2011-2019 Ford Explorer Problems

May 7, 2020
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Common 2011-2019 Ford Explorer Problems and Issues (And How To Fix Them)

The Ford Explorer's problems have been well documented and researched  as over a million fifth generation (2011-2019) Explorers have been sold. If you are in the market for an Explorer or currently own one and want to watch out for some preventable problems, you've come to the right place.

Rattling A-Pillars

Like most vehicles, most of its troubles are from the early days of the model. The most obvious issues an early Explorer (2011-2013) might face are prematurely rusting hoods and rattling in the A-pillars. So many owners have complained about rust on then-new cars, that Ford has been hit with a class-action lawsuit requesting a recall targeting hood rust. CarComplaints has documented the lawsuit specifics and records a high number of complaints on their website here. If you want to learn how to avoid rust we've got you covered.

The A-pillar rattling might be trickier to find. Annoyed owners say at highway speeds, their A-pillars have an irritating shaking that is difficult to find. Tape doesn't fix the problem as the problems are vibrating anchoring clips inside the pillars. In the 2014 models, Ford added foam to the clips, stopping the rattle.

In the same vein, the trim on the outside of the A-pillars hiding the rattling clips have a tendency to fall off. They're cheap to replace, but check them out, as getting ripped off on the highway isn't unheard of.

Water Leak

Sticking with 2011-2013 Ford Explorer problems, on explorerforum.com there are numerous users reporting water leaks, coinciding with reports on the NHTSA website.

This does not seem to be a pervasive problem, but search "water" on the Explorer NHTSA page and you'll see plenty of upset owners talking about the water. Most of the leaks seem to be around the third row seating area, so if you want to check for leaks, I would start there and in the spare wheel well.

3.5L Water Pump

Explorers equipped with the Duratec 3.5L V6 engine have also been included in a lawsuit claiming Ford should help pay for replacing the engine's costly water pump. Granted the judge dismissed the lawsuit, but enough people thought it was a problem to still try.

Due to the water pump's location inside the engine - compared to the more traditional external water pump found in most engines - it is a more complicated (and expensive) job to replace it. Add in that the pump's bearings can fail prematurely and you're looking at an expensive bill.

A user on fordedgeforum.com said the seals on the pump that stop water from ruining the bearings can break down if the coolant becomes old and acidic. So he recommends keeping the coolant fresh to stop the early seal breakdowns. Whether it's speculation or good advice we can't say, but changing your fluids a little early is easy and actionable advice for an otherwise unpreventable problem.

Radiator Fan Noise

The 2016 face lift gave the Explorer new problems it needed to iron out. First they are  known to have loud radiator fans after the engine is shut off. It's quite noticeable and unpleasant, but Ford updated the part to not make such a racket and is an easy fix.

Throttle Body Stalling

The second more pervasive problem is a malfunction in the throttle body causing the car to stall unexpectedly. When owners first learned about this and went to their Ford dealerships, the high number of backorders left owners with unusable cars.

Hopefully any 2016 Explorers out there have already had these parts replaced, but if your car suddenly goes into limp mode and has the wrench light illuminate, you know the cause.

Steering Column Recall

Finally we get to the big issues, the first of which is the Explorer's steering. There were some recalls you can read about here that fixed some of the potential steering problems, but steering racks are still a common weak point in the Explorer as a good portion of the NHSTA reports are about steering issues. 

The problems seem to range from the power steering going out, to the rack and pinion breaking. Even if you are looking at or own an Explorer Ford that has been in for a steering recall, that doesn't mean it won't break as numerous parts are prone to failing.

Exhaust Cracks That Make It Smell Like Gas

The Explorer's last issue is one you don't need to watch out for, you'll smell it. Due to exhaust manifolds that are prone to cracking, carbon monoxide can leak into the cabin smelling like rotten eggs. Bloomberg has a well-written article covering the whole debacle.

Those are the main issues affecting 2011-2019 Ford Explorers. Despite its shortcomings, the Ford Explorer is a solid all-rounder that should be reliable transportation for years to come.  Before you go through with your purchase, read through our used-car checklist and our "What Car Should I Buy?" guide to ensure if an Explorer is right for you and to avoid buying a lemon.

RL GNZLZ from Chile, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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