Recently, I had a series of issues with the old Ford Explorer that led to some rather expensive repairs. Now, if I’d had the total bill up front I might well have decided I was better off replacing it but they came bit by bit and in making those decisions you have to consider what you have in front of you and what you can expect going forward, not what has already been spent.
It started when I replaced the tires. This is the third set I’ve had on the car. I’ve gotten good use out of them but the tread was getting shallow and it was time for new ones.
Not long after replacing the tires, I started getting some oddball handling issues. At first, I thought that it might have been something wrong with the tires. After all, when something happens soon after a change, that’s the first place to look. But, no. It seems that after more than 190,000 miles (of which more than 160,000 were mine) the right rear bearing was shot–to the point that it had actually damaged the axle. So had the shop replace those–committing me to that repair right there–allowing them to do some further test drives. Looks like the other bearings were also on their last legs. What I thought was “tire noise’ on the road was the bearings, which should not be producing noise like that. So added that repair on. In addition they also replaced swap bar links and some other things.
All well and good only not long after I get stranded on the road because apparently the brand new bearing they’d put on that right rear axle had come apart (that’s actually how they described it later). Frustrating, but I get towed back to the shop and they not only cover the repair under warranty but comp me the tow, the Uber’s to get home and to a car rental agency, and the cost of the car rental while they’re making the repair.
And, after that the Explorer has been handling great–at least as well as one can expect. After all, it’s an SUV, not a sports car. Rides significantly quieter too. Now I know that the noise I was hearing was not tire noise (from past experience I knew that some tires were noisier on the street than others) but warning that the bearings were getting ready to go. I’ll know better next time.
However, despite that, there were still a few issues. The engine had been occasionally running rough and once in a while would be hard starting. On reflection, I thought back and realized that a “tune up” had never been done. I was still on the original plugs and wires. So I bought a new set and installed first the plugs. Inspection of the old plugs showed no problems. You can tell some important things about the internal condition of an engine by reading the plugs. No carbon fouling. And especially no oil fouling (which could indicate ring or valve seal problems). The gaps had gotten quite quite wide from wear, but that was all. Indeed, I probably could have just re-gapped the original plugs and put them back in. I went ahead and installed the new plugs anyway. Didn’t install the wires. Apparently that’s a much bigger task requiring (at least) removing the alternator.
This resolved the hard starting issue and much of the rough running.
Finally, when I went in to get the regular oil change done. While I was there I had a fuel injection cleaning done.
And now the Explorer just purrs contentedly. Runs much more quietly with more repsonsiveness to the throttle (kind of thing that creeps up on you). Very, very pleased with the results.
I’ve still got to change the spark plug wires and the fuel filter. Both are a little more involved process with the explorer than with some cars I’ve owned. For the latter, I’ve got to get it up on jack stands. And I’m getting close to due for a transmission service, probably next month.
But even without those, she runs like new again. A little beat up on the outside but:
She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.