How Long Do Ford Explorers Last? (9 Important Facts)

Released in 1991 to replace the Bronco II model, the Ford Explorer has become one of the most beloved family vehicles in America.

Considering its exceptional utility, cargo-ferrying capacity, and stellar safety records, you might want to know how long this vehicle lasts.

How long do Ford Explorers last?

A Ford Explorer can last up to 10-17 years with regular maintenance. The life expectancy depends on user habits, maintenance, terrain, and several other factors. Assuming you perform regular maintenance, a Ford Explorer can serve your family for 16 years if you average 12,000 miles annually.

How Many Miles Can You Expect from a Ford Explorer?

An average Ford Explorer can easily achieve 80,000 to 200,000 miles. If you visit Explorer forums, you will find several examples of users with over 300k miles on the odometer.

Earlier in its life, the Explorer was one of the most unreliable products from the Ford. However, it is now mostly free of life-threatening factory defects, and most users get their money’s worth.

That being said, you will need to treat your Ford Explorer really well for it to make those mind-boggling miles. Performing recommended servicing will probably take you past 150k miles.

After that point, you will likely need extensive mid-life upgrades of the transmission, suspension, and steering, especially if you use your Explorer as a daily driver.

By 200k miles, you can expect timing chain issues to come up. Dealing with these problems quickly is an important factor if you want your Explorer to enjoy a Methuselaic life.

Another point to call out here is the provenance of the vehicle. It’s difficult to achieve 200k-mile longevity if the former owners of a vehicle mistreated it.

How Soon Should You Expect Rust on a Ford Explorer?

If you drive a Ford Explorer, especially model years 2000 and later, you can expect rust on it after about four years.

Ford used to build Explorers with steel. But in its quest for lighter, more fuel-efficient designs, the company sacrificed the more durable steel for aluminum.

Aluminum is lighter, so it reduces weight while improving fuel economy. But the lighter metal lacks the density and durability of steel.

Many Ford Explorer owners complain that the vehicle suffers from premature corrosion. The problem starts from the hood as paint bubbles and progresses to other parts of the vehicle.

There is a class-action lawsuit against Ford concerning the corrosion problem of the Explorer. Since 2004, the company has issued several technical service bulletins (TSBs) to dealerships on how to deal with rust on Explorers.

If you plan to buy a pre-owned Explorer produced from the year 2000, check the hood and other body parts for bubbles, rust, and peeling paint. Buying a corroded or corrosion-prone vehicle may lead to expensive repairs and reduce resale value.

Early model Ford Explorers that have steel panels do not suffer from premature corrosion. Unfortunately, these may be too outdated for today’s buyers.

How Long Do Ford Explorers Last Compared to Similar Car Models?

Ford Explorers have come a long way since their turbulent early years.

Compared to direct competitors such as the Honda Pilot, Jeep Cherokee, and Chevrolet Traverse, the Explorer can hold its own in terms of reliability and longevity.

The Pilot can exceed 400k miles with regular maintenance, and the Jeep Cherokee can last for 15-20 years. These figures are similar to the Explorer’s 17 years and 300k mile life expectancy.

However, these models will need exceptional care to achieve such long service years.

How Reliable Is a Ford Explorer?

The Explorer was bedeviled with several problems at inception.

First and second-generation models had a tendency to roll over mid-transit. And there were extensive cases of transmission failure and timing chain wear.

A huge scandal erupted over the failure of the factory-installed Firestone tires that came with the Explorers.

The Ford Explorer doesn’t score very high in the reliability department. J.D. Power rates the 202 Explorer 3.5 out of 5, placing it 19th out of 26 in the midsize SUV category.

This doesn’t mean the Explorer is unreliable. However, it is not a top performer in its class.

Nevertheless, the Ford Explorer has improved since its turbulent early years, and you can now enjoy years of trouble-free driving from the model.

The Best and Worst Years for Ford Explorers

The best Ford Explorer models are those produced between 2007 and 2012.

According to the consumer complaint aggregation site carcomplaints.com, users submitted fewer than 200 complaints about models produced during this period.

Conversely, 2002, 2004, and 2006 model years are reported to be the worst of the Ford Explorers. In fact, the Explorer’s entire third generation (2001-2005) attracts an uncharacteristically high number of negative feedback.

The major issue with the 2002 Explorer is premature transmission failure. Most users report the problem around 94,000 miles and spend an average of $2800 on repairs. The 2004 Explorer also experiences myriad issues, the biggest of which are slipping transmissions and hard shifts.

The most common issues with the 2006 Explorer were cooling and transmission system failures, which surfaces around 49,000 miles. Users also reported radiator leaks, engine failure, and wheel bearing wear.

