Home Model Specific Issues Ford Explorer Problems – Are They Still Worth Considering?

Ford Explorer Problems – Are They Still Worth Considering?

by Kelvin Yates

Despite its popularity, the sheer number of Ford Explorer problems continues to paint a worrying trend. In this guide, we’ll be assessing the reliability of the Ford Explorer, as well as looking at some of the most common issues you might encounter. We’ll even guide you on what you can do about these Ford Explorer problems, and what to look out for.

Ford’s overall theme is reliable vehicles made in their home nation, America. They mainly rose to popularity due to their durable, family-friendly SUVs but have now shifted to mainstream cars. However, they still come out with amazing SUVs such as the Ford Explorer… Barring all the Ford Explorer problems.

The Ford Explorer was brought to the market in 1990 to replace the Ford Bronco II, one of the brand’s compact SUVs that boasted an impressive off-road capability. According to Ford’s plan, the Explorer was supposed to have the design and stability of the Bronco II but become more of a family-oriented vehicle that would be suited to everyday commutes, not just off-road adventures.

Ford Explorer Overview & History

When purchasing a Ford Explorer, you will get bombarded with all sorts of information. The mid-size SUV has existed for over 30 years now and has had its fair share of scandals. The Ford Explorer problems became a major discussion amongst the car enthusiasts of the world, and rightfully so.

For a model that was released under a company like Ford, the vehicle wasn’t satisfactory to many. It lacked in performance and power, breaking down sooner than expected. That being said, not all models displayed worrying signs. If you’re looking for a family-focused SUV, the Ford Explorer could be a great choice – given you choose a decent model.

Some years definitely got the shorter end of the stick and we wouldn’t want that happening to you. All six generations have their pros and cons, and we will break them down for you. Despite its amazing build, the Ford Explorer disappointed in many categories. The most common problems included exterior body issues, transmission issues, and transmission failure.

The line of cars was reported to show transmission lunging and jolting, with many claiming that the SUVs wouldn’t engage gears at all. For starters, the transmission can jump into gear, giving the car a shake as well as an unstable shift. As the transmission shifts too fast, the car “jerks” or accelerates swiftly sometimes due to inadequate transmission fluid.

Ford Explorer Reliability

How to know if your Ford Explorer problems are the ones we are talking about? The car jumps gears without warning, slips in and out of it while you’re driving, and doesn’t let you go into gear. Take these as signs that the transmission has failed or is failing.

The second most common issue reported by owners of Ford Explorers is significantly less severe but still noteworthy. Warping and bubbling body paint became a major concern for those people. Granted, these issues make the car look shabby and could lead to rust, but they’re definitely less intense than a failed transmission.

The cracked panels and bubbling paint issue are fairly prevalent across users of all models. However, with the newer models – ones between the years 2017 to 2020, there has been a rise in complaints.

Owners say the bubbling and cracking are out of control around the engine bay and on the hood. The aluminum hoods featured in these models corrode below the paint, creating bubbles in the paint layer or peeling it.

Exterior body problems would account for one-third of the Ford Explorer problems reported. This primarily involved cracked panels, causing many owners to wait for the company to issue a recall. While some users chose to replace the panels, some couldn’t bother to take the high road and went to press charges against Ford for the poor build.


Ford Explorer Problems

Apart from the exterior body as well as transmission issues, the Ford Explorer is plagued by a handful of other problems. These can cause parts to malfunction within your SUV. As with any issue arising with a vehicle, these shortcomings have to be identified, diagnosed, and fixed timely.

Problems #1: Heater Stuck

Your vehicle is getting hot – it’s fired up and not in a good way. Reports claim that the Ford Explorer has a tendency of overheating as the heater gets stuck on the highest setting. As the heater blend door fails, the heater fails to function properly. This actuator controls the temperature inside the car, so you can imagine what would happen when that fails.

Symptoms of this problem are the incapacity to set the temperature and a clicking sound resonating from the actuator motor. In this case, get the heater blend door checked quickly to detect early signs of error. If it’s completely broken, replace it. A heater replacement cost could set you back anywhere between $570 to $930.


When the heater in the Ford Explorer gets stuck, it’s not just a mild inconvenience; it’s a glaring issue. Signs that the heater is malfunctioning include:

  • Inability to Adjust Temperature – No matter how much you fiddle with the controls, the temperature remains stubbornly constant.
  • Persistent Clicking Noise – A distinct clicking sound emanates from the dashboard, particularly around the actuator motor area.
  • Excessive Cabin Heat – Even on colder days, the inside of your car feels like a sauna, with the heat turned up to the max.

Causes and Reasons

The underlying issue with the Ford Explorer’s heater problem stems from the heater blend door, a crucial component in managing cabin temperature. Here are some root causes:

  • Blend Door Failure – This is the main culprit. The blend door, which is responsible for mixing hot and cold air, can get stuck or fail entirely.
  • Faulty Actuator Motor – The motor that moves the blend door can malfunction, leading to heating issues.
  • Age and Wear – Like other car parts, these components degrade over time, especially with frequent use.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Diagnosing these common Ford Explorer problems involve a step-by-step process:

  1. Listen for the Clicking Noise – If you can hear it, the actuator motor is likely the problem.
  2. Check the Blend Door – This involves getting under the dashboard. Move the controls and see if the blend door responds. If not, it’s probably stuck or broken.
  3. Temperature Test – If the car constantly blasts hot air, regardless of the setting, it’s a clear sign of a malfunctioning blend door or actuator motor.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those who are handy with tools and have some knowledge about car mechanics, there are some fixes you can try:

  • Actuator Motor Replacement – Purchase a new actuator motor and replace the faulty one. Make sure to disconnect the battery first!
  • Lubricate the Blend Door – Sometimes, the blend door just needs some lubrication to move freely. Use a safe and car-compatible lubricant.
  • Resetting the HVAC System – Disconnect the battery for about 10 minutes. This might reset the HVAC system and potentially fix minor glitches.

However, if you’re unsure, it’s always best to seek professional help.

Repair/Replacement Costs

When it’s time to get your heater fixed, here’s a breakdown of potential costs:

  • Blend Door Replacement – This typically costs between $350 to $500.
  • Actuator Motor Replacement – A new actuator motor can cost anywhere from $50 to $150, depending on the brand and quality.
  • Labor Costs – Depending on the complexity of the issue and the mechanic’s rates, labor costs can range from $120 to $280.
  • Diagnostic Fees – Many mechanics charge a fee, usually around $50 to $100, to diagnose the exact problem. Some might waive this if you choose to get the repair done with them.

In total, you’re looking at a potential cost ranging from $570 to $930, as previously mentioned, but the exact amount can vary based on the nature of the issue and the mechanic’s fees.

Problems #2: Rough Idle And Stalling

Rough idle and stalling are amongst the Ford Explorer problems that can damage the car severely. The intake manifold O-ring gaskets could start to leak and thus create a vacuum leak. By design, the O-ring gaskets seal off multiple parts, forming the perfect lock.

In the event of a vacuum leak, air can enter the fuel and engine systems easily. The engine can’t cope with the higher volume of air and starts to break down. You have to spend around $700 to $950 to get intake manifold gaskets.


Driving a Ford Explorer with a rough idle or stalling issue is neither comfortable nor safe. If you’re encountering this problem, look out for these signs:

  • Shaky Drive – The vehicle shudders or vibrates noticeably, especially when idling.
  • Engine Stalling – The engine unexpectedly turns off, especially during stops or when slowing down.
  • Engine Misfires – You might feel occasional jerks or hesitations during driving.
  • Unusual Engine Sounds – A hissing or sucking noise could indicate a vacuum leak.

Causes and Reasons

Rough idling and stalling in the Ford Explorer primarily originate from vacuum leaks. Let’s break down the causes:

  • Faulty Intake Manifold O-ring Gaskets – These gaskets seal off multiple engine parts. If they deteriorate or get damaged, they can cause a vacuum leak.
  • Worn-out Vacuum Hoses – With time and wear, vacuum hoses can crack or break, leading to air leaks.
  • Failed PCV Valve – A malfunctioning Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve can also cause vacuum issues.
  • General Wear and Tear – The age of the vehicle and frequent use can lead to the natural degradation of engine components.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Identifying a vacuum leak can be a bit tricky, but here’s a methodical approach:

  1. Visual Inspection – Look for obvious signs of damage or wear in the vacuum hoses and gaskets.
  2. Listening Closely – A hissing sound from the engine compartment often signals a vacuum leak.
  3. Smoke Test – Professionals use this method. Introducing smoke into the intake system, they look for where it escapes to pinpoint the leak.
  4. Spray Test – Using a can of carb cleaner, spray around the intake manifold. If the engine’s RPM changes, there’s likely a leak nearby.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

If you’re a DIY enthusiast, there are some fixes you might consider:

  • Replace O-ring Gaskets – Buy quality O-ring gaskets and replace the damaged ones after disconnecting the battery.
  • Vacuum Hose Replacement – If the hoses are damaged, you can purchase and replace them.
  • Check the PCV Valve – If it’s malfunctioning, a replacement is fairly simple and can be done at home.

However, if you’re not familiar with car repairs, it’s recommended to consult a mechanic.

Repair/Replacement Costs

If your Ford Explorer requires professional intervention, here’s a cost breakdown:

  • Intake Manifold O-ring Gaskets – Typically cost between $50 to $150 for parts.
  • Vacuum Hose Replacement – Depending on the extent of damage, hoses can range from $20 to $60.
  • Labor Costs – Factoring in the time and complexity of the task, labor charges can range between $250 to $500.
  • Diagnostic Fees – A fee ranging from $50 to $100 might be charged to identify the issue. Some mechanics might forgo this fee if you avail of their repair services.

Considering all factors, you might end up spending between $700 to $950 for the repair, in line with the previously mentioned estimate.

Ford Explorer Problems

Problems #3: Cracking Plastic Intake Manifold

When the plastic intake manifold cracks, coolant starts to leak from the car. The 1997 to 2001 models of Ford Explorer are the worst cases of this issue, featuring a plastic intake manifold irritatingly vulnerable to overheating. Even if you’re driving 5 miles under the speed limit, the coolant could leak and trigger the check engine light.

The leak may be due to a factory defect as well, making a crack on the coolant passage’s top. A car that leaks coolant for an extended period will show the engine overheating frequently (like when your car overheat when AC is on), especially when it’s idling.

Unfortunately, there is no fix available for this issue so you have to replace the intake manifold. To repair this, you have to pay between $70 to $100.


A cracked plastic intake manifold in a Ford Explorer is not only a design flaw but can also lead to various issues in the vehicle. Signs indicating this problem include:

  • Coolant Leakage – Puddles or spots of coolant may be visible under the car or on the engine surface.
  • Illuminated Check Engine Light – This light might come on due to the engine detecting the leakage.
  • Overheating Engine – The temperature gauge may show higher readings, and you might notice steam from under the hood.
  • Poor Engine Performance – Loss of power, rough idling, or engine misfires can result from coolant leaks.

