Ford Explorer Mk3

The third generation Ford Explorer is very different from its predecessors. The new chassis UN152 was optimized for better handling and safety and had independent suspension of all wheels.

The car was produced for a relatively short time, until 2005, and in 2006, the next generation of the model was released, using a modified line of engines and automatic transmission, modified frame and many new options, but with virtually unchanged body, as a result of which these generations of cars are confused by many people.

The basis of construction is a powerful spar frame, so the body, deprived of load-bearing function, is completely unloaded.

Suspensions at the front and rear are double wishbone, spring. The choice of engines - either V6 Cologne 4.0 liter or V8 Modular 4.6. "Six" was produced in Germany and has a distant kinship with the V6 from the old Sierra and Scorpio. "Eight" - a purely American product, and very advanced: it is topshaft, with an aluminum block and cast iron liners.

The engine is mounted longitudinally, drive is to the rear axle, and through the transfer case - to the front axle. And two variants are possible: either standard, with automatically connected front axle, or permanent full with interaxle differential, dividing the moment in the proportion of 35 to 65 between the front and rear axles. Automatic transmission - already in the initial configuration, but among the options there was also a mechanics. The base variant was with drive on the rear axle, but all-wheel drive was offered for all modifications as an option. In general, the design is conservative enough. But is it reliable?


The construction is definitely successful, as well as in Tahoe: it does not rot much, is almost not clogged with dirt, and it is said that it is made of galvanized metal. And even the chassis number, which is located on the platform on the right side at the middle pillar, is covered with a layer of plastic and does not rust. And some cars do not have it at all, which makes it easy to change the frame to any unnumbered one.

And yes, the number under the engine cushion, Ford officially asks not to take into account as an identification number - only as an internal factory designation, and the traffic police know about it. You can ignore it.

Corrosion damage of the frame is quite rare - surface rust is present, but it usually does not penetrate deeply. A relatively common problem is cracked welds of the "ears" of the rear suspension spring stops, but in practice, the structure has a solid safety margin.

Most frame damage is due to accidents or severe off-road use, as well as extreme towing. In the middle part of the frame is lowered very low relative to the body, and therefore the maximum amount of mechanical damage is concentrated in this area.

Also pay attention to the attachment of the additional sills: the choice of material and fasteners is often unsuccessful, and unnecessary holes in the frame that have not been primed can lead to additional corrosion points.

The aluminum hood and front fenders are slightly peeling - this is due to the use of steel fasteners, and the paint does not hold well on aluminum. The effect is more aesthetic, aluminum does not corrode from lack of coating.

Inspect the windshield frame, especially its sides and top - chips on the front edge of the roof often extend all the way to the sunroof. This is already steel, and it rots, albeit slowly, but surely. In advanced cases, the windshield and sunroof will have to be removed for repair.

In addition, the roof is also prone to rot from the inside - the roll-up at the hatch and the area above the "bathtub" of the hatch often grow a layer of loose corrosion, especially in long standing cars.

Another traditional place for corrosion is the sills and tailgate. Sills rust mainly in the rear part along the lower edge, which allows relatively inexpensive repair of damage, but sometimes rust affects the rear arch in its front part, in the door aperture.  And sometimes these elements are rotted simply in the corpse. Fortunately, this is a relatively rare scenario.

But a rear door that has rotted from the bottom to the sides is almost universally encountered.  Side doors and rear fender arches rust under the plastic: in the most advanced cases, the damage becomes visible, but usually it can be noticed only when inspecting on a hoist or removing plastic parts.

The rear fender also has a problem area in the lower part, just in front of the bumper, and here everything is predictable: these are the consequences of "sandblasting", in cars with a well-fixed mudguard and regularly renewed paintwork in the place of damage everything is fine here.

In the rear light recesses, corrosion is slowly encroaching on the edges of the holes: it is wet here.  Small pockets of corrosion at the door handles and on the roof at the roof rails occur quite regularly, but do not represent a serious problem.

Inside the body it makes sense to inspect the trunk floor, driver's and front passenger's floor. Moisture in the trunk is terrible not so much for corrosion, as for the appearance of problems with on-board electronics units. The floor also leaks, and if the carpet is wet, there is a chance that the floor is already rotten.

The rear door hinges are corroded quite badly - if the coating is not renewed, it can lead to breakage. The outer glass hinges have aluminum housing and steel axles, therefore the housing gradually "chews" the axle and sometimes jams.

Traditionally, the overmotor recess is usually full of dirt, old leaves and moisture, and the body paint is peeling off a little at a time - sometimes you need to clean the cavities and scrape off the rust that is starting to show.