If you want peace of mind, we advise you to avoid the 2002 and 2006 model years of the Explorer. These models are prone to several problems, require higher maintenance costs, and can quickly turn into money pits.

The most recent model years from 2017 to 2020 have exceptional reliability, with users reporting less than 100 complaints.

What About Recalls for These Models?

Ford has issued 74 recalls for the Explorer during its almost 30 years’ production run.

The table below outlines the number of recall actions each model year has been involved with.

Note that the recall numbers are arranged in descending order from the highest to the lowest:

Model Year No. Of Recalls
2000 15
1999 15
1998 14
1997 12
1995 12
2001 12
1996 11
1991 11
2002 10
1993 9
1994 7
2003 7
2013 7
1992 7
2016 6
2011 5
2006 4
2012 4
2017 4
2004 4
2015 3
2008 3
2005 3
2007 3
2014 2
2010 2
2009 1
2018 1

Ford Explorer Model Year List

In its 30-years of production, the Ford Explorer has evolved through six generations, including:

  1. 1991 – 1994 [First Generation]
  2. 1995 – 2001 [Second Generation]
  3. 2002 – 2005 [Third Generation]
  4. 2006 – 2010 [Fourth Generation]
  5. 2011 – 2019 [Fifth Generation]
  6. 2020 -?    [Sixth Generation]

Are Ford Explorers Expensive to Maintain?

Ford Explorers are not expensive to maintain unless you bought a problematic model year.

The maintenance cost of most Explorers fall within the average for SUVs, but there will always be outliers.

Data from yourmechanic.com suggests that annual maintenance cost for a Ford Explorer is around $618. Depending on user habits, service providers, and several other factors, you can expect to spend between $80 to $2,165 on Ford Explorer maintenance per year.

You can reduce your Explorer maintenance expenses by DIYing regular services.

That way, you only spend more for complex repairs.

How Long Do the Brakes Last?

You can expect your Ford Explorer’s brakes to last an average of 40,000 miles.

Depending on your driving style and terrain, the brake pads can deliver between 25,000 to 65,000 miles before replacement.

Thankfully, a replacement cost around $200.

How Long Do the Hybrid Batteries Last?

Ford claims its hybrid batteries, including the Explorer’s, can last eight years or a minimum of 80,000 miles.

But we know little about the Explorer Hybrid since it debuted in 2020. Judging by the reliability of the Ford Escape Hybrid, we expect the Explorer hybrid’s batteries to last a long time.

However, replacement batteries can cost upwards of $5,000.

How Long Do the Tires Last?

If you are a typical American driver who covers 12,000 to 15,000 miles annually, your Ford Explorer tires should serve for about five years.

Ford recommends swapping your tires six years after the production date, even if they still have considerable tread life.

We advise you to take the advice seriously considering that tires play an oversized role in the safety, performance, and handling of a vehicle.

How Long Do the Transmission Last?

Ford Explorer transmission systems without factory design flaws and regular maintenance can last up to 80,000 to 180,000 miles.

In previous sections, you will notice that transmission problems are common to several Explorer generations.

Most of the issues are related to manufacturing defects and would likely be covered under warranty.

That said, user habits and the terrain of your region will likely affect the longevity of your Ford Explorer’s transmission.

How Long Do the Spark Plugs Last?

Regular Ford Explorer spark plugs can last for about 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

If you buy the long-life Iridium or platinum-tipped spark plugs, these can serve you reliably for 60,000 to 150,000 miles.

What About Insurance Cost?

According to Finder.com, it costs an average of $171 per month and $2,052 per year to ensure a Ford Explorer.

However, factors such as your driving record, annual mileage, region, and insurance provider can affect your actual cost.

Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Ford Explorer

Here are tips to keep your Explorer on the road for as long as you want:

Follow the Manufacturer Recommended Maintenance Regimen

Many of the problems people face with the Explorer is the result of not following manufacturer recommendations.

To keep your vehicle in tip-top shape for longer, always service your Explorer as at when due.

Monitor the Oil

Lubrication is the lifeblood of your vehicle.

Check the oil level for your engine, transmission, power steering, and other components and refill or change as required.

It will save you a lot of headaches.

Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

To prevent excessive tire wear, poor handling, and uncomfortable rides, always keep your tires properly inflated.

Improper tire pressure can cause costly problems for your Explorer.

Invest in a tire pressure gauge to avoid these issues.

Be a Conscientious Driver

Failing trannies, worn wheels and hubs, poor fuel economy, and several other issues can result from your driving habits.

Don’t go too hard on your Explorer if you want it to enjoy a long life.

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