Causes and Reasons

The problem stems from the intake manifold’s design and other related factors:

  • Design Flaw – The 1997 to 2001 models come with a plastic intake manifold which is not resilient against heat.
  • Extended Vehicle Use – Prolonged use can cause the plastic to degrade faster, leading to cracks.
  • Factory Defect – Some manifolds come with inherent weaknesses, which makes them more susceptible to cracking, especially at the coolant passage’s top.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

If you suspect a cracked intake manifold, here are some steps to confirm these Ford Explorer problems:

  1. Visual Inspection – Look at the intake manifold for any visible cracks, especially in the plastic areas.
  2. Check Coolant Levels – If the coolant level drops frequently, it might be leaking from the manifold.
  3. Monitor Engine Temperature – A consistently high reading suggests coolant loss.
  4. Engine Performance – A decline in engine performance can also be a red flag.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

While there’s no direct “fix” for a cracked manifold, replacement is the best option:

  • Intake Manifold Replacement – If you’re familiar with car mechanics, you can purchase a new manifold and replace the faulty one. Remember to drain the coolant first and follow all safety precautions.
  • Coolant Refill – Once the manifold is replaced, ensure to refill the coolant and check for any other leaks.

Nonetheless, those uncomfortable with DIY repairs should consult a mechanic.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Fixing a cracked intake manifold will primarily involve replacement costs:

  • Intake Manifold Replacement Part – A new manifold can range between $50 to $80.
  • Labor Costs – Replacing an intake manifold can be labor-intensive. Expect charges between $20 to $50, depending on the mechanic and the region.
  • Coolant Refill – You might spend an additional $10 to $20 on fresh coolant.

Given these expenses, the total repair costs would indeed range from $70 to $100, consistent with the earlier mentioned figure. Always consider getting a couple of quotes before proceeding with the repair.

Problems #4: Worn Timing Chain Cassettes

If you’re hearing a rattling noise emit from your car’s engine, this could be indicative of a worn and damaged timing chain cassette. This is one of the cheaper fixes. You simply have to install an updated tensioner and timing cassette. A general diagnosis of this issue would cost about $90 to $120.


A worn timing chain cassette in your Ford Explorer can manifest in several noticeable ways:

  • Rattling Noise – The most common and distinct symptom is a rattling or chattering sound from the engine, especially during startup.
  • Engine Misfires – The engine might misfire due to the timing being off.
  • Reduced Engine Performance – You might experience a decline in the car’s acceleration and overall responsiveness.
  • Check Engine Light – An illuminated check engine light can be triggered by timing issues related to the worn cassette.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors contribute to the wear of timing chain cassettes:

  • Extended Vehicle Use – Over time, the continuous motion of the timing chain causes wear on the cassette.
  • Inadequate Lubrication – If the engine oil isn’t changed regularly, or if there’s poor oil circulation, it can lead to faster wear.
  • Manufacturing Defects – In some cases, the cassette may have manufacturing issues making it more susceptible to wear.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To determine if the timing chain cassette is indeed the problem, consider the following steps:

  1. Listen Closely – A worn cassette often produces a rattling sound, especially when the engine is cold or during startup.
  2. Engine Diagnostic Test – Using an OBD-II scanner can help identify timing-related issues that might be linked to the cassette.
  3. Physical Inspection – While more invasive, directly inspecting the timing chain and cassette can reveal visible wear or damage.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those adept with car repairs, a few DIY steps can be undertaken:

  • Replace Timing Chain Cassette – Purchase a quality cassette and replace the old one. Ensure you have the right tools and follow safety guidelines.
  • Install an Updated Tensioner – Alongside the cassette, installing a new tensioner can alleviate strain on the chain and prolong its life.
  • Oil Change – Regularly changing the engine oil ensures good lubrication and can prevent premature wear.

However, if unsure, always seek a professional mechanic’s advice.

Repair/Replacement Costs

While this issue might be among the cheaper ones to resolve, it’s essential to account for all potential costs:

  • Timing Chain Cassette Part – The cassette itself might cost between $50 to $80.
  • Tensioner – An updated tensioner can range from $20 to $40.
  • Labor Costs – If choosing a professional service, labor charges can vary but might range from $20 to $50.
  • Diagnostic Fees – A general diagnosis, as mentioned, can cost around $90 to $120. Some mechanics may waive this fee if you opt for their repair service.

In total, when factoring in both diagnosis and repair, you might end up spending anywhere from $180 to $290. Always make sure to compare prices across different service providers for the best deal.

Problems #5: Vehicle Structure Anomalies

Ford Explorer has occasionally exhibited structural issues. A prominent concern revolves around malfunctioning door latches. This malfunction triggered frequent and unwarranted “door ajar” alarms, causing undue stress, especially to parents with children buckled up in the back.

While these alerts proved to be technical glitches, they were no less distressing. Additionally, some customers reported that the liftgate to the cargo area opened spontaneously when they were near the car, even when the keyless entry system was disengaged.


Ford Explorer owners and drivers should be vigilant about the following signs indicating potential structural anomalies:

  • False “Door Ajar” Alarms – Frequent and unwarranted warnings that suggest a door is not completely shut when it actually is.
  • Unresponsive Door Latches – Doors that don’t close properly or pop open unexpectedly, even if they seem to latch initially.
  • Spontaneous Liftgate Opening – The rear liftgate or hatch spontaneously opening, especially when standing near the vehicle, without any direct user input.
  • Illuminated Dashboard Warnings – Lights or messages on the dashboard related to doors or the liftgate.
  • Unexpected Battery Drain – Since the “door ajar” alarm can leave lights on, it may result in the battery draining faster than usual.

Causes and Reasons

Several underlying factors can contribute to these structural issues:

  • Faulty Door Latch Mechanisms – Wear and tear or manufacturing defects can lead to malfunctioning door latches.
  • Electrical Glitches – The vehicle’s electronic system might misread door latch statuses, leading to false alarms.
  • Defective Keyless Entry System – The system might malfunction, causing unexpected behavior like the spontaneous opening of the liftgate.
  • Environmental Factors – In some cases, extreme temperatures or moisture can affect the door latch mechanism.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To ascertain the root of these structural anomalies:

  1. Physical Inspection – Check each door latch manually to see if there’s any visible issue or if they feel different than usual.
  2. Electronic System Scan – A diagnostic tool can be used to read any faults or errors related to the vehicle’s doors and liftgate.
  3. Keyless Entry System Test – For vehicles equipped with this feature, try engaging and disengaging it multiple times to see if it’s working correctly.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

While some of these issues may require professional intervention, there are a few things car owners can try:

  • Door Latch Cleaning – Sometimes, cleaning the latch mechanism can solve minor sticking or response issues.
  • Battery Reset – Disconnecting and reconnecting the battery can sometimes reset electronic glitches causing false alarms.
  • Inspect Door Seals – Ensure that rubber seals around doors aren’t damaged or misaligned, which can affect proper closing.

For complex electrical or mechanical issues, it’s advisable to consult a mechanic.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Addressing these structural anomalies can involve varying costs:

  • Door Latch Replacement – Depending on the make and model year, a door latch can cost anywhere from $50 to $150.
  • Electronic Diagnosis – Professional electronic system diagnostics might range from $80 to $120.
  • Labor Costs – Depending on the complexity of the repair, labor can cost between $50 to $200.
  • Keyless Entry System Repair – If this system is faulty, repair costs can start from $100 and go upwards, depending on the issue’s extent.

As always, it’s beneficial to get multiple quotes to ensure you’re receiving a fair price for any repairs.

Problems #6: Timing Chain Failures

While a rattling noise from the engine often points to a worn timing chain cassette, there have been notable instances of timing chain failures, especially in Explorers powered by the 4.0-liter V6 SOHC engine from 1997-2010. Notoriously, these engines had frail timing chain guides.

Though Ford made revisions by 2003, newer models still have plastic guides, and this issue can resurface after 100,000 miles.


For Ford Explorers, especially those with the 4.0-liter V6 SOHC engine, look out for the following symptoms indicating potential timing chain failures:

  • Rattling Noise on Start-up – This is the most telling sign, especially during cold starts.
  • Engine Misfires or Stalling – The engine might not run smoothly due to the timing being out of sync.
  • Check Engine Light Illumination – This can be triggered by a variety of engine-related issues, including timing chain problems.
  • Reduced Engine Performance – Your Explorer might not accelerate as quickly or feel less responsive during driving.
  • Engine Vibration – You might feel unusual vibrations stemming from the engine area.

Causes and Reasons

The underlying causes and reasons for these timing chain failures include:

  • Frail Timing Chain Guides – Especially prevalent in models from 1997-2010, these plastic guides are prone to wear and breakage.
  • Continuous Engine Use – As the miles add up, the stress on the timing chain and its components increases.
  • Infrequent Oil Changes – Oil provides necessary lubrication to engine parts. Old or dirty oil can accelerate wear on the timing chain and guides.
  • Manufacturing Material – Even though Ford made revisions, the continued use of plastic for the guides in newer models makes them susceptible to wear.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To pin down timing chain failures:

  1. Listen to the Engine – Pay attention to unusual sounds, especially during start-up.
  2. Engine Diagnostic Test – Using a diagnostic tool can identify timing chain-related errors or other engine issues.
  3. Physical Inspection – In some cases, a direct inspection of the timing chain and its components may be necessary, although this can be more invasive.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

While timing chain replacement can be complex, if you’re mechanically inclined, consider the following:

  • Timing Chain Kit Replacement – Kits are available that come with a new chain, guides, and other related components.
  • Regular Oil Changes – Fresh oil ensures the timing chain and related parts are well-lubricated, potentially prolonging their lifespan.
  • Regular Engine Check-ups – This can help in catching issues early before they become significant problems.

However, given the complexity, seeking professional help is often the best course of action.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Dealing with timing chain failures can be an expensive affair:

  • Timing Chain Kit – A comprehensive kit might range from $100 to $250.
  • Labor Costs – Due to the complexity, labor can be significant, potentially ranging from $500 to $800 or more.
  • Engine Diagnostic Fee – Checking for engine-related issues typically costs between $80 to $120, though this might be waived if you get the repair done at the same facility.

Given the wide-ranging potential costs, it’s crucial to shop around and gather multiple estimates before committing to a service provider.

Problems #7: Water Pump Leaks

The fifth-generation Ford Explorer equipped with Duratec and the turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 engines faced catastrophic engine malfunctions due to internal water pump leaks.


For the fifth-generation Ford Explorer, especially those with Duratec and turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 engines, the following symptoms might suggest internal water pump leaks:

  • Coolant Level Decrease – You might notice the coolant reservoir depleting faster than usual without visible external leaks.
  • Engine Overheating – The engine temperature might spike more frequently.
  • Steam from Under the Hood – This happens due to coolant evaporating from the engine’s hot surfaces.
  • Coolant Odor – A sweet smell is often associated with antifreeze and might be more prominent when the engine is hot.
  • Milky Engine Oil – This indicates coolant has mixed with the engine oil.