Underneath, the bodywork is usually in pretty good condition. Light surface corrosion is a common thing, but serious centers are found occasionally only, again, in the area of the rear arches, under the trunk floor, in its side recesses and on the front except for the arches of the front wheels. Seams around the body-to-frame mounting brackets, especially in the rear, are also at risk.

Plastic bumpers suffer mainly from poor soil adhesion. In other words, they gradually peel off, especially at the front. And the fog lamp mounts were not too reliable.

Transverse cracks occur when using heated rear window in winter - here obviously did not calculate the coefficients of expansion of glass and plastic, and the plastic breaks. Full repair is usually complicated by the fact that the lining to the glass is glued firmly, when removing it, you can break both the lining and the glass. A new part costs not exorbitant - about a hundred dollars, but you need to order, wait and pay for shipping from the United States.

There is usually a lot of minor damage and scuffs, and the plastic is often "renewed" more than once. Scuffed paintwork in doorways is the rule rather than the exception.  In most cases, the openings are simply painted repeatedly, sometimes glued film in the most problematic areas - in the upper part of the rear door and along the rear edge of the front.

The "decoration" is strongly developed: installation of mirrors from Lincoln Aviator, taillights from Explorer IV or restyling, various overlays, additional sills, kangaroos, grilles....


You can already guess that the interior is also simple and thorough. Equipment is often rather modest - even seat heating is often absent. Leather upholstery does not please with quality: after hundred thousand folds cease to smooth out and gradually transform into cracks, and sides are wiped. Velour upholstery, which is quite common, holds better.

The door trim on the light-colored interior is heavily wiped, but cleaning is easy. The steering column is strong, but the control drive is weak - you can break it if you pull the lever too actively.

The main problems are related to the operation of the climate control system. The resource of the front heater motor is not high, after 150 thousand mileage it is quite possible to howl or even stop. 

Breakdowns of the flap of the flow direction are usually connected with unsuccessful implementation of the cabin filter. The car has no standard one, which is a bit strange, because many people implement the filter themselves - put it behind the glove box, cutting the box in front of the recirculation flap. In practice, it is not always possible to do this without breaking the flaps.

Breakdowns of the frame and guides of the second and third row seats occur regularly. When buying it is worth to check them, and in operation treat them with care, and do not have a habit to arrange a warehouse of tools and "very necessary things" on the floor.


Conservatism in electrical equipment is fine. Quite reliable generators and wiring, successful location and design of relay blocks allow to do without expensive works even on cars of venerable age.  At very high mileage it is necessary to be more attentive to the driver's door corrugation - if wires inside it are damaged, the dashboard and fuel level sensor may fail.

From unusual places of failures it is possible to note an unsuccessful connector on the automatic transmission, comparatively weak ABS sensors and their wiring, weak motor of a drive of a hatch and failing sensors of a transfer case. In general, it is impossible to do without computer diagnostics.

Brakes, suspension and steering

Braking system does not stand out anything special, except for economy and frank weakness on cars with V6 motors. ABS block does not cause special problems, tubes and hoses corrode - everything is like in all cars. Traditionally, brake lines in the rear part of the body are in the risk zone. The resource of brake mechanisms itself is relatively small, rotors of disks usually do not go more than 50 thousand.

The design of parking brake is frankly unsuccessful. Its mechanisms are driven by the pedal on the left under the steering wheel and are made of unpainted metal. Corrosion makes them jam and stick, the mechanism of disengagement often fails. As a result - wear of pads and handbrake cables. 

Suspension, despite the departure from the scheme "two axles" favorite by "jeepers", generally behaves well. It is a bit stiff by the standards of American cars, which is a surprise for many people. But the car is steering without excessive waggishness - on condition of serviceability, of course.

It is difficult to break the levers themselves, all wearing elements are changed separately and cost inexpensively. Most often, that is quite predictable, it is necessary to change bushings of stabilizers of transverse stability - once in 15-20 thousand kilometers. 

Stupic bearings are not distinguished by resource and safety margin - on big wheels resource is usually not more than 50 thousand kilometers, and good noise insulation makes possible such failures as breaking off of ABS sensor shank because of hub backlash.

Steering is rack-and-pinion, without special tricks. The main problems are related to leaks of hydraulic lines at high mileage and howling of the pump. It is interesting, but usually the low-pressure line is the first to give up.

In general, everything is extremely reliable, most often the main fault is increased backlashes or loose steering column, which is grabbed by hands and pulled up when getting into the cabin.

All-wheel drive transmission

The bulk of the cars on the, of course, all-wheel drive.  There are rear-wheel drive ones, but they are few. The transmission itself is made quite reliably. Shafts and drives almost always serve more than 200 thousand with rare exceptions.  The cost is not very humane, but if you use the support of the community of owners and actively study American resources, you can find options.

