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This is the original reviewer, posting an approximate 1-year update for my 2002 Ford Explorer Sport. I now have 147,367 miles on the Explorer, so have put 13,880 miles on it since last year's update. During that time I changed the oil four times and changed the air filter once, when it reached the 12,000 mile service interval, as part of routine maintenance. I also bought a new set of tires at about 135,000 miles, gambling that the vehicle would continue to be reliable long enough to get substantial use out of them. My previous set of tires gave 70,000 miles, about 57,000 miles on the Explorer and about 13,000 miles on my previous Ramcharger. They were Dayton Timberline L/T tires, and I was more than satisfied with them and would recommend them. The new tires are Firestone Destination A/T.
I was pleased to see that the Check Engine Light did not come back on. Like some others, I was tempted to think that the CEL is just an automatic money-making device and doesn't do anything. However, unless one lives in the boonies, it is not practical to stick a piece of tape over the light and drive on, and there is no sense pretending that is a solution. For those of us subject to vehicle inspections, it needs to be fixed. I was at least pleased that the garage identified a problem (the loose fitting) and fixed it, and I've not been troubled with the CEL again. So apparently there was an actual problem that was identified and fixed, and wasn't just an arbitrary "pay your mechanic" light. As to how serious the CEL really is, it's a matter of opinion. I know some people who drive old wrecks with the CEL on for tens of thousands of miles. However, I choose not to drive a wreck with the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree, and prefer that things be fixed right.
I had several unexpected repairs during the past year, described as follows. First, the transmission cooler lines, where they thread into the radiator shell, were rusting through, requiring replacement with new fittings and rubber hoses clamped onto the original steel lines. Second, I had to have the newly replaced driver's side wheel bearing replaced when the ABS light came on after about 9,000 miles, indicating that the bearing was already going out of tolerance. This highlights the difference in quality of $150 between bearings. The "cheap" bearing was $250 and the "good" bearing was $400 just for the part. Yes, it sounds high, but that is what the part costs. It is certainly not comparable to paying $20 for a bearing for my old Dodge, and supports my opinion that "new" used cars cost more to fix than old used cars. And finally, I had to have both emergency brake assemblies replaced, and of course because the small shoes dig into the inside of the rotors, I had to have both rear rotors replaced as well. And naturally that means having the pads replaced, although at least I got the pads for free because I buy the lifetime guarantee pads.
My only other glitch, which I have elected to not repair, is that the #3 position on the fan does not work, so you get 1-2-2-4 when you turn up the fan.
Overall, I've paid $9,900 (including the $3,750 original purchase price) to drive 67,000 miles, or 15 cents per mile. I remain very pleased overall with my 2002 Explorer Sport, although it feels like I've had to visit the brakes too often. Like others, I would ask why they can't be turned, why does it feel like I'm always getting brakes? No, it's not because mechanics are ripping me off. I've rebuilt half a dozen small block MoPars with my own hands, and have been driving my Charger and Barracuda for 25 years on engines that I rebuilt myself, and I'm not some clueless yuppie who doesn't know how a car works. But when you look at the rotors, they are very flimsy compared to the massive brake rotors on my '73 Charger or former '85 Ramcharger, and once again, that seems to be why a "new" used car seems more expensive to maintain than the old cars I had been accustomed to driving. One just has to recognize that in the effort to save weight and cut costs, brake rotors are smaller and technology comes at a price. Plus, I had some unfortunate timing, in that I had a brake job, only to realize later that the bearings were bad, and once the bearings were replaced, the brakes needed to be replaced again because of the resulting uneven wear.
Still, even approaching 150,000 miles, the Explorer continues to be dependable, and I plan to keep driving it and keeping up with the maintenance for as long as it lasts. When I bought it, I assumed that I should not have any major problems up to 150,000 miles, and I think that goal has been met. I'll keep it in service and see if it will reach 200,000 miles.
I am the original reviewer, providing an approximate 1-year update for my 2002 Ford Explorer Sport. The Explorer now has 159,873 miles, so I have put 12,506 miles on it since last year's update. During that time, there were no unexpected repairs, but only routine maintenance consisting of the items listed below.