Causes and Reasons

Internal water pump leaks in these models can arise due to:

  • Worn Seals and Gaskets – Over time, the seals and gaskets ensure the water pump’s proper function can degrade.
  • Corrosion – The internal components of the water pump can corrode, leading to leaks.
  • Defective Water Pump Design – The design of the water pump in these specific models might not be as robust, leading to early failures.
  • Thermal Stress – Repeated heating and cooling cycles can stress the water pump components.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To ascertain internal water pump leaks:

  1. Coolant Level Check – Monitor the coolant reservoir regularly.
  2. Engine Oil Inspection – Check the oil for a milky appearance which indicates coolant contamination.
  3. Pressure Test – A coolant system pressure test can pinpoint leaks, even internal ones.
  4. Professional Inspection – Given the pump’s internal nature, a mechanic might be better equipped to diagnose issues.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

Addressing water pump leaks can be tricky, but if you’re up for it:

  • Water Pump Replacement – Consider replacing the entire pump rather than trying to repair it.
  • Coolant System Flush – Once replaced, flush the coolant system to ensure no contaminants remain.
  • Regular Inspections – Periodic checks can help identify issues before they worsen.

However, given the engine’s intricate nature and the pump’s internal location, professional intervention might be most appropriate.

Repair/Replacement Costs

The financial implications of addressing internal water pump leaks are:

  • Water Pump Kit – Depending on the brand and quality, a kit might range from $150 to $300.
  • Labor Costs – Given the involved nature of the repair, labor might vary between $300 to $600.
  • Coolant Replacement – New coolant might add an extra $20 to $50.
  • Engine Diagnostic Fee – Most workshops charge between $80 to $120 for a thorough check, but this might be waived if repairs are carried out at the same place.

It’s always a good strategy to obtain multiple quotes and ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

Problems #8: Power Steering Failure

Imagine your vehicle becoming immensely hard to steer, especially at low speeds. This is a grim reality some Explorer owners faced due to power steering failures. Indicators include grinding sounds from the steering wheel or complete power steering loss. Prolonged issues with the steering rack can exacerbate this problem.


Owners of the Ford Explorer experiencing power steering failures might notice:

  • Heavy Steering – The steering wheel becomes considerably harder to turn, especially at slower speeds.
  • Steering Wheel Noise – Distinctive grinding, whining, or moaning sounds emanate from the steering wheel when turned.
  • Steering Wheel Vibration – You might feel an unusual vibration in the wheel while driving.
  • Warning Lights – The dashboard may display a power steering warning light or a check engine light.
  • Erratic Steering Behavior – The steering might feel unresponsive or loose at times.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors might lead to power steering failures in the Explorer:

  • Fluid Leak – Low power steering fluid levels, often due to leaks, can affect the system’s performance.
  • Faulty Power Steering Pump – The pump circulates fluid, and if it fails, the steering becomes compromised.
  • Damaged Steering Rack – The steering rack, pivotal in the power steering system, can wear out over time.
  • Defective Drive Belt – A worn or broken belt can prevent the power steering pump from working.
  • Electronic Failures – Modern systems rely on sensors and electronics; their malfunction can lead to steering issues.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To diagnose power steering failures:

  1. Fluid Level and Quality Check – Inspect power steering fluid levels and their condition. Cloudy or dirty fluid might indicate contamination.
  2. Belt Inspection – Check the drive belt for signs of wear, cracks, or misalignment.
  3. Listen to the Pump – A noisy pump might suggest a malfunction or low fluid levels.
  4. Professional Diagnosis – A mechanic can utilize specialized tools, like a power steering analyzer, to determine the exact issue.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those looking to address power steering problems:

  • Fluid Top-Up or Change – Refilling or replacing the power steering fluid can sometimes resolve minor issues.
  • Belt Replacement – If the belt is damaged, consider replacing it. It’s relatively straightforward and can be done with basic tools.
  • Pump Replacement – For a failed pump, replacement is usually the best option, though this is a more involved process.

However, due to the system’s complexity, some repairs might be best left to professionals.

Repair/Replacement Costs

When budgeting for power steering repairs:

  • Fluid Replacement – A simple fluid change might range between $50 to $150.
  • Belt Replacement – This could cost between $50 to $200, inclusive of labor.
  • Power Steering Pump – Depending on the model, a new pump might be in the ballpark of $150 to $500, excluding labor.
  • Labor Costs – Depending on the repair’s complexity, labor can range from $100 to $400.
  • Steering Rack Replacement – If the steering rack is the culprit, replacement costs, including labor, can range from $500 to $1,200.

As always, obtaining multiple quotes ensures you’re not overpaying for repairs.

Problems #9: Interior Water Leakage

Several owners of the fifth-generation Ford Explorer (2011-2019) reported water leaking into the vehicle’s cabin. The seat belt in the third row often emerged as the culprit, leading to water dripping into the trunk or even causing floods.


For Ford Explorer owners grappling with interior water leakage, the following signs can serve as red flags:

  • Wet Floor Mats or Carpet – The most telltale sign is discovering dampness or pools of water on the vehicle’s floor.
  • Moldy or Musty Odor – Accumulated moisture can lead to mold growth, producing a distinct smell.
  • Water Stains – You may notice discoloration or water marks on the ceiling, door panels, or seats.
  • Fogged Windows – Excess moisture inside the car can cause the windows to fog up more than usual.
  • Damp Seat Belts – Particularly in the third row, the seat belts might feel wet or show signs of water damage.

Causes and Reasons

Here are the main causes of water leakage inside the Ford Explorer:

  • Faulty Seals – The door, window, or sunroof seals might deteriorate, letting water seep inside.
  • Blocked Drain Tubes – Sunroofs have drain tubes that can get clogged, leading to backups and leaks.
  • Damaged Door Membranes – These barriers prevent water from entering the cabin, but can fail over time.
  • Third Row Seat Belt Assembly – As noted, some Explorers have issues with water ingress around this area.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To identify the source of the leak:

  1. Visual Inspection – Start with a thorough examination of the interior, looking for signs of water entry points.
  2. Hose Test – Douse the vehicle with a hose, segment by segment, to identify leaky areas.
  3. Check Drain Tubes – If the car has a sunroof, inspect the drain tubes for clogs.
  4. Door and Window Seals – Examine the seals for signs of wear, damage, or gaps.
  5. Seek Professional Help – If the source remains elusive, a mechanic or body shop can conduct a more in-depth assessment.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those inclined to address the issue themselves:

  • Seal Replacement – If a particular seal is identified as faulty, it can be replaced.
  • Clear Drain Tubes – Use compressed air or a thin wire to clear out clogged sunroof drain tubes.
  • Silicone Sealant – As a temporary fix, apply a sealant to minor gaps or cracks in seals.
  • Replace Door Membrane – If it’s damaged, consider sourcing a new one and replacing it.

However, for extensive leakage or damage, professional intervention might be necessary.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Budgeting for water leakage repairs:

  • Seal Replacement – Depending on the specific seal, costs can range from $20 to $150.
  • Drain Tube Cleaning – A simple cleaning could cost around $50 to $100.
  • Door Membrane Replacement – This might set you back $50 to $200, depending on the model.
  • Professional Diagnosis – A thorough inspection can range from $100 to $300.
  • Labor Costs – Depending on the fix’s intricacy, labor might range from $50 to $300.

Securing multiple estimates is always a good strategy to ensure cost-effectiveness.

Problems #10: All-Wheel Drive PTU Malfunctions

The Power Transfer Unit (PTU), integral to the all-wheel-drive system of the fifth-generation (2011-2019) Ford Explorer, has seen its share of issues. Although Ford states that the PTU uses lifetime fluids and doesn’t require service, many owners have reported PTU failures at alarmingly low mileage.

The PTU fluid gets compromised due to its proximity to the engine and the catalytic converter, failing to lubricate the unit’s gears and components effectively.


Ford Explorer owners suspecting PTU issues, a few symptoms are telltale:

  • Unusual Noises – Clunking, grinding, or whining noises coming from beneath the vehicle, especially during turns.
  • Fluid Leaks – A buildup of dark, thick fluid or small puddles beneath the car.
  • Performance Issues – Difficulty in handling, especially when navigating corners.
  • Dashboard Warning Lights – All-wheel drive or drivetrain malfunction indicator lights may be illuminated.
  • Burning Smell – Overheating of the PTU can lead to a distinct burnt odor.

Causes and Reasons

Here are the primary reasons leading to PTU malfunctions:

  • Overheating – The PTU’s location near the engine and the catalytic converter makes it vulnerable to heat, degrading the fluid.
  • Extended Use – Despite being termed as “lifetime,” PTU fluids deteriorate over time and lose their lubricating properties.
  • Poor Ventilation – The PTU may not vent excessive heat well, leading to fluid breakdown.
  • Manufacturer Design Flaws – Some argue the design itself could be more efficient in terms of heat management and fluid preservation.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To pinpoint PTU issues:

  1. Visual Inspection – Check for leaks and assess the PTU’s overall condition.
  2. Drive Test – Evaluate performance during turns and listen for abnormal sounds.
  3. Fluid Check – Examine the PTU fluid’s consistency and color. Although it’s deemed “lifetime,” it can still degrade.
  4. Consult a Mechanic – PTU issues can be intricate, making expert opinions invaluable.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those looking to address PTU issues:

  • Fluid Change – Though deemed “lifetime,” changing the fluid might alleviate some issues, especially if it’s degraded.
  • Seal Replacements – If leaks are spotted, replacing the necessary seals can help.
  • Cooling Solutions – Installing aftermarket cooling units or solutions might prevent excessive heating.

However, considering the PTU’s complexity, some issues may necessitate professional intervention.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Budgeting for PTU-related repairs:

  • Fluid Change – Costs can range from $100 to $200, including labor.
  • Seal Replacement – Depending on the seal, you might spend between $150 to $300.
  • Full PTU Replacement – If the entire unit is compromised, replacements can range from $1,000 to $2,500, inclusive of parts and labor.
  • Professional Diagnosis – Getting an expert opinion can cost from $100 to $200.

As always, obtaining multiple quotes and thoroughly researching the issue can lead to more informed and cost-effective decisions.

Problems #11: Hood Paint Deterioration

Owners of many fifth-generation Ford Explorers raised concerns about their hood paint bubbling and flaking. The lightweight aluminum hood of the Explorer, while resistant to rust, is susceptible to elemental damage. Once corrosion sets in, paint starts to bubble or peel, diminishing the vehicle’s aesthetic appeal.


Explorer owners with hood paint deterioration might observe:

  • Paint Bubbles – Small to medium-sized bubbles appear on the hood’s surface.
  • Flaking Paint – Sections of paint chipping off, exposing the underlying metal.
  • Discolored Patches – Areas on the hood turning grayish-white, indicating potential aluminum oxidation.
  • Surface Roughness – The hood feels rough or uneven to the touch.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors contribute to the deterioration of hood paint:

  • Environmental Factors – Excessive exposure to the sun, rain, or salty conditions can accelerate paint degradation.
  • Aluminum Oxidation – Unlike steel, when aluminum corrodes, it forms a white powdery substance rather than reddish rust. This can push against the paint, leading to bubbling.
  • Faulty Primer – An inadequate or poorly-applied primer can lead to decreased paint adhesion.
  • Impact Damage – Small stones or debris hitting the hood can chip the paint, exposing the metal to elements.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To determine the extent of paint damage:

  1. Visual Inspection – Check the hood for the aforementioned symptoms.
  2. Touch Test – Feel the surface for unevenness or rough patches.
  3. Expert Consultation – Take the vehicle to a body shop or paint specialist for a comprehensive assessment.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those inclined to tackle this problem themselves:

  • Touch-up Paint – Use a matching touch-up paint for small affected areas.
  • Sand and Repaint – For larger affected sections, sand the hood to the metal, apply a corrosion-resistant primer, and repaint.
  • Clear Coat – Applying a protective clear coat after repainting can provide additional protection against elements.

