Anyone looking for a trustworthy SUV with plenty of cabin space will come across the Ford Explorer at some point. These vehicles have been in production since 1991 and are an economical way for professionals and families to get from point A to point B in style.

The Ford Explorer has a solid reputation in the industry, but no vehicle lasts forever. There will come a time when you'll have to complete a repair to keep your vehicle running properly. No matter if you just drove your first Explorer off the dealership lot or you've been driving one of these models for years, this is your complete guide to Ford Explorer problems and how you can fix them.

How Reliable Is a Ford Explorer?

There are several reasons to get behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer — these SUVs handle well and showcase comfortable seats. Plus, there's a trim level for every driver, and newer models are decked out with world-class safety features. On a 100-point scoring system, the Ford Explorer holds an 83 rating from J.D. Power in the reliability category.

The 2022 model also earned a score of 82 out of 100 overall, indicating recent designs from the Ford Motor Company are worth checking out. You can expect a Ford Explorer to last for years, but there are some issues the SUVs are prone to over the course of their lifetime.

Top Problems With Ford Explorers

Knowing what problems to look for with a Ford Explorer will help you plan for maintenance and repairs. The issues you see with these vehicles can interfere with fuel efficiency, performance and your level of satisfaction with the vehicle if ignored.

Keep an eye out for the following complications across first- (1991-1994), second- (1995-2001), third- (2002-2005), fourth- (2006-2010), fifth- (2011-2019) and sixth-generation (2020-present) vehicles.

1. Transmission Issues

The third-generation series was popular on the market in the early 2000s. However, one of the biggest complaints customers had about these vehicles was the frequent automatic transmission failures.

During third-generation Ford Explorer production, the SUVs were equipped with the 5R55 series transmission system. Drivers in the U.S. noticed unresponsive gears, slow shifts, slippage and shuddering with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) setup. Ford Explorer transmission issues stem from the automatic transmission servo shaft wearing away — this interferes with the assembly's ability to generate pressure for gear shifting.

The best solution to Ford Focus transmission problems is to integrate new O-rings and seals under the hood. Drivers who experience transmission fluid leaks and recurring failures should think about replacing the entire transmission assembly for positive results.

2. Interior Door Panel Lifting or Bubbling

You use your vehicle doors consistently. Making up part of the cabin, interior door surfaces are exposed to hot and cold temperatures, sunlight and moisture. It's common for drivers to see wear and tear across interior door panels after years of use. Door upholsteries on fifth-generation Explorers are known to separate from the adhesives, leaving bubbles across the driver and passenger doors.

Door panel bubbles are an eyesore for many drivers. These imperfections can also result in the splitting or cracking of door panels, as there is less protection to absorb vibrations from opening and closing. A proactive way to get to the bottom of the issue is to replace the interior door panels to maintain the cabin aesthetic.

3. Hood Imperfections

Fifth-generation Ford Explorer hood assemblies are made with aluminum. This material keeps the vehicles lightweight but also subject to corrosion. Plenty of Ford Explorer drivers with 2011-2019 models report exterior paint bubbles popping up, even when the SUVs are a few years old.

Hood surface issues can be tricky. Painting over rust spots requires you to sand down sections and refinish them. It's effective to add a new hood assembly to your Ford Explorer to keep rust from spreading and becoming the focal point of your vehicle.

4. Timing Chain Problems

Some Ford Explorers featuring V6 engines experience timing chain issues. This applies to the second-, third- and fourth-generation series models — all of which had timing chain guides known to break or cause rattling upon startup.

The rattling can happen at any time and grows louder the longer you drive. Timing chain problems with the Ford Explorer call for you to take out the engine and replace any broken parts across the front and rear of the assembly. This is a job for a more experienced do-it-yourself enthusiast, as the timing chain can be hard to access and install correctly.

5. Engine Failures Due to Water Pump Leaks

Water pump issues are linked to the Duratec and EcoBoost V6 engine builds used in select fifth-generation Ford Explorers. These engines were equipped with internal water pumps prone to serious leaks. Drivers commonly observed head gaskets blowing, contaminated oil, nonfunctional heaters and engines overheating during the fifth-generation era.

Owners of 2011-2019 Ford Explorers can add a new water pump to their vehicles in hopes of preventing severe engine damage. This project requires the disassembly of the OEM engine since the water pump is mounted internally. Check for coolant leaks near the alternator to catch this problem before it gets out of control.

6. Power Steering Stops Working

A recurring problem with the 2011-2019 Ford Explorers is a sudden loss of power steering. It might become hard to steer while you're driving, requiring a substantial amount of force to move the wheel. This issue is dangerous, as it can occur while traveling at any speed. Most Ford Explorer power steering issues can be resolved by updating the power steering rack.

Fifth-generation Explorers rely on an electric-based power steering setup instead of a hydraulic one. This means no power steering fluid is necessary to get the system working. Most of the time, replacing the power steering rack will help you fix the motor or sensor that stopped functioning.

7. Passenger-Side Water Leaks

Some Ford Explorer owners have the misfortune of water leaks inside the cabin. Drivers with a 2011-2019 Explorer model might notice water seeping into the cabin through the third-row seating area or the front passenger section of the vehicle.

This is one of the most common problems with the Ford Explorer from the fifth-generation era. Besides making your passengers unhappy, water leaks can affect the speakers inside your vehicle. You can correct this issue by paying attention to the sunroof assembly. Often, there is a clog somewhere in the sunroof drain hose that causes water to feed inside the SUV rather than off its exterior.

Improve the reliability of the sunroof drain by fastening a new assembly. Doing this gives you the peace of mind you need to park your vehicle outside during a storm.

Choose StockWise Auto for Ford Explorer Components

StockWise Auto gives you a massive selection of OEM and replacement parts in one organized catalog. Use basic information about your Ford Explorer to find technology guaranteed to fit on your ride. Our team cares about the outcome of your repairs, which is why we add offerings from elite manufacturers to our site. Many of the parts we sell come from the same companies that designed systems for your vehicle during production.

See the Ford Explorer solutions we have available and purchase from StockWise Auto online!