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Defects in 2013-2018 Ford Explorers

By Jonathan C. Cagliata

CCA’s expert lemon law attorneys are often contacted by frustrated Ford Explorer owners that are looking for solutions to problems plaguing their vehicles. While in recent years, Ford Explorers have been tremendously popular and successful vehicles for Ford Motor Company, Explorer owners have also experienced a wide array of serious and troubling defects. If your Explorer has suffered from excessive repairs or too much time in the shop, we invite you to contact CCA’s expert lemon law attorneys for a free consultation: (833) LEMON-FIRM. 

What issues commonly afflict 2013-2018 Ford Explorers?  

Unfortunately, for Explorer owners, many of the common issues with the vehicles afflict the most important and complicated parts of the vehicle: namely, the powertrain. Ford implemented its EcoBoost turbocharged engine into various 5th-generation Explorer models (starting in 2011) – this engine was meant to provide a more economical performance. However, these engines are the subject of numerous customer complaints and TSBs.

Common engine defects among Explorers, notably the 2016 Explorer, include illuminated CELs/MILs; loss of power (TSB 16-0122); fluid and oil leakage (TSB 18-2255; SSMs 47000 and 46253); squealing noises (SSM 48001) or fan noises (SSM 45932); difficulty starting, rough running, crank-no start, lack of power, loss of idle RPM or hesitation (TSB 13-9-8); long crank-to-start times and delayed harsh downshifting/upshifting (TSB 13-5-31); under-spec idle speed (TSB 17-0033), and even engine stalling or dying on operation. 

With respect to a sudden loss of power/stalling, Explorer owners have described freighting ordeals when their vehicles would malfunction. For instance, one 2016 Explorer driver from Syracuse, New York described a condition where “I was driving on the NYS thruway going around 70 mph when the car felt like it went out of gear. I looked at the speedometer and the car decelerated to 50 mph. I looked at the dash lights and it had the engine light wrench light and air bag lit up with see manual. I tried to accelerate and pushed the pedal all the way down and nothing. The car appeared to be in limp mode. Thank God a semi-truck was not behind me as my husband and I could have been killed.” Another described the powertrain problems as, “Car began chugging and lugging, especially when pulling hills at approx. 1000 miles. Took to a dealership and they replaced the throttle body. Problem has decreased but still remains. It acts like a standard transmission vehicle and feels like the RPMs are not high enough to pull, because when I have it in sport mode and keep the RPMs above 2000, it doesn’t do it, or at least I can’t feel it.”

Other powertrain issues experienced by Explorer owners include repeat Check Engine Lights, Throttle Control Failures, Oil Leaks, Premature, Transmission Failure, Thumping and Rattling in the Transmission, and other serious issues.

Explorers also experience various seating-related defects, from improperly strengthened back cushions to sharp components in places with lowered visibility (i.e. between the seat and center console, where the seat is adjusted). Some Explorers experienced steering issues, including loss of power steering and unusual noise during operation. Explorers also experience paint bubbling, peeling, and/or blistering, sometimes with associated white dust, resulting from corrosion damage. Customers of various Explorer models also complain of mysterious exhaust fumes and related odors in the cabin.  

Ford’s recalls, TSB’s, SSMs (special service messages), other efforts to address the problems in Ford Explorers:

Ford Motor Company has issued a litany of Special Service Messages, Technical Services Bulletins, and Recalls to try to address these conditions.  For instance:

Special Service Messages:

  • SSM 46253 – Oil Leakage; remove and reseal the EOP sensor
  • SSM 47000 – Fluid Leakage; replace intermediate shaft seal
  • SSM 47948 – For all turbocharge-related concerns involving diagnosis or replacement, turbocharger oil supply filter must be replaced along with relevant turbocharger/turbocharger oil supply tube replacement, as the turbocharger bearing may fail if oil starvation occurs as the result of a restricted filter
  • SSM 48001 – Squealing Noise from Accessory Drive Belt; new drive belt released, to replace old model

Technical Service Bulletins:

  • TSB 13-9-8 (covered by warranty) – Driveability Concerns in 2012-14 Explorers equipped with 2.0L GTDI engine, including difficulty starting, rough running, crank-no start, lack of power, loss of idle RPM or hesitation; all potentially caused by wiring concern in signal return splice (to be replaced as needed).
  • TSB 13-5-31 (covered by warranty) – long crank-to-start times and delayed harsh downshifting/upshifting in 2013 Explorers; calls for reprogramming of PCM
  • TSB 18-2255 (covered by warranty) – Fluid Leakage; replace intermediate shaft seal
  • TSB 17-2124 (covered by warranty) – Heated O2 Sensors in 3.5L TDIs; replace affected sensors
  • TSB 17-0033 (covered by warranty) – 2016-17 Explorer with 2.3L engine may exhibit idle speed below spec in situations like heavy traffic or parking lot navigation; calls for reprogramming PCM
  • TSB 16-0122 – MIL for lack of power in 2.3L TDIs, due to turbocharger wastegate actuator rod disconnecting from wastegate; reconnect
  • TSB 16-0028 – 2002-18 Explorers equipped with aluminum body panels may exhibit corrosion concerns appearing as bubbling/peeling paint, sometimes with white dust. Affected panels are uninstalled and replaced.


  • Recall 19S17 – 2011-17 Explorer rear suspension toe links may fracture due to stress on rear suspension, increasing the risk of a crash
  • Recall 13S04 – 2013 Explorer fuel delivery module may crack, allowing fuel to leak
  • Recall 14S06 – 2011-13 Explorer may experience intermittent connection in electric power steering gear, which may cause loss of motor position sensor signal and subsequent shut down of power steering assist
  • Recall 15S11 – 2011-13 Explorer interior door handle return spring may unseat, leading to door potentially unlatching during side impact, thereby increasing risk of personal injury
  • Recall 17S40 – 2016 Explorer with loose power seat adjuster may cause front seat cushions to detach & not properly restrain seat occupant in the event of a crash
  • Recall 19S29 – 2017 Explorer power front seat frames may have sharp edges, posing risk of personal injury
  • Recall 19C07 – 2018-19 Explorer equipped with manual front seat back recliner mechanisms may be missing third pawl required by Federal Motor Safety Vehicle Standard no. 202, “Head Restraints”, and 207, “Seating Systems”, for seat back strength, resulting in a loose seat back and thereby increasing the risk of personal injury

How Can We Help with Your Ford Explorer? 

If you are purchased or leased a 2013 or newer Ford Explorer and experienced serious vehicle concerns, we invite you to contact the expert lemon law attorneys at CCA for a free consultation.  Our attorneys have a track records of exceptional settlements with Ford Motor Company and can help you to obtain an excellent result under California’s strong consumer protection laws.  Please call us today for a free consultation: (833) LEMON-FIRM.

About the Author
Sepehr Daghighian es un socio de CCA con amplio conocimiento en todos los aspectos de litigios de la Ley Limón. Tras graduarse en el 2005 de la Facultad de Derecho de Loyola, el Sr. Daghighian ha practicado litigio en todo el estado de California durante más de 13 años. Durante este tiempo, el Sr. Daghighian ha abogado en nombre de los consumidores de California en cientos de casos de la Ley Limón en nuestro gran estado. El Sr. Daghighian también ha juzgado con éxito numerosos casos de este tipo para veredicto en los tribunales federales y estatales.