However, paint jobs require precision, and those unsure of the process should consider professional help.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Estimated costs related to paint deterioration:

  • Touch-up Paint – Ranges from $10 to $50 depending on the brand and match quality.
  • Professional Repaint – A hood repaint by specialists can range between $250 to $500.
  • Full Hood Replacement – If opting for a new hood, costs can escalate from $500 to $1,200 or more, considering parts, paint, and labor.
  • Consultation – An expert assessment might set you back $50 to $100.

It’s essential to address paint deterioration promptly to avoid more extensive damage and to maintain the vehicle’s aesthetic appeal and resale value.

Problems #12: Door Panel Bubble

Several fifth-generation Explorer users noticed a bubble formation on their door panels, with the upholstery detaching from the adhesive. In more severe cases, this upholstery can crack and split, losing its elasticity over time.

To sum it up, while the Ford Explorer remains a popular choice among SUV enthusiasts, it’s essential for potential buyers and current owners to be aware of these common problems. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent more significant damages and ensure a smooth driving experience.


When the Explorer’s door panel starts to show signs of bubbling, owners might notice:

  • Raised Patches – Slightly elevated areas on the door panel upholstery.
  • Detachment – The upholstery appears to be pulling away from the door, losing its snug fit.
  • Audible Crinkling – A distinct noise when pressing on the bubbled sections.
  • Visible Cracks or Splits – Over time, the affected areas may develop cracks or splits, exposing the underlying material.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors lead to the bubbling of door panels:

  • Heat Exposure – Direct sunlight and high temperatures can weaken the adhesive, causing the upholstery to detach.
  • Poor Quality Adhesive – The use of subpar adhesive during manufacturing may not secure the upholstery adequately.
  • Humidity and Moisture – High humidity levels can reduce the adhesive’s efficacy.
  • Wear and Tear – Frequent usage, especially if the door panel is often in contact with occupants or objects, can strain the upholstery.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To confirm the severity of door panel bubbling:

  1. Physical Examination – A hands-on assessment will determine the extent of the detachment.
  2. Push Test – Gently pushing on the bubbled sections can give an idea of the adhesive’s remaining strength.
  3. Consult a Mechanic – For a thorough evaluation, consider consulting a vehicle upholstery expert.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For hands-on vehicle enthusiasts, consider the following:

  • Adhesive Repair – Carefully pull back the affected upholstery and apply a quality adhesive. Ensure thorough drying before regular usage.
  • Patch and Seal – For cracked or split areas, use matching upholstery patches and seal them in place.
  • Upholstery Replacement – More severe cases might require replacing a section or the entire door panel upholstery.

However, those unsure should seek professional help to ensure the best finish.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Anticipated expenses related to door panel bubbling:

  • Adhesive – A quality automotive adhesive may cost between $10 to $30.
  • Professional Repair – Depending on the severity, repairs can range from $100 to $400.
  • Upholstery Replacement – If replacing a door panel’s upholstery, costs can vary widely, from $200 to $700 or more, depending on materials and labor.
  • Inspection Fee – Consulting with a professional might set one back by $50 to $100.

Awareness of such issues allows Ford Explorer owners to act swiftly, ensuring their vehicle remains in optimal condition.

Problems #13: Transmission Issues

Owners have reported transmission malfunctions in certain Ford Explorer models, manifesting as hard or delayed shifts. There have been complaints about the transmission slipping, causing a lack of response when accelerating.

Addressing these problems might require a simple transmission fluid change, but in more severe cases, a transmission rebuild or replacement becomes inevitable.


Transmission problems in Ford Explorers can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Hard or Jerky Shifts – Abrupt transitions between gears.
  • Delayed Shifts – The transmission hesitates before changing gears.
  • Slipping Gears – The sensation of gears slipping out and causing the engine to rev without corresponding acceleration.
  • Unresponsive Acceleration – The engine revs but doesn’t accelerate as it should.
  • Unusual Noises – Grinding or whining sounds from the area of the transmission.
  • Transmission Warning Light – The onboard diagnostic system might trigger a warning light on the dashboard.

Causes and Reasons

Transmission issues in the Explorer arise from several factors:

  • Low Transmission Fluid – Reduced fluid levels can cause improper shifting.
  • Contaminated Fluid – Dirty or degraded fluid affects transmission performance.
  • Wear and Tear – Over time, internal transmission components can wear down.
  • Electronic Control System Malfunction – Modern transmissions rely heavily on electronics; any malfunction can disrupt performance.
  • Damaged Transmission Bands or Solenoids – These components play a pivotal role in gear shifts.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Identifying the exact transmission issue involves:

  1. Fluid Check – Assess the level and condition of the transmission fluid.
  2. OBD Scan – Use an onboard diagnostic tool to read any error codes related to the transmission.
  3. Road Test – A test drive can provide insights into the nature of the problem.
  4. Professional Assessment – For a comprehensive understanding, it’s advisable to consult a transmission specialist.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those comfortable with DIY:

  • Fluid Change – Replace old or contaminated transmission fluid. This can sometimes resolve minor shifting issues.
  • Transmission Additives – There are products designed to address specific transmission problems. However, their effectiveness can vary.
  • Reset Electronic Controls – Disconnecting the battery briefly can reset electronic systems and might alleviate some issues.

However, deep-seated problems often require professional attention.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Addressing transmission problems might involve various costs:

  • Fluid Change – A transmission fluid change usually costs between $100 to $250.
  • Transmission Additives – These can range from $10 to $50 per bottle.
  • Transmission Rebuild – A rebuild can range between $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the extent of damage and labor rates.
  • Complete Transmission Replacement – This is the costliest option, ranging from $2,500 to $4,000 or more.

Timely attention to transmission issues can help Ford Explorer owners maintain the longevity and performance of their vehicles.

Problems #14: Rear Suspension Problems

Some Ford Explorers, especially those from earlier generations, faced issues with the rear suspension. Owners noticed a squeaking or clunking noise, particularly when going over bumps. Prolonged neglect can lead to more significant suspension and tire wear issues. Regular inspections can help detect worn-out suspension components that need replacement.


Rear suspension issues in Ford Explorers manifest through several telltale signs:

  • Squeaking or Clunking Noises – Distinct sounds are heard when the vehicle encounters potholes or bumps.
  • Uneven Tire Wear – Premature wear on the inner or outer edges of the tires.
  • Vehicle Pulling to One Side – An indicator of alignment issues, often resulting from suspension problems.
  • Loose or Wandering Steering – The vehicle might feel unstable, especially at high speeds.
  • Visible Sagging or Lowering – One corner or the rear of the vehicle might sit lower than the rest.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors can lead to rear suspension problems:

  • Worn Out Bushings – Rubber bushings can degrade over time, leading to noises and reduced shock absorption.
  • Damaged Shocks or Struts – These components are vital for ride comfort; wear and tear can affect ride quality.
  • Broken Springs – Springs support the vehicle’s weight, and a broken spring can cause sagging.
  • Misalignment – Irregular impacts, like hitting a pothole, can throw the wheels out of alignment.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Determining the root cause of suspension problems involves:

  1. Visual Inspection – Check for visible damages to the suspension components.
  2. Bounce Test – Apply downward pressure to the vehicle’s rear and release. Excessive bouncing indicates worn shocks or struts.
  3. Drive Test – Take note of noises and handling issues during a drive.
  4. Professional Assessment – If uncertain, consult a mechanic for a comprehensive suspension check.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those adept at automotive repairs:

  • Replace Bushings – Worn bushings can be replaced to eliminate noises and improve ride quality.
  • Replace Shocks or Struts – Installing new shocks or struts can enhance ride comfort and stability.
  • Alignment Check – If the vehicle pulls to one side, a wheel alignment can resolve the issue.

However, some suspension tasks require specialized tools and expertise.

Repair/Replacement Costs

The costs associated with addressing rear suspension problems can vary:

  • Bushings Replacement – Typically costs between $50 to $150 per bushing, including labor.
  • Shocks or Struts Replacement – This can range from $200 to $500 for both rear components, depending on the model and labor rates.
  • Wheel Alignment – Generally costs between $50 to $120, depending on the service provider.

Consistent maintenance and periodic checks can prevent more severe rear suspension issues, ensuring a smooth and safe driving experience for Ford Explorer owners.

Problems #15: Electronic Malfunctions

The infotainment and electronic systems in the Ford Explorer have had their share of glitches. These issues can range from non-responsive touchscreens to GPS malfunctions. Regular software updates can help address some of these problems, but hardware replacements might be needed for persistent issues.


Ford Explorer owners might notice several signs indicating electronic system malfunctions:

  • Non-Responsive Touchscreens – The infotainment screen does not respond to touch inputs or responds erratically.
  • GPS Malfunctions – The navigation system might provide incorrect directions, lag, or fail to display maps.
  • Radio Issues – Interruptions in audio playback or inability to change stations.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity Issues – Difficulty in pairing devices or inconsistent audio during calls.
  • Unexpected System Resets – The infotainment system might reboot spontaneously.

Causes and Reasons

Electronic malfunctions in the Ford Explorer’s infotainment system can arise from:

  • Outdated Software – Older versions of the system software might have bugs that haven’t been addressed.
  • Hardware Failures – The physical components of the system, such as the screen or internal processors, might be faulty.
  • External Interference – Other electronic devices or software could interfere with the system’s functioning.
  • Corrupted Data – Importing corrupted files or data might affect the system’s performance.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To determine the source of the electronic malfunction:

  1. Reset the System – Often, a simple system reboot can resolve minor glitches.
  2. Check for Software Updates – Ensure that the infotainment system is running the latest software version.
  3. Clear Cache and Data – Similar to smartphones (also, check out our guide on how do I connect my phone to my car), clearing cache and unnecessary data can improve performance.
  4. Test Hardware Functions – Use the system diagnostics, if available, to check for hardware issues.
  5. Consult the Dealership – The dealership or a professional might have access to specific diagnostic tools for the system.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For tech-savvy owners:

  • Update Software – Most infotainment systems allow manual software updates using a USB drive or direct download.
  • Hard Reset – Depending on the model, there might be a combination of buttons to perform a hard reset.

However, hardware replacements and deeper system fixes should be entrusted to professionals.

Repair/Replacement Costs

The costs associated with fixing electronic malfunctions can vary:

  • Software Updates – Generally free, provided by the manufacturer.
  • Touchscreen Replacement – This can range from $200 to $700, depending on the model and part costs.
  • System Module Replacement – Prices vary but could range between $300 to $1,000, inclusive of labor.

While regular software updates and maintenance can mitigate many of the electronic issues in the Ford Explorer, understanding potential problems and their fixes ensures a more enjoyable in-car experience.