I changed the oil three times, at between 3,500 and 4,000 miles using the usual Motorcraft 5W-30 synthetic blend, with either a Pure 1 or Motorcraft filter, depending on availability. This was a bit longer than my usual preferred interval of 3,000 miles. I checked the differential fluid levels twice, which I do every 10,000-12,000 miles. The rear pinion seal continues to leak, but the differential remains full, or at most needs only a few ounces of gear oil between intervals. The air filter was changed at its usual 12,000 mile interval. I thoroughly lubricated the spare tire winding mechanism, which I do periodically, to prevent it seizing up with rust. I replaced the windshield wipers, using the Rain X brand. And finally, I had the serpentine belt (this is the external accessory drive belt, not related to timing) replaced for the first time at 150,138 miles, along with the belt tensioner. An odd thing, after the belt and tensioner were replaced, the idle was a couple of hundred RPM higher than formerly, to the point that I had to step harder on the brakes to stop at stop signs, and in order to stop on ice, had to put the car in neutral to disengage the rear wheels. Since then, the idle has come back down into a more normal range, so I don't know if that was a mechanical change or something to do with the interactive learning that the car does if the battery was disconnected and the computer reset. At the same time, the tires were rotated after 15,000 miles.
There has been a definite decrease in gas mileage since I first started these updates. I used to record 19-20 MPG in normal driving, that is, driving 12 miles to work and back in a mix of stop-lights and interstate, combined with weekend highway cruising. Under the same conditions, mileage has now dropped to 17-18, with the occasional heart-shattering 16 MPG. Prolonged interstate driving generally returns 21-22 MPG, and I have not seen the 24-25 MPG averages that I used to. As such, we now take my wife's Honda Fit on long driving vacations so we can reap the benefit of 37 MPG. I'm not sure if it's changed driving habits, the vehicle showing its age, or both.
Also, the front brakes are beginning to shudder again, about 40,000 miles after I had the rotors and pads replaced. And now that the tires have had a chance to wear a bit, they (Firestone Destination A/T) give more road noise than I recall from the previous Dayton Timberline L/T tires, perhaps because the Destination A/T has a more aggressive tread and squared-off shoulders.
And finally, in this section of small issues that don't really rise to repairs or even complaints, the climate control fan has lost the #2 position. Whereas before I had 1-2-2-4, I now have 1-1-1-4. At such point when I lose the #4 position and have 1-1-1-1 it will be time to take it in and have it fixed, especially with winter coming on and the need for a good heater/defroster being more pressing. The paint and body work are still as good as new, although the tubular running boards are so engulfed in surface rust that I'm considering removing them, as they serve no real purpose, but detract from the look of the vehicle. There are two rust spots, on either side of the inside of the tailgate door, and I have finally seen some slight bubbling on the front driver's side wheel well. The interior has held up very well, except the tops of the door panels have experienced some UV degradation from the original medium gray to a light, milky gray.
Still, it has been a good year. The vehicle remains dependable, runs and drives well, and there were no break-downs or repairs. I graph things in Excel, and can say that the cumulative repair/operating costs described a fairly flat line up until about 120,000 miles (my first 40,000 miles of ownership). Between 120,000 and 140,000 miles, the graph had a very pronounced positive slope as it seemed that something always needed fixing. But since 145,000 miles to the present, the graph has flattened out again. I would conclude from this that the original owner should consider trading it off before 120,000 miles before the nagging repairs start to hit. However, if one can get a good deal as a used car, as I did ($3,500 when it was four years old), then it's well worth it to work through the period of repairs and absorb those costs. We shall see how long this low-cost trend of high-mileage driving lasts. Even as cumulative costs rose, the average cost per mile has continued to drop slightly, ultimately describing an asymptote with respect to about 12 cents per mile.
So, we shall see how things are at next year's update, but it seems there is good cause for optimism that this vehicle will give another few years of good service. I seem to lose my vehicles to age-related rust, not to mileage-related mechanical failure.
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