There are two main types of transfer boxes on Explorer III. On most of the cars it is BorgWarner BW-4111 with automatically connected front axle drive. This transmission scheme is an integral part of the Control Trac safety system and is standard for the model. Less than 10% of vehicles had the AdvanceTrac option and BW-4412 transmission with a full inter-axle differential and distribution of torque on the axles in the proportion of 35:65.

Both transfer cases are characterized by good stability and safety margins. Breakdowns are usually due to oil loss, negligent operation or chain pulling out at high mileage and loads. In most cases, with mileage of 200-250 thousand kilometers, there are no serious problems with them. However, it is already necessary to keep an eye on oil seals and breathers, and the control electronics sometimes gives out failures.

Rare cars, where front axle semi-axles are disconnected by pneumohubs, have much more troubles: leaks and failures of valves of the system by the number of failures are much ahead of the number of failures of "hardware" and electrics. In any case, at the price of a contract transfer case from this side serious problems can not be.

Automatic gearboxes

And here practically alternative automatic transmission of 5R55x series causes a lot of troubles. It is a pity that the automatic transmission on Explorer is rare, because the M5OD box on pickup trucks has shown itself as extremely reliable. The problem of automatics in the first place is that at that time it was a new, experimental series. Childish diseases were treated gradually, but at the time of release of the Explorer of the third generation it has not yet been brought to the mind, and in general the design was not the most successful. Especially suffer from the cars of 2002 and 2003 year of production, which were supposed to modification 5R55W. After that, a noticeably improved 5R55S was installed.

The extremely unsuccessful torque converter (TTC) of the first editions has been improved many times, and still remains one of the weak points of the gearbox. Usually buying a new converter is not the best solution, but not in the case of this family of automatic transmissions. Here wear out not only pads of blocking, but also elements of torsional vibration damper, and the design of the paddle apparatus is weak.

What are the problems of Explorer boxes? On cars produced before 2003, there are old brake belts with unsuccessful design of the stop - it simply tears off.  Surprisingly, but "box" services manage to find belts of the old design during repairs, because they use old catalogs. A torn off stop on the belt means not only problems with gear engagement above the second gear, but also damage to the piston servo rod and cylinder, rod seal in the hydraulic block and a sharp drop in oil pressure.

Very unsuccessful here is the design of oil pump with a valve, which rarely goes more than 150 thousand kilometers, and with rare oil change and its contamination - and even less.  In case of its incorrect operation the scenarios are different: from shocks on cold to slipping on hot, or even just scoring of bushings and complete failure of the box, when the valve due to dirty oil and high loads is additionally clogged with "debris".

The Overdrive drum of early years with a sun gear with 24 teeth is frankly unreliable, but the part from boxes with 4.6 motor after 2003 with 38 teeth is not ideal either: it wears the same way, just does not roll up from the moment.  Overrunning clutches of Reverse and Overdrive drums are also weak, cages are falling apart. If the first and second gears disappear, it is it, the overrunning clutch. Forward planetary row also fails: with time vibrations start, and in neglected cases, complete destruction is possible.

In general, the box is problematic, and naturally suffering from the traditional bouquet of purely operational problems with rare oil changes and overheating. If to drive quietly, to install external radiator and external filter of automatic transmission, to renew oil once in 40 thousand or more often, there are chances to drive till overhaul of 300 thousand and more. But almost nobody does this - the average driver starts kicking at mileage of 120+ and usually with strengthening of kicks drives up to 200-250 thousand, if the style of service does not change. Possible minor repairs with replacement of sensors/solenoids in the interval.

After 200 thousand mileage with such barbaric maintenance, almost all boxes will require quite serious repairs. Typical list of works and spare parts includes at least complete rebuilding of GDT (which is noticeably more expensive than just cutting and changing pads), obligatory replacement of oil pump valve, frictions and steel rings of Forward and Forward packs. 

Piston cylinder rebuild and rod bore resharpening are often added to the list of work, almost necessarily a set of solenoids, cleaning of the hydroblock, overrunning clutches...  Very often the planetary gears themselves need to be replaced or rebuilt.

But there is good news: the average price of repair with replacement of one planetary gear with a restored one, because spare parts for this automatic transmission are relatively inexpensive and available, and it is (again, relatively) easy to repair. But there are enough repairs for twice higher price - the reason can be both killed unit, and banal deception.

The situation with second-hand boxes is complicated: it was put mainly on purely American Ford and Lincoln, which are few not only in our country, but also in Europe. From exceptions - only Jaguar S-type up to 2002 and Mazda BT-50: also not the most widespread cars. Therefore, repair of the unit is preferable to attempts to replace it with a more live one. Especially since there were complaints about the quality of work of this box - this automatic transmission is also considered not particularly reliable and resourceful. There is a considerable risk to buy a used one and after a year get the same bouquet of problems as on the original box.