Problems #16: Brake System Issues

Some users have pointed out that their Ford Explorer exhibited reduced braking efficiency over time. Common symptoms include a soft brake pedal, squealing noises, or vibrations when braking. Regular brake system checks can ensure the brake pads, rotors, and other components are in good shape.


Ford Explorer owners experiencing brake system issues may encounter several of these symptoms:

  • Soft Brake Pedal – The brake pedal feels softer or sinks more than usual when pressed.
  • Squealing Noises – High-pitched noise when applying brakes, often indicative of worn brake pads.
  • Vibrations When Braking – Felt primarily in the brake pedal or steering wheel, suggesting warped rotors.
  • Reduced Braking Efficiency – Longer stopping distances or the vehicle pulling to one side during braking.
  • Brake Warning Lights – Illumination on the dashboard, suggesting potential system faults.

Causes and Reasons

Issues in the Ford Explorer’s brake system can arise due to:

  • Worn Brake Pads – The most common cause, brake pads wear out over time and require regular replacement.
  • Warped Rotors – Often caused by excessive heat, leading to vibrations when braking.
  • Air in Brake Lines – Leading to a soft or spongy brake pedal feeling.
  • Brake Fluid Leak – Reduced levels of brake fluid can impact braking efficiency.
  • Faulty Brake Components – Malfunctioning calipers or brake hoses can impact the brake system’s performance.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To identify the exact cause of brake issues:

  1. Visual Inspection – Check the thickness of the brake pads and the condition of the rotors.
  2. Fluid Level Check – Ensure that the brake fluid reservoir is filled to the recommended level.
  3. Brake Pedal Test – Press the brake pedal when the engine is running to see if it feels spongy or too soft.
  4. Listen for Noises – While driving, apply brakes to listen for any unusual sounds.
  5. Professional Inspection – If unsure, always get a professional to inspect the brake system.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those familiar with car maintenance:

  • Replace Brake Pads – With the right tools, brake pad replacement can be done at home.
  • Bleed the Brake Lines – If air is suspected in the brake lines, bleeding can help.

For more complex issues, especially those related to brake fluid leaks or component replacements, it’s best to consult a professional.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Costs associated with fixing brake system issues can vary based on the specific problem:

  • Brake Pad Replacement – Typically between $100 to $300 per axle, depending on the quality of the pads and labor.
  • Rotor Replacement – Ranges from $200 to $500 for both front rotors and labor.
  • Brake Line Bleeding – Generally, between $70 to $110.
  • Brake Fluid Replacement – About $80 to $130.

Regular checks and timely maintenance of the Ford Explorer’s brake system ensure safety on the road. Addressing any issues as they arise can prevent more expensive repairs in the future.

Problems #17: Fuel Pump Failures

Fuel pump issues have occasionally plagued the Ford Explorer. Symptoms often include rough idling, engine stalling, or the vehicle not starting at all. A malfunctioning fuel pump cannot deliver the required fuel to the engine efficiently, affecting its performance.


If a Ford Explorer is experiencing fuel pump failures, the owner may observe one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Rough Idling – The engine might run unevenly or vibrate excessively while the vehicle is stationary.
  • Engine Stalling – The engine can abruptly stop running, especially at low speeds or while starting.
  • Failure to Start – In severe cases, the vehicle might not start at all.
  • Sputtering at High Speeds – The engine might sputter or jerk during highway driving or under load.
  • Decreased Fuel Efficiency – The vehicle may consume more fuel than usual due to inefficient fuel delivery.

Causes and Reasons

Fuel pump issues in the Ford Explorer can be attributed to:

  • Wear and Tear – Regular usage over time can wear out the fuel pump.
  • Clogged Fuel Filter – A blocked filter can overwork the pump, leading to premature failure.
  • Contaminated Fuel – Dirt or debris in the fuel can damage the pump.
  • Electrical Issues – Faulty wiring or relays can disrupt power to the fuel pump.
  • Overheating – Running the vehicle on a low fuel level frequently can cause the pump to overheat, as fuel acts as a coolant for the pump.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To pinpoint the exact issue with the fuel pump:

  1. Listen to the Pump – When starting the vehicle, a humming noise should come from the fuel tank area, indicating the pump is working.
  2. Fuel Pressure Test – A test can determine if the pump is delivering the correct amount of fuel to the engine.
  3. Check for Power – Ensure the fuel pump is receiving the necessary voltage.
  4. Inspect Fuel Filter – Look for any blockages or signs of contamination.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those confident with automotive repairs:

  • Replace Fuel Filter – If clogged, this can be a simpler fix than replacing the entire pump.
  • Check Electrical Components – Inspect and replace any faulty relays or wiring connected to the fuel pump.

However, replacing the fuel pump itself can be a complex task and may be best left to professionals, especially if the pump is located inside the fuel tank.

Repair/Replacement Costs

The cost of addressing fuel pump failures can vary:

  • Fuel Pump Replacement – Ranges from $400 to $900, including both parts and labor. Prices can vary based on the specific Explorer model and labor rates.
  • Fuel Filter Replacement – Typically between $50 to $150, including labor.
  • Electrical Repairs – Costs can range from $100 to $300, depending on the extent of the electrical issue.

Timely intervention can prevent additional damages and keep the Ford Explorer running smoothly. It’s crucial to address any suspected fuel pump issues immediately to ensure optimal vehicle performance and safety.

Problems #18: Exhaust Fume Concerns

There have been reports, especially from police departments using the Ford Explorer as patrol vehicles, about potential exhaust fume leaks entering the cabin. Symptoms include a peculiar smell when the A/C is on, which could lead to health concerns if not addressed promptly.

In conclusion, while the Ford Explorer is a revered SUV, being informed about potential problems ensures you’re prepared. Regular maintenance checks and addressing issues early on can prolong the vehicle’s lifespan and enhance the driving experience.


Owners and users of the Ford Explorer, especially those using it for official purposes like police departments, may observe:

  • Peculiar Smell – A distinct exhaust-like odor may permeate the cabin, particularly noticeable when the A/C or ventilation system is activated.
  • Health Symptoms – Prolonged exposure to exhaust fumes can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, or eye and throat irritation among passengers and drivers.
  • Fogged Windows – In some instances, the accumulation of fumes inside can cause the vehicle’s windows to fog up unexpectedly.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors might contribute to exhaust fume concerns in the Ford Explorer:

  • Faulty Seals or Gaskets – Damaged or degraded seals around the doors or rear of the vehicle can allow exhaust fumes to infiltrate the cabin.
  • Cracked Exhaust System – Any damage or cracks in the exhaust manifold or pipes can release fumes that may enter the vehicle.
  • Ventilation System Malfunctions – Issues within the vehicle’s air circulation or HVAC system can draw exhaust fumes into the cabin.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Identifying the source of the exhaust fume leak requires:

  1. Smell Test – Running the vehicle while stationary and checking for the presence of an exhaust odor within the cabin.
  2. Visual Inspection – Examining the exhaust system for any visible cracks, damages, or loose components.
  3. Pressure Test – Professionals might conduct a pressure test on the exhaust system to pinpoint any leaks.
  4. Check Ventilation – Inspecting the vehicle’s HVAC system and ensuring it’s functioning correctly.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those familiar with automotive diagnostics:

  • Seal or Gasket Replacement – Check for any visible damages or degradations around the doors or tailgate and replace if needed.
  • Exhaust System Patching – Small cracks or holes can be patched temporarily, but a more permanent solution would be a replacement.
  • Ventilation System Clean-Up – Regularly replacing cabin air filters and ensuring vents are clear of obstructions.

However, exhaust issues, especially those causing health symptoms, should be addressed by professionals to ensure the problem is thoroughly resolved.

Repair/Replacement Costs

The costs for addressing exhaust fume concerns can differ:

  • Seal or Gasket Replacement – Costs can range between $100 to $400, depending on the specific parts and labor rates.
  • Exhaust System Repairs/Replacement – Depending on the damaged section, this can range from $200 to $1,500.
  • Ventilation System Maintenance – Replacing cabin air filters typically costs between $20 to $70.

In conclusion, the Ford Explorer, like any vehicle, has its set of challenges. However, understanding these potential issues and ensuring timely intervention can lead to a safer and more enjoyable driving experience.

As always, ensuring the well-being of the vehicle’s occupants should be a top priority. Regular checks, especially for exhaust fume leaks, can safeguard health and enhance the overall utility of the SUV.

Ford Explorer Generations

Had it only been the transmission problem, maybe many owners would have learned to live with it? But it’s only one of the highest-reported issues with any Ford lineup to date. Every single model from 2002 to 2006 has been damaged seriously due to transmission errors, leaving owners to pay hefty amounts for repairs and replacements.

The good news, however, is that despite the faulty transmissions, some services will still pay to take your junk car off your hands. The five-door SUV Ford Explorer was meant to be a revolutionary in the market. After all, it had some big issues to fill (of the three-door Bronco II). Ford had its eyes set on the SUV family market.

1st Gen Explorer

With increased cargo space, better aerodynamics to reduce overall cabin noise, and cross-seating for 3, the Ford Explorer seemed to be a promising start for the company’s midsize SUV range. Needless to say, they were pretty disappointed with the issues that popped up with these designs.

The first problem stems from the 90-year partnership between Ford and Firestone tires. Firestone tires were not the best suited for this SUV and would come apart easily. Thanks to this, the Explorer was more prone to roll-over accidents. A shocking 240 deaths and 3000 life-threatening injuries later, the Explorer gained a rather negative reputation in the community.

If we put the roll-over issues to the side, the Explorer perfectly showcased what Ford wanted to do from the start – make a family-oriented SUV that is great on and off-road. The 1994 variant had a Limited trim that gave it a sunroof, towing package, and a CD player.

Surprisingly, these models can rarely be found up for sale now. They are still pretty popular as off-road vehicles. OG car lovers enjoy its close relationship with Ford’s previous model, Bronco. However, many of the Ford Explorer problems continued into the 2nd generation.

This was the era where the Explorer started to take shape. But again, there were many problems ingrained in the system. The first-generation Ford Explorer didn’t do much for the company, not in sales or reputation-wise.

2nd Gen Explorer

Featuring similar chassis underpinnings to the first-gen, the second-gen Explorer’s chassis also bore a resemblance to that of the Ford Ranger. Now, the Explorer had a rounded body and had the typically boxy SUV look.

In addition to the improved exterior, the second-gen Explorer had an optional powerplant, the small-block Ford V8. The V8 was available solely on rear-wheel-drive XLT models in 1996 but it became a regular feature in all models since 1997.

Coming to the reliability of the 2nd gen Explorer, it was filled with red flags. From the broken tensioners, plastic timing chain guides, and cassettes to the transmission failure, these models were riddled with faults. These issues combined would give birth to the “death rattle,” an unsteady situation that if left unfixed, would lead to a seizure of the main engine.

Given its problem frequency but without the rugged power of the first-gen cars, the second-gen Explorer fell flat on its face. After 2002 the “death rattle” was fixed with updated parts and the single overhead cam engines. That being said, the next two generations of the Ford Explorer still came with the 4.0 liter V6.

2nd to 4th gen Explorers featuring the 5R55 series automatic are notorious for premature failures, showing excessive wear and tear to the crucial parts of the car. Soon, the vehicle would be rendered non-drivable. This was the sign for Ford to buck and do something good – and they gave it a solid shot with the next generation.

