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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated March 11, 2024



Older Ford Explorer Overview, Third And Fourth Generations (2006 - 2019), Reliability, Possible Maintenance Problems, Overall Pros And Cons

Related: The Simple Way To Get The Lowest Price On A New Ford Explorer

While historically high new and used car prices have forced buyers to look for "older" vehicles that may have aged well as a way of saving money, the issues of reliability and dependability have become even more crucial.

2013 Ford Explorer Limited

Fortunately, an older Ford Explorer, generally speaking, has tended to age well when properly maintained, making a well-chosen one a distinct possibility in today's high-priced car market.

While all older vehicles have had mechanical issues, as have Explorers, they have proven to be a fairly reliable model over time. Better than most, in fact. Of course, careful and patient shopping is required.

And by "older", I'm generally referring to Explorers that are 10+ years old, which would mean those from its fourth and fifth generations, those produced for the 2006 - 2019 model years, with a primary focus on the earlier models when it comes to the fifth generation.

Of course, the lifespan of an Explorer will vary depending on factors such as its maintenance history, driving conditions, and the driving habits of the previous owner(s). However, history has proven that a well-maintained Explorer can last in the 200,000 mile range, with examples of some reaching over 300,000.

So here, ...

- We'll do an overview of two earlier Ford Explorer generations, specifically the fourth and fifth, covering the 2006 - 2019 model years.

- Then we'll list possible mechanical issues from these production runs that have been reported by owners so they can be checked before buying one today.

- And then we'll summarize the overall pros and cons of an older Explorer worth consideration for potential buyers today.


But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Explorer

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: It's important to get online price quotes at auto sites such as Edmunds.com and CarsDirect.com (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business is what gets you a lower price, and it's very easy.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.


Fifth Generation Ford Explorer (2011 - 2019)

2011 Ford Explorer

More than any other vehicle, it's really the midsize Ford Explorer that's responsible for America's love affair with SUVs that blossomed in the early 1990s. The Explorer delivered comfort, roominess, versatility and affordability, and all with a more attractive design than "ho hum" station wagons or minivans. The rest is history.

And by just about every measure, more recent Explorers became far better. They're quieter, more powerful, more attractive, better equipped and safer.

The fourth generation's most significant changes included a switch to a unibody architecture from the trucklike body-on-frame for a more carlike drive. Interior room and cargo space was also increased as the newer design was 4 inches longer and 5 inches wider than its predecessor.

In addition to upgrading the interior as well, new engines debuted including a standard 3.5-liter 290-horsepower V6, while a more pump-friendly 2.0-liter 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder (with 270 pound-feet of torque) became optional (beginning in 2012).

Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, while front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive was an option on the V6. The downside, however, is that towing capacity had been reduced to 5,000 pounds.

Model choices were reduced to three: base, XLT and Limited. Even the base model comes well-equipped, however, while finding luxury features such as leather uphostery, upgraded audio systems, the Sync voice command system, keyless ignition/entry, and a rearview camera can be found by moving up to the higher trims.

Older models from this new generation can also be found with options such as navigation, adaptive cruise control, a rear entertainment system, blind spot and collision warning systems, and an automatic parallel-parking system.

Gas mileage for this V6 Explorer with front-wheel drive is an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city and 25 mpg onthe highway (17 and 23, respectively with AWD) ... about average for the class. But the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is rated at a stronger 20 mpg city and 28 highway.

This Ford Explorer was clearly one of the leaders among family SUV choices. It has a well-balanced drive and provides spacious and comfortable accommodations for seven passengers. And when outfitted with most of its optional high-tech features, it's right up there with the luxury brands.


2011 - 2019 Ford Explorer Possible Mechanical Problems

Overall, the fifth generation Explorer represented an improvement in terms of reliability compared to the fourth generation, but it still had some mechanical issues as reported by some owners, which should therefore be included in an inspection before buying one today:

Transmission Issues: Similar to the fourth generation below, some owners experienced problems with the automatic transmission, including rough shifting, slipping, and premature failure.

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Engine Problems: Some models equipped with the V6 engine experienced issues such as engine stalling, rough idling, and loss of power. Some reported problems with the timing chain tensioners, which could lead to engine damage if not addressed promptly.

Cooling System Leaks: There were reports of coolant leaks from various components in the cooling system, including the radiator, hoses, and water pump.

Electrical Gremlins: Also like the previous generation, some owners reported electrical problems such as malfunctioning power windows, door locks, and interior lights.

Suspension and Steering Components: There were reports of premature wear and failure of suspension and steering components, including ball joints, control arms, and tie rod ends.

Fuel System Problems: Some owners experienced issues with the fuel system, including fuel leaks and problems with the fuel pump.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Malfunctions: There were reports of ESC malfunctions, leading to warning lights on the dashboard and compromised vehicle stability and handling in some driving conditions.

It's important to note that not all Ford Explorers of the fifth generation experienced these issues, and the severity and frequency of problems can vary among individual vehicles.


Fourth Generation Ford Explorer (2006 - 2010)

Ford Explorer Limited (2006)

Still quite present in the secondhand market, this Explorer version has been very popular and also didn't vary very much over its model years in terms of its primary characteristics.

