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Ford Explorer Reliability: How Long Will It Last?


Since 1991, the Ford Explorer continues to be recognized as a durable SUV, with many vehicles capable of traveling up to 200,000 miles. However, third and fifth generation design flaws may limit their travel to just 80,000 miles. Especially if you have a bad transmission or rear suspension failure.

Ford Explorer 2018-Ford

Key points

  • The Ford Explorer can reach 200,000 miles when properly maintained. However, serious problems in two different generations reduce their average longevity to 100,000 miles or less.
  • Performing all suggested maintenance, including the recommended 18-point inspection, can help identify problems before they become serious.
  • Some major problems that rule out a Ford Explorer early include faulty suspensions in the fifth generation and a bad transmission in the third.
  • Avoid years of problems and follow a rigorous preventative maintenance program to extend the functional life of your Ford Explorer.

2019 Ford Explorer Limited Luxury Edition - Photo by Ford

While some Ford Explorers have far surpassed the 200,000-mile mark, serious problems over two generations reduce the average lifespan.

Ford has built a solid reputation for its trucks and SUVs over the years. However the Ford Explorer suffers from serious reliability issues for the 2002 to 2006 and 2012 to 2016 model years. For this reason, the expected mileage range for the Ford Explorer is 80,000 to 200,000 miles.

However, when you pay close attention to your maintenance and repair schedule, you can enjoy your SUV for many more miles. as stated by a fleet of long-time owners chatting at Car Gurus.

In 2021, an Explorer owner said: “I have a 1998 Ford Explorer 4.0 V6 (Eddie Bauer Edition) with 178,000 miles to date.”

Another owner said: “My Explorer has over 310,000 miles on the stock engine and transmission; I just changed the timing chain guides. Maintenance is essential.

These shining examples of longevity don’t always turn out to be true. At JD Power, the SUV retains only average reliability over the years. From 2010 to the present, indicating that for every hyper-mile, there is another vehicle struggling to break the 80,000 mark.

2015 Ford Explorer Sport - Picture of Ford

The Explorer’s average annual maintenance cost is higher than comparable models, but it’s essential to keep the SUV on the road.

Mechanics and drivers agree that for your Ford Explorer to last longer, it is essential to follow the suggested maintenance schedule.

A Ford Explorer costs more to maintain than other SUVs in its segment, averaging around $732 per year for oil changes and repairs as reported by a repair friend. But you need to do your oil and filter every 7,500 miles if you want to hit the legendary 300,000-mile mark.

A thorough 18-point inspection is also recommended at every garage visit. Ford suggests that you check everything from the brakes to the wheels for the first signs of wear.

The owner’s manual also states that changing spark plugs, coolant, and drive belts should be done at the 100,000-mile mark. Skipping a repair to save money will only result in a system failure that will be much more expensive to repair, especially when it comes to the engine and transmission.

2002 ford explorer-ford

The longevity of the fifth-generation Ford Explorer can be affected by common problems of faulty suspensions and faulty transmissions

When you buy a new car these days, chances are it’s designed to go over 100,000 miles. The Ford Explorer built during the troubled fifth generation from 2011 to 2016 may not always meet these expectations.

A major problem these models face is corrosion of the rear suspension links, which can cause fractures. The related recall was issued in stages through 2021 and applies to nearly one million vehicles.

Areas that use road salt have seen more SUV breakdowns as the salt triggers the corrosion process. The kneecap corrodes, swells, and causes the toe joint to break. It makes you wonder if a rusty part is replaced, will it rot again under the same conditions?

Ford Explorer models from 2012 to 2017 also reported problems with cracked engine blocks, coolant leaks, and an open investigation into foul cabin odors emanating from the engine that may or may not be associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you look at an older Ford Explorer, a problematic transmission in the 2002-2006 model years caused the untimely death of many of these vehicles. Symptoms begin with hard shifting or slipping and end with a replacement transmission costing about $2,000.

However, if you want to maintain it, replacing the transmission on a 15-year-old vehicle is a reasonable investment.

Take care of your Ford Explorer and you can pay it forward with a long life of up to 200,000 miles.

While for some years the Ford Explorer struggled to live up to Ford’s solid reputation, JD Power still ranks the popular sport utility vehicle as one of the top 10 midsize SUVs.

When you regularly bring the SUV in for service, the Explorer can go up to 200,000 miles. But keep in mind that any vehicle with more than 100,000 miles may require extensive work on major systems. But that shouldn’t deter you from considering a Ford Explorer.

Photos: Ford


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