3rd Gen Explorer

Hoping to hit the nail on the head, Ford did a 180-degree redesign on the Explorer line. It stepped from the signature Ford Ranger parts and chassis and was introduced solely as a five-door wagon. The previous two generations had given the Explorer the wrong light and people were generally disinterested in the mid-size SUVs.

For what it was worth, Ford was still being praised for innovation. The primary purpose of the third-gen Explorers was to compete against the export market vehicles that had saturated the market, like the Lexus RX300. Alongside the front suspension of the 2nd gen (redesigned), Ford brought improvements to the rear suspension.

They were now equipped with independent rear suspension rather than leaf springs, boosting the power and comfort of the Explorer. For the first time, 3rd gen Explorers featured optional all-wheel-drive. Drivers could swap the small block V8 for a new 4.6-liter modular engine. Those were found in Crown Victoria.

Perhaps the worst Ford Explorer to date was the 2002 model. Although Ford tried to bring big changes to the 3rd gen, it became the worst one in the lineup. For instance, the 2002 Ford Explorer had more than 1000 complaints about the transmission, 500 complaints about the paint/body cracks, and 600 complaints about the drivetrain section.

It didn’t stop at the transmission failure. There were instances of transmission slipping, O/D light blinking, as well as transmission in need of overhauling.

1. Transmission Failure

This had been a recurring event for three generations now so people were starting to lose hope that it would even be fixed. Aside from the occasional recalls, Ford didn’t do much to help customers. On average, owners would have to pay $1800 to $3400 to repair these problems. Complaints said these problems started showing up after the car reached the 94,800 miles mark.

On a scale of 1 to 10 of how severe the issue is, this would get a 9.3. Goes without saying how important it is to fix it immediately.

2. O/D Light Blinking

O/D light blinking, while not one of the worst For Explorer problems, is still noteworthy. The only solution to this problem was a complete recall for Ford to rebuild the car or replace the faulty part. Although it doesn’t sound that bad, you would have to spend about $2500 to get this fixed. The problem starts once the car averages 109,100 miles.

3. Transmission Slip

When the transmission slips, there will be a shifting or clunking sound from the engine. We already mentioned how this could also be a result of low transmission fluid. If your transmission hasn’t been maintained properly, you could get this issue too.

Ford’s solution to this problem should have been a recall of the enclosed transmissions. Alternatively, they could offer to replace the transmission. On average, the repair cost for transmission problems is about $2200. Be prepared for this when your car is barely under 100,000 miles.

4. Transmission Overhaul

 The last of the transmission issues is the overhauling needs. The best solution for this situation would be a total rebuild of the transmission. Otherwise, a whole overhaul of the transmission would be needed. With an average repair cost of $2500, this issue occurs just under 90,000 miles.

For the most part, the 2002, 2003, and 2004 Ford Explorer models all suffered from the same issues. Third-gen wasn’t turning out to be what people had expected after the decaying quality from Ford.

Moreover, the 2005 Explorer recorded expensive transmission failures at below 100,000 miles – where no transmission failure should happen. Owners typically have to pay $3000 to replace a transmission, making it one of the costlier fixes. This year also showed a continuation of the rear panel cracking.


4th Gen Explorer

The fourth-gen Explorers were all about the redesign. Significant alterations included a power-folding 3rd-row seat, rear suspension remodeling, and a better-built frame. Electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring became the standard.

However, the controversial V6 was still the standard powerplant. On a better note, Ford solved the 5R55 transmission problems with a revised version, 5R55S which became the standard with V6. The 2006 Explorer received a nomination under the category “North American Truck of the Year” while the 2007 model brought important improvements to its performance.

Now, new features were available like the XLT appearance package, heated leather seat package, as well as basic AUX input on stereos. Ford improved upon these packages in 2008, bringing the optional Ford SYNC. It became the first Ford to offer a capless fuel filler system.

Surprisingly, when it comes to value, 4th gen Explorers are of the same value as the 3rd gen ones, so consider the updated tech and additional features at similar price levels. In 2009 and 2010, small additions became standard equipment, such as Ford’s MyKey and trailer sway control.

It was in this generation when Ford was truly able to set the stage for what they wanted to make of the Explorer.

5th Gen Explorer

Though 4th gen Explorers were really amazing towards the end of their production line (generation-wise), 5th gen takes the cake as the best Explorers Ford has come out with. Considering we still haven’t gotten to the 2020 and 2021 models, this says a lot.

These vehicles shifted from the conventional mid-size SUV image featuring a body-on-frame construction. Now, they had unibody construction and wouldn’t roll over, thus not putting people’s lives in jeopardy.

Major updates included a wide range of technological changes like adaptive cruise control, updated Ford SYNC, MyFord Touch, power-adjustable pedals equipped with memory position, active park assist, a power liftgate, in-dash navigation, and cooled and heated seats,

A significant improvement to the fifth-gen Explorers was the new, updated, and efficient units that replaced the old powerplants. After the depressing 3.5 liter V6, these new Explorers have 2.0 liter turbocharged EcoBoost motors powering them.

EcoBoost gave these cars a huge fuel economy boost but it was somewhat nullified by the fact you could only get these in a front-wheel-drive layout.

6th Gen Explorer

Post the 2016 facelift, the Explorer appeared with a redesigned front design with a redesigned rear section, new headlights, dual exhaust and LED taillights, and engine upgrades. For the model years 2018 and 2019, there were a few improvements to the headlights as well as the introduction of a limited luxury package.

With leather interior trim inserts, multi-contour front seats, chrome mirror caps, and Active Motion, 5th gen Explorers remain unbeatable. Sadly, the advent of the new packages, also meant that the manufacturing of the 2019 models would be coming to an end. The sixth generation was going to take over the market now.

Since 5th generation Explorers were so popular and successful, Ford knew they had to bring something different to the newer models. The 2020 model year gave potential buyers an Explorer ST and Explorer Hybrid. However, our favorite model of this line would be the hybrid range. Those are over 500 miles.

Base model Explorers feature rear-wheel drive now, with the Hybrids and ST being all-wheel models. The design originates from sharing a base with the Lincoln Aviator. However, these models are lighters and distribute weight better compared to the previous generations.

Ford Explorer Reliability By Year

For more of a model year-specific breakdown of the most common Ford Explorer problems, here’s what they look like for each model year, from 2001 onwards…

2001 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2001 Ford Explorer raised concerns among many owners. Most prevalent was the transmission failure, often resulting in costly repairs.

Transmission Issues: Owners reported erratic shifting and, in extreme cases, complete transmission failure. Many faced costly replacements or repairs, typically after reaching 100,000 miles.

Rear Panel Cracking: Another common problem was the rear panel cracking near the Ford emblem. Although not detrimental to the vehicle’s performance, it affected the aesthetics and could indicate deeper structural issues.

2002 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2002 model year saw continuity in some problems from the previous year, alongside new challenges.

Transmission Failure: The issue remained dominant. Some users experienced gear slippage or even complete loss of gears.

Wheel Bearing Failures: These became more common in this year, leading to uncomfortable rides and safety concerns.

Broken Odometer: A less frequent but notable issue. Some users found their odometers suddenly stopped working.

2003 Ford Explorer Problems

For the 2003 Ford Explorer, while some problems got addressed, others persisted or arose.

Transmission Issues: Still a primary concern, especially with transmissions prematurely failing.

Cracked Rear Panel: This issue from the 2001 model reemerged, leading to concerns about the SUV’s build quality.

Cooling System Problems: Overheating and leaks started making their presence felt in this model year.

2004 Ford Explorer Problems

2004 introduced a few shifts in the problematic trends, but some recurring issues remained.

Transmission Woes: Yet again, the transmissions presented challenges. Owners reported hard shifting, sometimes followed by a loud clank.

Body/Paint Problems: Rust began appearing on certain parts of the vehicle, especially around wheel wells and the undercarriage.

Radiator Leaks: Coolant leakage became a prominent issue, often leading to overheating if not addressed.

2005 Ford Explorer Problems

The mid-2000s saw the Ford Explorer grappling with a mix of old and new issues.

Rear Panel Cracks: By now, this was a recurring issue, leading many to question the material choice and design.

Airbag Light: Many owners found the airbag warning light coming on without any clear reason.

Coil Pack Failures: This caused the engine to misfire. It wasn’t widespread but posed a considerable nuisance for those affected.

2006 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2006 model year, while offering some improvements, still faced challenges.

Transmission Slipping: Continuing from the previous years, this issue remained a significant concern.

Radiator Leaks: This problem from earlier years persisted, with owners needing replacements or extensive repairs.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Malfunctions: Newer tech introduced new problems. The TPMS would frequently give false readings, leading to unwarranted concerns.

2007 Ford Explorer Problems

As Ford tried to improve its iconic SUV, the 2007 model experienced a mix of old and evolving concerns.

Transmission Shift Delays: Some owners noted a delay when shifting gears, especially from first to second, hinting at lingering transmission issues.

Throttle Body Failures: This new issue caused the engine to enter “limp mode,” severely limiting power and performance.

Fuel System Issues: A few owners faced challenges with inaccurate fuel gauge readings, leading to unexpected stalls.

2008 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2008 Ford Explorer saw some problems diminish, while others persisted or became more apparent.

Transmission Issues: These problems showed no signs of letting up, with some users still reporting abrupt shifts.

Wheel Alignment: Problems with premature tire wear indicated potential alignment issues.

AC/Heater Malfunctions: Some users faced a lack of hot or cold air blowing, affecting comfort during extreme weather.

2009 Ford Explorer Problems

With the 2009 model, there was a reduction in certain major problems, but some still prevailed.

Transmission Concerns: Although less frequent, some owners still grappled with unpredictable shifting behaviors.

Interior Accessory Problems: Issues with the power seats and windows started to surface.

Electrical Glitches: Some Explorers had minor malfunctions in electronic components, from radios to remote locks.

2010 Ford Explorer Problems

Entering a new decade, the 2010 Ford Explorer worked to address past concerns, but faced new challenges.

Steering Issues: Some owners noticed a wobbly feel while steering, particularly at higher speeds.

Exhaust Leaks: A new concern where some reported smelling exhaust within the cabin, raising health and safety questions.

Brake System Problems: Issues included squeaking noises and, in a few cases, decreased braking efficiency.

2011 Ford Explorer Problems

With a major redesign in 2011, many hoped for a resolution to past issues. While some problems were addressed, others emerged.

Cooling System: Overheating returned as a concern for many, pointing to potential radiator and coolant issues.

Electrical Problems: Touch screen malfunctions and unresponsive infotainment systems frustrated users.

Suspension Issues: Some Explorers faced challenges with premature wear on struts and other suspension components.

2012 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2012 model continued the trend of evolving issues while retaining some from the past.

Transmission Lag: This year saw complaints about a noticeable lag when accelerating from a stop.

Power Steering Failures: Some users faced a sudden loss of power steering, leading to safety concerns.

Exhaust Smell in Cabin: This problem persisted from the 2010 model, continuing to raise eyebrows and concerns.