This production run was a significant update which revised both interior and exterior styling, improved the frame, upgraded safety systems, and added more power. These Explorers were also enhanced with Ford's Sync music/phone interface in 2008 and a revised navigation system in 2009.

There were primarily four models: XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited. More standard equipment and luxury features are added progressively with each model, while stability control and antilock brakes (ABS) were standard on all models.

While there are slight feature differences depending on model year, generally an XLS came standard with full power accessories, air-conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, and an MP3-compatible CD player.

Opting for an XLT adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a 6-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rear ventilation ducts.

Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer (2008)

The Eddie Bauer models came with 17-inch alloys, all-terrain tires, leather upholstery, two-tone paint, running boards, heated seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver seat, driver memory settings, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The Limited went on to add chrome wheels, a power front passenger seat, monochromatic paint, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering wheel audio controls, heated mirrors, and an upgraded stereo system with an in-dash CD changer.

Some models can also be found with optional features such as navigation, a rear air conditioner, sunroof, third-row seat, second-row bucket seats, a DVD entertainment system, and 18-inch wheels.

Powering this generation is either a 210-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine or a 4.6-liter V8 that produces 292 horsepower (was 239-hp prior to 2006). Two- or four-wheel drive models can be found with either engine and all had five-speed automatic transmissions except V8 models which were equipped with six-speed automatics.

Overall, these Explorers offer a comfortable ride, capable handling for a large vehicle, a spacious cabin, a particularly strong engine, and high towing capacity (7,300 pounds) on V8 models.


2006 - 2010 Ford Explorer Possible Mechanical Problems

These mechanical issues have been reported by some owners and should therefore be included in a pre-purchase inspection:

Transmission Problems: Some owners experienced issues with the automatic transmission, including slipping, rough shifting, and premature failure.

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Suspension Components: There were reports of premature wear and failure of suspension components such as ball joints, control arms, and bushings.

Engine Issues: Some models with the V8 engine were prone to problems such as valve seat erosion, leading to rough idling, misfires, and decreased engine performance.

Electrical Problems: Some owners experienced electrical issues, including malfunctioning power windows, door locks, and interior lights.

Cooling System Problems: There were reports of coolant leaks, particularly from the radiator and hoses, leading to engine overheating and potential damage if not addressed promptly.

Rear Differential Failure: In some cases, the rear differential could develop leaks or fail prematurely, resulting in noise, vibration, and loss of power to the rear wheels.


Overall Pros And Cons Of An Older Ford Explorer

Older Ford Explorer Pros

Lower Purchase Price: Older Ford Explorers typically have lower upfront costs compared to newer models, allowing buyers to save money on the initial purchase.

Lower Depreciation: Since older vehicles have already experienced the majority of their depreciation, they tend to hold their value better over time compared to newer cars, lowering the overall cost of ownership.

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Lower Insurance Costs: Insurance premiums for older vehicles are generally lower than those for newer models, also lowering ownership costs.

Simpler Technology: Older Ford Explorers often feature simpler technology and fewer electronic systems compared to newer models. This can mean fewer potential points of failure and lower repair costs for owners.

Ease of Maintenance: Older vehicles may be easier and less expensive to maintain, as their components are generally more straightforward and widely available. DIY repairs and maintenance may also be more feasible for mechanically inclined owners.

Spacious Interior: The Explorer offers ample room for passengers and cargo, making it suitable for families and road trips.

Towing Capacity: It has a respectable towing capacity, making it capable of hauling trailers and boats.

Off-Road Capability: With available four-wheel drive and decent ground clearance, the Explorer can handle mild off-road adventures.

Variety of Trims: The Explorer comes in various trim levels with different feature packages, allowing buyers to choose according to their preferences and budget.

Safety Features: They typically are equipped with standard safety features like airbags, stability control, and antilock brakes.


Older Ford Explorer Cons

Reliability Concerns: Some owners have reported issues with reliability, particularly with the transmission and suspension components.

Higher Maintenance and Repair Costs: While older vehicles may be simpler in design, they can require more frequent maintenance and repairs due to wear and age. Components such as suspension parts, hoses, and seals may need replacing more often, increasing ownership costs over time.

Lower Fuel Efficiency: Older Explorers typically have less fuel-efficient engines compared to newer models, resulting in higher fuel costs over the vehicle's lifespan.

Limited Safety Features: Older vehicles may lack modern safety features such as advanced airbag systems, stability control, and collision avoidance technology.

Potential for Higher Emissions: Older vehicles may not meet current emissions standards, resulting in higher emissions and potential environmental concerns. This can also lead to increased registration fees or restrictions in certain areas with strict emissions regulations.

Limited Technology and Comfort Features: Older Ford Explorers may lack the convenience and comfort features found in newer models, such as touchscreen infotainment systems, advanced driver assistance systems, and premium interior amenities.

Outdated Interior: Compared to its competitors, the interior design and materials may feel outdated, lacking the refinement seen in newer models.

Handling: The Explorer's handling may feel cumbersome and less agile compared to smaller SUVs or crossovers.


Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Explorer Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Ford Explorer if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Explorer. This works just phenomenally well.


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