Some serious common problems in the attachments of both motors of the Ford Explorer are not observed. Solid radiators, good location of most nodes, good accessibility. Some oddities with the wiring of the engine compartment by and large owners do not strain, as laid "braids" - it is purely internal problems of the manufacturer and electricians, except that in case of serious accidents there are questions, but in such cases it is not up to wiring.

The most common motor V6 4,0 Cologne with two camshafts, one for each of the cylinder heads, as it was already mentioned, has German origin, but it was put only on American cars and has indirect relation to OHV "sixes" from old Scorpio.

Once the camshaft was located in the block camber and drove the valves with the help of pushrods. Now, in SOHC-version, instead of the camshaft in the camshaft is an intermediate shaft, driven from the "knee" by a short chain. The camshafts in the "heads" are driven from the intermediate by separate chains: on the left side of the cylinder head the chain is at the front, and on the right side - at the rear. The design is unusual and not particularly reliable.

The main suppliers of problems are not the chains themselves, but their tensioners and calipers - structurally unsuccessful and flimsy, with a life of about 150 thousand. The plastic caliper can be easily crushed when the chain vibrates, and the residue will clog the oil intake.

If both chains were in the front, the labor intensity of replacement would be low: it is not even necessary to remove the radiator. But the "rear" chain cannot be removed so easily: it is necessary either to remove the engine, or, in extreme case, to disconnect it from the automatic transmission and move it forward. The operation, as you can guess, in any case is complicated and expensive.

The cherry on the cake is also the price of quality parts. At high cost of works, it makes no sense to save on iron, and together with tensioners-accelerators it makes sense to throw over the chains at the same time. At the same time good Motorcraft and Cloyes chains are expensive: a set of chains in the USA is 500 dollars. Any savings can lead to a decrease in the life of the repair kit to the figure "less than 100 thousand", which is simply unseemly.  At the same time, you will need a new crankshaft damper for sure: it delaminates, and the motor jerks with faulty timing quickly kill it. And do not forget the plug of the promshaft hole in the rear cover - it is prone to leaks, and it is better to change it for a new one.

Well and often, when you get into the motor, it turns out that the cylinder-head requires repair: the valves are not the most successful, they shrink a lot, and even crack. Immediately put aside money for gaskets of "heads" and their covers, rear crankshaft oil seal and often for studs of exhaust manifolds.

When repairing, they usually weld the EGR pipe at once (it cracks here), and some other things: injector rings, sealants, plugs and many other things.... If to buy apart, it is convenient to order spare parts from Land Rover with the same motor: at one time it was put on Discovery III. The price of parts is surprisingly often lower than that of Ford.

It remains to be noted that the motor is very sensitive to assembly errors, and they are often made if they try to climb up and change the timing partially, and even without removing the engine.  Put the wrong side of the calipers, knocked down phases, unsuccessful components - these are all real stories.

It would seem that V8 4,6 liter motor is not much more powerful than V6 - 244 hp against 210-219, who needs it? Meanwhile, cars with it are in much greater demand.  After all, this engine belongs to the Coyote family, it is simple, tractive and extremely reliable, especially against the background of the "junior".

The timing here is not eternal, but at least it can be changed without removing the motor and is relatively inexpensive. Its calipers do not break and chains do not slip. However, there are complaints about the "early" wear of valve seals (only after 160 thousand mileage), inconvenient location of spark plugs, which disposes to their breakage during maintenance, leakage of the intake manifold made of nylon in the front part, which sometimes leads to hydrostroke and overheating.... In short, not without sin.

However, the intake manifold of the latest editions has been changed (it now has an aluminum insert in the problem areas), and the services have been clearly explained how to handle plugs and other things. After 300 thousand Coyote starts to eat oil, and quite actively - the consumption of more than 500 ml per 1 000 km is not so rare. 


If you have found a relatively fresh car with V8, then why not. However, if to look at the situation soberly, the Chevrolet Tahoe of the same years, about which we wrote in detail, wins in age of Explorer by all articles, noting both extremely durable frame, and much more reliable boxes and motors.

And, curiously enough, in practice the lighter and more compact Explorer turned out to be not more economical than Tahoe. Consumption plus or minus the same. The only thing, where Ford wins, is in handling, which is absolutely uncharacteristic for frame "Americans". If it is important for you, look at Explorer: after all, if the car has an 8-cylinder engine, and automatic transmission has been recently restored, it will be quite survivable variant.