2013 Ford Explorer Problems

As the years progressed, the 2013 Explorer showed signs of improvement, but still held on to certain issues.

Turbocharger Failures: For those with EcoBoost engines, turbocharger problems became evident, often leading to loss of power.

Air Conditioning Issues: Some users reported the AC system losing its cool, especially during longer drives.

Oil Leaks: A few owners noticed oil spots under their vehicles, indicating potential leakage and engine concerns.

2014 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2014 model year was not without its challenges, though some of the older, persistent issues began to wane.

Exhaust Fumes in Cabin: Unfortunately, this problem persisted, leading to discomfort and concerns about safety.

Suspension Problems: Some users reported a rougher ride, pointing to potential problems with shocks or struts.

Transmission Hesitation: A slight hesitation during acceleration continued to be an annoyance for some.

2015 Ford Explorer Problems

By 2015, the Ford Explorer had undergone various redesigns and tweaks, but some issues, both old and new, emerged.

Cooling System: Overheating problems made a comeback, with some owners pointing to radiator malfunctions.

Infotainment Glitches: Sync, Ford’s infotainment system, faced its fair share of hiccups, frustrating many users.

Paint & Body Issues: Some owners reported bubbling or peeling paint, particularly on the hood.

2016 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2016 model brought forward a host of improvements but wasn’t immune to challenges.

Transmission Problems: These concerns, albeit reduced, persisted with users noting rough shifting.

Steering Issues: Some Explorers faced power steering failures or malfunctions, impacting the driving experience.

Interior Quality Concerns: A few complaints emerged about the wear and tear of interior components.

2017 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2017 model year of the Ford Explorer showcased several advancements, but certain concerns lingered or arose.

AC/Heater Issues: Inconsistent performance of the heating and cooling system caused discomfort for some users.

Electrical Problems: This broad category saw challenges from malfunctioning sensors to battery drain issues.

Engine Concerns: A few users reported their engines stalling or lacking the expected power and responsiveness.

2018 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2018 Explorer showed the benefit of continuous refinement, though no vehicle is entirely free of problems.

Infotainment Freezes: Some owners found their screens freezing or not responding, hindering access to vital functionalities.

Brake System Concerns: A few reports emerged of noisy brakes or less efficient braking.

Transmission Issues: While less frequent, a few users still reported hesitations and rough shifts.

2019 Ford Explorer Problems

With the 2019 model, Ford aimed for enhanced refinement. However, as with most vehicles, certain concerns persisted or emerged.

Infotainment Bugs: The Sync system, while advanced, occasionally presented users with glitches or unresponsive touch screens.

Cooling System Concerns: Issues such as leaking coolant or subpar air conditioning performance were noted by some owners.

Transmission Hiccups: A few users still reported unexpected jerks or hesitations during acceleration or gear shifts.

2020 Ford Explorer Problems

Entering a new decade, the 2020 Ford Explorer showcased a significant redesign, yet faced a mix of challenges.

Powertrain Issues: Some owners reported unexpected noises or vibrations originating from the engine or transmission.

Electrical Malfunctions: This included issues ranging from erratic dashboard displays to sporadic sensor alerts.

Fuel System Concerns: A few cases pointed towards inaccurate fuel gauge readings, leading to concerns about running out of fuel unexpectedly.

2021 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2021 model year aimed to address past concerns, but like all vehicles, it wasn’t without its challenges.

Infotainment Glitches: Despite updates, some users still found occasional hiccups with the Sync system.

Brake System Issues: There were sporadic reports of brakes squeaking or feeling less responsive than expected.

Transmission Concerns: While significantly reduced, a small percentage of users noted occasional rough shifting.

2022 Ford Explorer Problems

The 2022 Ford Explorer, a blend of enticing design and features, still carries potential concerns rooted in its predecessors.

Rearview Camera Malfunction: Some units have the rearview camera displaying a blue screen during reverse.

Collision-Avoidance System Issues: Instances of the system causing unwarranted stops have been reported.

Engine Stalling: Past reports noted engines stalling without prior warning.

Fuel Tank Sloshing: Distinct sloshing sounds from the fuel tank have been a consistent issue.

Hard & Delayed Shifts: Users have recorded hard shifts, causing increased RPM operation and potential lurching.

Service Brakes Malfunction: Some models in 2020 and 2021 had brakes that were ineffective in reverse.

Cabin Exhaust Fumes: A burning odor inside the cabin has been an issue, particularly in prior models.

Vehicle Fires: There have been sporadic reports of the SUV spontaneously catching fire, starting from under the hood.

Best Years For Ford Explorer

If you are thinking of getting a used Ford Explorer, here are among the more reliable model years to consider…

2007 Ford Explorer

The 2007 Ford Explorer garnered attention for its durability and classic design. A powerhouse, it’s been appreciated by many for its reliability. Over at JD Power, the 2007 model year shines bright with a laudable consumer review.

An Explorer owner recounted his experience on Kelley Blue Book, stating, “Driving this SUV has always given me confidence on the road. Whether it’s rainy or snowy, the 2007 model never lets me down.”

2008 Ford Explorer

Transitioning to the 2008 Ford Explorer, the emphasis on comfortable seating and road presence continued. This model balances between the traditional Ford design and the innovations of the later models.

On Edmunds, an SUV enthusiast expressed, “The 2008 Explorer holds a special place in my heart. It’s the perfect blend of old-school robustness and modern-day comfort.”

2009 Ford Explorer

The 2009 Ford Explorer elevates the game in terms of power. A recognizable figure on the streets, this model has been a hit among consumers who seek a combination of power and reliability. JD Power gave it a noteworthy rating, suggesting its standing among its peers.

A comment on Kelley Blue Book reads, “I bought this used, and it’s still roaring on the highways. No regrets whatsoever.”

2010 Ford Explorer

The 2010 Ford Explorer offers a continuation of its predecessors’ excellence but with a slightly modern twist. It has established itself as a top pick for those hunting for quality in the used car market.

An enthusiast shared on Edmunds, “This SUV serves as the backbone of my adventures. Be it off-roading or city drives, the 2010 model performs exceptionally well.”

2018 Ford Explorer

Jumping to more recent times, the 2018 Ford Explorer stands out due to its advanced infotainment options and commendable steering. For those wanting the best of both worlds, modern tech in a reliable package, this model is it.

An insightful review on Kelley Blue Book reads, “Switching to the Explorer was the best decision. It’s spacious, tech-savvy, and drives like a dream.”

2019 Ford Explorer

The 2019 model brings forward a fusion of style and substance. Its engine, combined with its varied color options, makes it a desirable choice. Plus, it offers value for money, especially considering the tech onboard.

A user commented on Edmunds, “Every drive feels like a new experience. Its smooth handling and interiors make every journey memorable.”

2021 Ford Explorer

Stepping into the recent past, the 2021 Ford Explorer has proven itself as one of the best in the modern SUV lineup. Its array of safety features and entertainment tech caters to current user demands perfectly.

A Kelley Blue Book user shared, “The 2021 model feels like the future. Its safety tech gives me peace of mind, and the entertainment system ensures no journey is dull.”

2022 Ford Explorer

The 2022 Ford Explorer tops the list with its unmatched features. For anyone wanting the ultimate Explorer experience, this is the one to go for. It’s no wonder that both JD Power and Kelley Blue Book gave it impressive scores.

A satisfied owner mentioned on Edmunds, “It feels like this SUV reads my mind! The tech is so intuitive, and the drive, is flawless. Truly the best version of the Explorer.”

Ford Explorer Years To Avoid

However, make sure that on the flipside, you absolutely avoid these unreliable model years at all costs…

2020 Ford Explorer

The 2020 Ford Explorer is known for its transmission-related issues, with many owners having trouble when putting the vehicle into reverse. Beyond the rough shifts, this year also saw faulty brakes and instances where all warning lights would illuminate, culminating in the vehicle losing its power.

According to CarComplaints.com and CarProblemZoo.com, there were 28 and 470 issues reported, respectively.

2017 Ford Explorer

For the 2017 Ford Explorer, premature tire wear stole the limelight. Owners found alarming signs of wear and tear at an average of just 21,000 miles. Inside the cabin, there were reports of exhaust fumes and, more startlingly, windows that spontaneously shattered. Complaints tallied to 109 on CarComplaints.com and a significant 772 on CarProblemZoo.com.

2016 Ford Explorer

The 2016 model had its quirks, including an electrical defect where the wrench light would stay on post the annual maintenance service. More serious were the issues of transmission failure and power steering conking out. With 435 complaints on CarComplaints.com and a hefty 1,688 on CarProblemZoo.com, this year surely tested the patience of many.

2015 Ford Explorer

Owners of the 2015 Ford Explorer had a harrowing issue to contend with—power steering failures in the middle of their commutes. This was accompanied by a popping noise when turning and a peculiar exhaust smell in the cabin. With 214 and 1,305 complaints on CarComplaints.com and CarProblemZoo.com, respectively, it was a year riddled with issues.

2014 Ford Explorer

The 2014 Explorer’s common woes included power steering failure and paint that bubbled, an aesthetic and functional double whammy. Owners also complained about exhaust fumes within the cabin. With 274 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 1,276 on CarProblemZoo.com, this year had its fair share of frustrated users.

2013 Ford Explorer

The 2013 model earned itself the dubious ‘Beware of the Clunker’ award from Car Complaints. Beyond power steering failures, the vehicle had issues with bubbling paint on the hood and rust bubbles, alongside a noticeable exhaust odor in the cabin. A total of 506 and 1,932 issues were reported on CarComplaints.com and CarProblemZoo.com, respectively.

2011 Ford Explorer

This year saw power steering failure becoming a widespread issue, especially around the 76,000-mile mark. Other complaints revolved around the Mysync system and engine overheating. CarComplaints.com and CarProblemZoo.com logged 205 and 1,104 complaints, respectively.

2006 Ford Explorer

The 2006 Ford Explorer wasn’t smooth sailing either, with transmissions lunging and delivering hard jolts around the 49,000-mile mark. Radiator leaks and hesitant transmissions added to the year’s grim tally of 776 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 719 on CarProblemZoo.com.

2002-2004 Ford Explorer

Transmission woes continued to haunt the 2002, 2003, and 2004 models. Most issues cropped up around the 100,000-mile mark, with complaints ranging from slipping transmissions to the O/D light flashing. A staggering 8,284 and 6,070 complaints were registered on CarComplaints.com and CarProblemZoo.com, respectively.

1996-2000 Ford Explorer

The late ’90s Explorers, specifically from 1996 to 2000, had their legacy marred by persistent transmission problems. Shifting issues were rampant, with many vehicles refusing to shift into drive or reverse. Complaint counts reached 738 on CarComplaints.com and a sizable 7,533 on CarProblemZoo.com.

