My parents purchased the vehicle from a shop, which reconditioned the vehicle after it was totalled by the original owners. Several weeks after the purchase the transmission "exploded" while shifting out of park on the hill outside of our house. At the time I did not own the vehicle and I use the term "exploded" because I go only by the description provided by my brother and sister after the incident. However, the area outside of our house which might be called "ground zero" provided significant evidence of a detonation of destructive power. However, to be fair to the old girl, it was used for the first ten years of its life primarily as a mule for a 25 foot boat. Also, from what I have read the four speed automatic transmissions are prone to failure at mileage in excess of 100,000. The repair cost for a rebuilt transmission ran about $1,800 I believe.
My parents also replaced the passenger side radius arm bushing. I believe that cost about $200.
Since I was donated the vehicle by my parents in 2004, as a winter beater ('79 Firebird in the summer), several more things have failed.
The radius arm bushing on the driver side has deteriorated resulting in a "loose" feeling in the front end and a popping sound when the brakes are applied and released. This is caused by axle-wrap, which is annoying, yet not serious, and is nothing I will be paying to have fixed.
The four wheel drive is inoperable. Failure of the shifter motor on the transfer case is common due to a deteriorated internal stop gumming the connections. However, after removing this and rebuilding it myself I unfortunately determined that this was not the problem and instead the auto locking hubs were destroyed. Another item I will not be fixing. 4X4 does work if in dire need, however, it is not pretty.
Several other small common items have needed to be repaired or replaced since I have owned the vehicle:
Brakes: front and rear, entire exhaust system, starter (twice), a stuck thermostat, rusted transmission lines (in and out), and the oil pressure gauge failed (A few scary days until I resolved that it was just the oil pressure sending unit).
Also, there is the standard Ford Explorer copyrighted extreme rocker panel rust. Also a little rust on the roof and lip of the hood. However, the floors and wheel wells are surprisingly spotless.
The 1992 Ford Explorer is no rocket ship. In fact my first impression of the vehicle (ignoring the bright red interior) was "I could probably walk faster". However, it holds its own on the highway.
What it lacks in speed it makes up for in comfort and quality. The seats are tremendously comfortable and the dash lay out is pleasing and functional. It shifts smoothly, vision is excellent, space is ample (the rear seats fold flat, there is not one blemish anywhere in the interior, and nothing has cracked, fallen apart, or failed. It has style and still shows as it did when it rolled out of the factory in '92.
The gas mileage is poor, however, normal for its age and weight, and the 4.0L Cologne V6 is an excellent engine that has never once let me down.
I occasionally beat on the vehicle, as I feel it is my civic duty being 18-21 years of age owning the vehicle. However, I regularly change the oil (synthetic) and check all fluids and tire pressure regularly.
It may sound as if this car has been nothing, but a nightmare, however, the annual cost to own it, including the 3000 purchase price my parents payed, sums up to less than what they say one should expect to pay in new car payments or used car repairs. Also, it's still going strong and I expect it to last me through college... so long as I do.
Problems to look out for if you own or are planning on purchasing a first generation explorer:
Failure of the 4X4 due to the power motor on the transfer case (can also help you score an explorer for cheap if you know what to look for).
Rust evidence on the rockers, window motor failure, radius arm bushing failure, and clogging of the mass air flow sensor (if getting very poor gas mileage or rough idling)