1998 Ford Explorer XLT 4.0 SOHC V6 from North America
OK, but can require some expensive repairs
Ball joints wear out (every 60,000 miles). This is due to them being "maintenance free". They cannot be greased. Therefore, you have to replace them about ever 50k - 60k miles. Plus, to make things worse, the upper ball joints are part of the upper control arms so you have to replace the entire assembly. About $200-400 per occurrence.
Radio display quit working. This is due to the worst designed heating system I have ever seen. Heating system you ask? Yes, that's the real problem here. The heating vents are directly over the radio. Because of this, and the fact that the dash board does not "breath", the radio is subjected to large temperature swings. Eventually, a few resistors/capacitors on the radio's power board will break loose. It will still work, but without the display. You can fix/replace the radio, but it will happen again.
Need to slam on the brakes to get the heater to work. Again, this sounds really strange, but can be explained... You see, there is a plastic arm that controls the blend door (it controls hot vs cold). It tends to break which may leave the blend door to swing on its own. I have found out that if you slam on the brakes, you can get the blend door to move to a position that will allow hot air to come through. As long as you keep the heater fan on, it will stay in that position. Luckily, though, Max A/C can overpower this so I am left with either full heat or full A/C. Unfortunately, its about a $1200 fix because only the dealer will do it (due to air bags) and they have to remove the entire dash board. The newer Explorers use a more durable material for this arm.
Transfer case needed rebuilt (twice). Apparently, there are a few plastic parts in the transfer case (a pretty stupid idea if you ask me). I have managed to melt these parts twice so far. Each time has left the Explorer with only 4WD low. First time was about a $1600 fix. Second time was under warranty from the first time as it happened only 6 months later.
Transmission needed rebuilt. The transmission died about 2 days after the transfer case (above). I believe it was because of it. Another $2200 fix.
I have had many other (minor) problems that are to be expected of any vehicle. What I have listed above are what I consider major design issues. If you have a 1998 Explorer, you should expect similar problems. I have talked with others that have this vehicle and they seem to all have some of these things in common--especially the radio.
Other than the design issues that I listed, I really think this vehicle is all right. It is comfortable and quite powerful and is very nice to drive through the mountains. I have had it on a few true 4x4 trails and it does okay. It has low ground clearance which limits it quite a bit.
I have kept it for about 130,000 miles so it really isn't that bad. I would say that I spent about $5000 total on repairs that should not be necessary. Most of that was when the transfer case/transmission died. Still, I don't think I would buy another one. Just too many stupid design flaws.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 4th October, 2003
I have a 1998 Ford Explorer. To comment on a few issues hat have been mentioned here I have similiar problems.
The heater control valve stopped working, fortunately enough I had the heat on when it did. I have contacted the dealer and was told that I could find the HEATER CONTROL VALVE on the underside of the engine compartment/passenger side. Auto Zone does sell this unit which at last check was only $16.95...
Now as far as the transfer case, I am experiencing some grab after the thing is driven for awhile. I am going to check underneath and check my fluid level. (Hopefully before I experience a more major problem)
As far as the radio is concerned I too am without a display, BUT every now and again the thing all of a sudden works and I get full display. I noted once that I had display again, but when I activated the cigarette lighter it went out immediately. Hmmmmmmm...
There are a lot of preventitive things you can do to this SUV, but it is up to you to get it done right.
When working under the hood of this thing it is ALWAYS BEST to disconnect the battery to avoid deplyoment of your airbags.
I had to change my serpentine belt yesterday and I found it EXTREMELY simple. I first removed the top plastic cover (over the top of the engine) then removed the breater hose from the air intake body and filter housing. This gives you access to the tension arm located on the passenger side midway down the front of the engine. Routing is simple and somewhat self explanatory. When installing the belt it is easier to route it around all other pullys leaving the idler for last. Yes position the belt around the tension arm before the idler because you can easier slip the belt under the idler (since it is smooth).
If you don't know what you r doing it is best to consult your dealer. After it is their product and I have found that they are very willing to help out when neccessary. (advice wise, your going to pay for their labor)
I want to touch on the lousy way FORD has designed this truck with NO LUBRICATION POINTS on critical areas. SEALED SEALS! NUFF said! BLAH!
TIP: I shop at Auto Zone online and they have a section for repair with photos. It has come in handy several times, but some things are not explained. Again check with your dealer!
The heater blend door problem is very common in vintage Explorers. When my door broke a month ago, the dealer quoted $850 to fix the problem. Fortunately, there is a simple workaround that can be done in about an hour by a do-it yourselfer. The workaround restores full function to the heater door, and requires one finishing nail. (Materials) If you do a Google search on "Explorer Heater Blend Door", you should find several web sites that detail the repair.
I wouldn't buy this car again. The radio display quit working, rear door lock broke ($250 to fix), thermostat went out, along with minor, but expensive, repairs/maintenance to the tune of around $3000 all before 60,000 miles. At 60,900 miles the front and rear timing chains and tensioners need to be replaced as well as the left cylinder head - at least a $4000 bill. The mechanic says I should consider a new engine ($5400) because they don't know what else is going to go wrong given the problems they know about. When I pay $37K for a car I expect the engine to last more than 60K miles! Ford Customer Service says they are real sorry, but they aren't going to help out. This is the last Ford I ever buy.