Facts: Common Problems with Used 2017 Ford Explorers

  • The Ford Explorer is a popular SUV choice for families due to its combination of capability and technology.
  • Complaint forums and NHTSA safety data reveal that premature tire wear, exhaust fumes in the cabin, and the back window suddenly shattering are the most common problems with used 2017 Ford Explorers.
  • Premature tire wear is the most common problem, and the cost to fix it is around $1000. Ford released a Technical Service Bulletin to address this issue, and the original tire provider is honoring replacements for vehicles with less than 36,000 miles on them. To avoid this issue, ask about the tire’s mileage and replacement history and consider getting a free tire checkup during the test drive.
  • Exhaust fumes in the cabin are also a common problem with no clear cause or fix. Users report that the smell of exhaust leaks into the cabin, especially under acceleration, and can make occupants sick. Thoroughly test-driving the vehicle under acceleration load and requesting service records can help avoid this issue.
  • The back window suddenly shattering is another issue worth noting, and the cost to fix it is around $300. There is no clear way to tell if this issue will happen while driving unless the OEM glass has been replaced by the previous owner.

Ford Explorer Problems: In Conclusion…

To avoid purchasing a used 2017 Ford Explorer with these problems, a well-sorted-out test drive, having the vehicle checked out by experts, and running the vehicle through Ford’s recall and TSB database are recommended.

During the test drive, it is important to listen for weird sounds, vibrations, or behaviors, and to put the vehicle through its paces by accelerating, braking, and driving at low and high speeds while using all interior accessories. Getting a thorough inspection by a local mechanic may cost money upfront but can save thousands in the long run by avoiding a costly mistake.

It goes without saying that the Ford Explorer had a rocky start. Filled with transmission problems and showing accelerated aesthetic deprecation, these SUVs had gathered negative remarks from an alarming number of owners. However, with these improvements in the new lineup, it will be interesting to see how Ford innovates its way around the generic Ford Explorer problems.

FAQs On Ford Explorer Problems

If you’re still curious to learn more about the Ford Explorer problems, our FAQs here might help…

Are Ford Explorers Reliable

The dependability of a Ford Explorer is hotly debated. Although it’s a great SUV overall, Consumer Reports gave the latest 2022/2023 Ford Explorer just 1.0 out of 5.0 when it comes to predicted reliability. The results of this survey alone are far below the segment average, although it seems to be an improvement over the 2020 and 2021 model years. In addition, RepairPal’s surveys ranked the most recent Explorer at a 3.5 out of 5.0 for reliability. This puts it as the 19th most reliable SUV out of 26 others tested, so it’s not a good score, regardless. Nonetheless, they cite that major repairs aren’t as common.

How Long Do Ford Explorers Last

A Ford Explorer should handily last upwards of 200,000 miles or higher. Given that the average American drives around 15,000 miles per year, that equates to roughly 13 years of ownership or longer. However, the Explorer has been plagued with numerous issues in its recent lifespan. Due to this, some of the more troublesome model years and generations of the Explorer are cited to only last around 100,000 miles. This is rather low compared to most vehicles that should at least go beyond 150,000 miles. Therefore, you need to be vigilant when you’re buying an Explorer to ensure that you get a more reliable example.

Where Is The Ford Explorer Made

Being such a global vehicle, the Ford Explorer is built in numerous different Ford-run facilities worldwide. For the North American market, the Explorer used to be built at the Ford Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky and the now-closed Ford St. Louis Assembly Plant in Missouri. These days, the latest generation of the Explorer is built at the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant. Elsewhere, the Explorer is also put together at the Changan Ford assembly plant in Chongqing, China. Ford also used to build the Explorer in Venezuela (for the South American market) and Russia (for the European market).

How Long Is The Ford Explorer

The latest Ford Explorer is around 198.8 inches long overall. As for its wheelbase, it’s about 119.1 inches long. In addition, the new Explorer is 78.9 inches wide and 69.9 inches tall. For those of you who want to go off-roading or trekking off the beaten path, the Explorer also boasts a respectable 7.9-inch ground clearance. Regardless, since it’s a full-size SUV, the latest Explorer is rather heavy, weighing in at over 4,300 lbs. Still, this does mean that it features pretty good interior space as far as legroom, headroom, shoulder room, and hip room are concerned. And, it even has a third row of seating!

What Year Ford Explorer To Avoid

Of all the Ford Explorer’s long lifespan, there are several model years that stick out as the most problematic. In particular, the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 model years of the Ford Explorer are regarded as the worst of the bunch. Especially, the 2002 model year – avoid it as best as you can! Most of the issues reported in these model years were transmission-related problems. As well as, numerous other concerns with its suspension, drivetrain, paintwork, bodywork, engine, and more. Worse of all, some of those problems could appear even at lower mileage, yet they often cost an arm and a leg to fix.

How Many Miles Can a Ford Explorer Last

The longevity of a Ford Explorer largely depends on its maintenance, driving habits, and the conditions it’s subjected to. Generally, with proper care and routine maintenance, a Ford Explorer can last over 200,000 miles. Some have even reported reaching 300,000 miles. Regular oil changes, timely repairs, and avoiding harsh driving conditions can extend its lifespan.

How Reliable Are Ford Explorers

Ford Explorers have seen varied reliability over the years. While many owners report satisfactory performance and longevity, some models have faced recalls and known issues. Overall, the Ford Explorer’s reliability tends to be average compared to other SUVs in its class.

When Did Ford Explorer Change Body Style

Ford Explorer underwent significant body style changes in 1995, 2002, 2006, 2011, and 2020. Each change marked a new generation with updated designs, features, and technologies.

What Are the Most Common Problem in a Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition has faced several common problems, including air suspension failures, spark plug issues, and transmission problems. Some owners have also reported issues with the power window regulator and the ignition coil.

What Year Expedition to Avoid

The 2005 Ford Expedition is often cited as a year to avoid due to more frequent reports of engine problems, transmission issues, and brake system concerns than other model years.

What Year Ford Explorer to Avoid

The 2002 and 2014 Ford Explorer model years tend to have more reported problems compared to other years. Issues include transmission failures, wheel-bearing breakdowns, and exhaust manifold leaks.

Why Do Fords Have so Many Problems

It’s not accurate to say all Fords have many problems. However, like any large automaker, Ford has had models or years that faced more issues than others. Factors can range from design flaws to supplier issues or manufacturing inconsistencies. It’s essential to research specific models and years to get a complete picture.

How Long Does a Ford Explorer Transmission Last

A Ford Explorer’s transmission can last between 150,000 to 200,000 miles with proper maintenance. However, some models have experienced transmission issues earlier, and it’s vital to keep up with fluid changes and be attentive to any signs of transmission problems.

What Is the Best Year for Ford Explorer

The 2017 Ford Explorer is often highlighted as a particularly reliable year with fewer reported problems compared to some other years. It combines modern features with a proven track record of performance and durability.

Is the Ford Explorer ST Reliable

The Ford Explorer ST, part of the Explorer’s performance lineup, generally offers good reliability. It shares many components with the standard Explorer but has enhanced performance features. As with any vehicle, regular maintenance and care are vital for its longevity and dependability.

When Was the Ford Explorer Introduced

The Ford Explorer was introduced to the market in 1990 as a 1991 model year vehicle.

What Are the Problems With Ford Explorer Sport Trac

The Ford Explorer Sport Trac, a pickup/SUV hybrid, faced issues like transmission problems, rear axle noises, and engine failures in some model years. It’s also worth noting concerns about the plastic rear window, which some owners reported issues with.

How Many Miles Will a 2013 Ford Explorer Last

A 2013 Ford Explorer, with proper maintenance and care, can easily surpass 200,000 miles. Some owners have even reported reaching close to 300,000 miles. As always, individual experiences can vary based on driving habits and conditions.

What Are Common Problems With Ford Explorers

Ford Explorers have seen various common issues over the years. Some of these include transmission failures, issues with the power windows, exhaust manifold leaks, and problems with the electronic module. Maintenance and care can mitigate many of these issues.

Why Is My Ford Explorer Making a Rattling Noise

A rattling noise from a Ford Explorer can originate from multiple sources. Common culprits include loose heat shields, worn-out suspension components, or debris in the undercarriage. It’s essential to get it checked by a mechanic to pinpoint the exact cause and ensure safe operation.

Do Ford Explorers Have a Lot of Problems

While the Ford Explorer has seen its share of issues over different model years, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have an excessive number of problems. Some years are more reliable than others. Like all vehicles, the Explorer can face problems, but regular maintenance can help in preventing many of them.

What Are the Most Common Problems With a 2015 Ford Explorer

The 2015 Ford Explorer faced issues like problems with the air conditioning system, exhaust fumes entering the cabin, and issues with the suspension. It’s always a good idea to check for recalls or service bulletins related to specific model years.

Are Ford Explorers Safe

Ford Explorers are equipped with various safety features, and many models have received high safety ratings in crash tests. Features like airbags, stability control, and advanced driver assistance systems contribute to its safety. However, it’s vital to consider individual model year ratings and recalls for a comprehensive understanding.

When Was the First Ford Explorer Made

The first Ford Explorer was introduced and made in 1990, being launched as a 1991 model-year vehicle.

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Carrie February 15, 2022 - 9:54 pm

I have a 2015 Ford Explorer Limited 4×4 in Tuxedo Black Mettalic with black/brown leather air/heated seats. I absolutely love it! Does great on mountain roads, in snow and everyday driving. It even tells me when I need to rest – LOL. My dealer didn’t even know it did that. I’ve never had any problems other than the recalls that were done on my vehicle. I only have a little over 80,000 miles on it and it’s paid in full, it would have more if I was still working and not retired. Plan to keep it as long as I can.

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Zack Norman September 22, 2022 - 9:28 pm

Thanks for the comment, Carrie!

Glad to hear that your Explorer’s been serving you well 🙂

james yobbie March 30, 2022 - 9:28 pm

we were a ford family for many years untill we bought our 1987 f150 4×4 was well taken care of and was trash constantly failed engine tranny you name it thats where i developed mechganic skills was totally disgusted and bought a toyota tacoma 4 cy 4×4 has 4010000 mostly trouble free miles original enging and tranny still running strong does not burn oil replaced 2 wheel bearings and 1 alternator and 1 muffler 8 sets of tires 4 sets of brakes still good will drive it anywhere in usa

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Zack Norman September 22, 2022 - 9:27 pm

Thanks for the comment, james yobbie!

Wow, fantastic to hear that your Tacoma’s been running smoothly even with that many miles!

Leah Owens June 23, 2022 - 10:57 pm

I have a 2007 Ford Explorer it has a radiator leak but the problem I’m having is I put gas in it and it didn’t want to start but I got it started and headed home and it didn’t want to accelerate so I pulled over and then it won’t start back??

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Zack Norman September 22, 2022 - 9:26 pm

Thanks for the comment, Leah Owens!

Sorry to hear about your problem. If your Explorer is having issues starting after you’ve had a re-fill at the gas station, it’s possible that there’s a problem with the fuel system. In other words, the engine isn’t getting enough fuel, so it’s not able to perform and run as smoothly. It might be a faulty fuel pump, clogged fuel filter, gunked up fuel injectors, leaking fuel lines, etc.

Heather G August 2, 2022 - 3:34 am

I have a 1999 Ford explorer XLT AWD with the 4.0 liter sohc engine and the 5r55 transmission it has 300k miles on it and is still an everyday driver other than regular maintenance it is completely stock I love the car and will never sell it

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Zack Norman September 22, 2022 - 9:24 pm

Thanks for the comment, Heather G!

Wow, awesome to hear that it’s still running in peachy condition after 300k miles!


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