASKET IF USING A 7Z490 Separator Plate.

    5. Remove the special service tools.

    6. Continue to follow the assembly steps as found in the assembly of sub-assembled, main control valve body.

    7. Reinstall the main control by continuing to follow the Installation steps listed in the Workshop Manual, In-Vehicle Service, Fluid Pan And Gasket Procedure.




    Parts Block
    SUPERSEDES: 02-8-2
    WARRANTY STATUS: Eligible Under The Provisions Of Bumper To Bumper Warranty Coverage


    7A100 42

    OASIS CODES: 501000, 502000, 503000
  • I've posted on here many times for several years about the Explorer Automatic Transmissions.
    In a nut shell, they are really bad in the V6 engine models. I know it's too late for you now, but the best advice I can give you is that if you buy another explorer, be sure you get one with the V8 Engine, because they come with a much better and stronger automatic transmission (4R70W), which is nearly the same as the AODE. If you have the V6 with Automatic, the BEST thing you can do to it now is take VERY GOOD care of it, service it every 30,000 miles with a complete fluid flush and change, new filter, new pan gasket. If it starts to act up, do this same service every YEAR. You should be able to get 150,000 miles out of the original transmission. I got 155,000 out of the original automatic tranny in my 1993 Explorer with the V6 4.0L OHV Pushrod engine. I Drove it very hard, but it was no accident, it was very well serviced, completely flushed at each service. I still drive it, and very hard at that. The Hard driving does not hurt it as much as the contamination that builds up inside the transmission. Once a Bearing or Bearing Race or Bushing or Thrust Washer starts to fail, it will continue to create metal particles that will contaminate and wear out everything else in the transmission and torque converter. That is why they are so expensive to repair, almost all the parts inside and the torque converter need to be replaced.
    Best advice I can give:
     1st Buy the right transmission, buy a V8 powered Explorer.
     2nd Maintenance is Key, do complete & regular maintenance.
    Good Luck
  • Hi 2000 XLS will hit 30000 miles this week.

    In the recent past, I had the tranny replaced (21000 miles), coolant system serviced and fuel/air filters changed (24000), oil change with Mobil 1 (26700), and tires rotated (28500 - odd interval, but had a tire leaking).

    What will I be due for @ 30000? I was thinking the serpentine belt and power steering maintenance. Anything else?
  • In *my* opinion, every 30,00 miles: 1) spark plugs (controversial, but it's what I've done); 2) PCV valve; 3) coolant flush and tranny fluid change(sounds like you've done this); 4) fuel filter change; 5) Chevron Techron fuel additive every 3000 miles (my preference); 6) power steering fluid flush and change; 7) steering, suspension and brake inspections every 6 months after the first 30,000 miles; 8) Zaino Bros. car polish system when vehicle is first purchased, then every 6 months there after; 9) remove winter wiper blades in the Spring. (Some of my ideas come from the guys at NPR's "Car Talk" radio show and web site).
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    You can check The Edmunds Maintenance Guide for service recommendations.

    Steve, Host
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    for chunking or a number of cracks that cross more than a couple ribs, or any kind of longitudinal defects, but until you see issues like that, the belt should be good to run. by around 40 to 50,000 miles it's almost inevitable that you'll start to see a little damage accumulate to the belt.

    it would be a good idea to replace the brake and PS fluids to prevent suspended stuff from causing damage... water and micro-rust in the case of brake fluid, which absorbs water from the air... minor seal shedding, floating metal dust, etc. in the PS system. but unless you see a major color difference from new fluids in a drip test or by shining a light through 'em, it isn't mandated.

    but so far, you're right on track with the exception of the premature tranny failure.
  • gregb5gregb5 Posts: 82
    The 2002 and 2003 Explorers all have the 5R55W transmission in them. I had trouble with mine when new; it shifted roughly like many did, but the TSB did not help mine. They took it out and replaced the valve body; that didn't help. Then it started to fail to engage reverse or drive from PARK; it would take about five seconds then SLAM into gear. They replaced the trans completely at about 6K miles with a new one pulled from the assembly line in Louisville. Since then it has had the software updated once and is fine now.
  • Ford service shops should routinely inspect the serpentine belt during every so-called "multi-point inspection", which they are supposed to perform even during routine oil changes. In addition, the service invoice should document that the multipoint inspection was performed, and what, if anything, was found to be of concern, and that the owner was duly informed as to any needed repairs. It's also worth reminding ourselves of just how important it is (for a variety of reasons) to keep a meticulous file of all service encounters, complaints, and records.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    by looking the car over yourself periodically. not saying that the dealer makes mistakes, only humans do that... :-D
  • Finally fixed the radio display problem I've had for the past year. As several others have experienced, my radio display on my 98 Explorer quit while the radio continued to work. Was about to purchase a new radio when I came across a web site,, which outlined the repair.

    Was actually quite easy and took all of 15 minutes Resoldered/added solder to several points on the power supply and I now have the display working again. Just note that the person running the site asks for a $10 donation which gets you a detailed set of instructions on how to complete the repair.

    Just something to consider, was a lot cheaper than having Ford repair or replace.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    for his information, have not needed to use it yet. the $10 is the site minimum... in the old shareware tradition, if you use it, he would like you to pony up another $10.

    it's an old story of not getting the heat out. retained heat of operation is the number one cause of everything failing. I can't begin to tell you how many electronic or mechanical things I have fixed just by looking for the hot spot and correcting any and all apparent heat damage. in particular, in a previous career, we had over a hundred terminal servers that went wonkus periodically, and the vendor couldn't reliably fix 'em at $470 a chance. I finally cracked a few cases, noted that I could see on top of the 80186 chips a clear image of the mold marks on the BOTTOM of the chip, and ordered up a few. case closed, at $16 each. Sytek never had anybody over there who worked with tubes, I guess, nor took the time to figure out if the 80186s couldn't change modes, they couldn't process user data.

    there is a well-known maker of DSL equipment whose fast trunk connection cards run so hot they melt the insulation off the coaxes that connect them. and they wondered why those cards failed a lot...

    same issue as so many times, you can't get the heat out, it kills stuff.
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