Ford Explorer 2006-2010: problems, fuel economy, pros and cons

Updated: January 30, 2020

Ford Explorer is a mid-size truck-based SUV, available in 5, 6, or 7-passenger configuration, with V6 or V8 power. It offers a roomy interior and a quiet, comfortable ride. The V8 Explorer is a good choice for towing. Maximum towing capacity ranges from 3,500 lb. to 7,300 lb. (when properly equipped) depending on the drivetrain, rear axle ratio and number of seats.

2006 Ford Explorer
2006 Ford Explorer.

Is a used Ford Explorer a good choice? How is the reliability and what are the reported problems?

Ford Explorer problems: Consumer Reports rates the Explorer poorly for reliability. Various transmission issues are often reported. Leaking radiators were common in the 2006 model. Other issues include electrical problems, faulty ignition switch, bad wheel bearings, bad ignition coils, throttle body and emission control system faults. A portion of the harmonic balancer (main crankshaft pulley) in the 4.0L engine could separate causing a variety of problems with the belt (squeaking, chirping, etc.) and even a no-start. This great Youtube video shows the repair.
We found this YouTube video, where Tim from Alaska describes the common problems of this truck very well. This one is the 4-th generation Explorer.

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Mechanical: The Explorer comes as a rear- or four-wheel drive, with an independent front and rear suspension. Powertrain choices include a V6 with a five-speed automatic or a V8 with a six-speed automatic. The base 210-hp 4.0L V6 is adequate for daily driving.

Ford Explorer V8 engine
Ford Explorer 4.6L engine

The optional 292-hp 4.6L SOHC V8 has more guts and is quieter. Both the V6 and V8 are solid engines and can last long if maintained well.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates both the V6 and V8 4WD 2007 Explorer at 13/18 mpg (18.1/13.1 L/100 km) city/highway. That's about average for a truck of this size. On a highway trip, the 4WD Explorer can travel up to 344 miles (554 km) on a full tank (22.5 US gallons or 85.2 liters). The 2008-2010 V6 4WD Explorer is rated at 13/19 mpg city/highway (15 mpg combined).

Handling and ride: The Explorer handles well, but it's not sporty. The ride is smooth and very quiet. Bumps, potholes and cracks in the asphalt are soaked well by the suspension.

Ford Explorer 2006 interior
Ford Explorer 2006 interior.

We took the 4X4 Explorer on a few snow-covered trails with steep hills, and it handled with confidence; the all-wheel drive system worked very well.

Safety: Antilock brakes and AdvanceTrac stability control system are standard. Side and side curtain airbags are available. Trailer Sway Control is standard from 2009. The 2006-2010 Ford Explorer received five out of five stars in the NHTSA front and side-impact crash tests, but only three out of five stars in rollover tests.

Pros: Ride comfort, V8 power, quiet roomy cabin, available third-row seating, standard stability control, sound system, towing capacity, off-road capability, visibility.

Cons: Gas mileage, poor rollover ratings, reliability is not better than average, cup holders are too close to the transmission shifter, dirt from the front wheel splashes on the doors, limited cargo space behind the third row.

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Overall: Out of many SUVs that we drove, the V8 Ford Explorer was one of the best experiences, as it was very comfortable, powerful, quiet and the sound system was great. It's a pleasure-to-drive truck that is improved compared to the previous model, but it surely won't be cheap on gas and the reliability is far from perfect. We recommend avoiding the 2006 V6 Explorer, as the leaking radiator in it can cause the engine to overheat. Some 2007 models were also affected by this issue. An engine that has been overheated is more likely to have more problems in the future. Look for the V8 model if you are planning to use the Explorer for towing. Interestingly, the V8 and the V6 have the same EPA fuel economy ratings. The Explorer's maximum towing capacity ranges from 5140lb to 7300lb (when properly equipped) depending on the engine, drivetrain, rear axle ratio and number of seats.

What to watch out for when buying a Ford Explorer: When inspecting the truck, watch out for a low engine coolant level and coolant leaks from the radiator and thermostat housing. Check if the CD/DVD players work. Test all the heater and air conditioner modes. No heat at idle indicates a problem with the cooling system.

Ford Explorer third-row seats

Ford Explorer third row seat.

Ford Explorer second row seats

Ford Explorer second row seats.

Once the engine is started, all the warning lights on the dash should go out; if any of the warning lights stays on, there is a problem.
During the test drive, pay attention to the way the transmission shifts; there should be no jerks or jolts; all shifts should be smooth. There should be no clunk when coming to a stop. Unstable idle, stalling, hesitation are signs of problems. Watch out for noises from the drivetrain and suspension.
A humming or growling noise and looseness in the front end could be caused by a bad front wheel bearing. Before signing the contract, have the truck inspected by an independent mechanic. Ask to test the transmission and 4WD system.

Interior: The 5- and 7-passenger models have a bench seat in the second row. The 6-passenger Explorer comes with second-row bucket seats and a large fold-out center console.
Seats are comfortable. Second- and third-row seats fold flat. Third-row seats are low to the floor and have thin padding, but the head- and legroom are not bad. The liftgate glass opens separately. Available features include power-adjustable pedals, rear climate controls, rear DVD and power folding third-row seats.

Maintenance: Have the oil changes done at recommended intervals to keep the engine in good shape.

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Regularly check the coolant level; if you notice coolant leaks on your parking spot or if the engine temperature starts rising more than usual, have the truck checked out.
The Explorer is a tall, heavy SUV with a high center of gravity. This type of vehicle has higher rollover rates, especially with a heavy load, so good tires as well as the proper tire pressure are very important. Check tire pressure regularly. Incorrect tire pressure can also cause problems with the 4WD system and the ABS. For the same reason, it's also important to have all four tires of the same brand and size.
If you have concerns with the way the transmission shifts, have it checked out before it gets worse. Some problems, if caught early, can be less expensive to repair.
If your truck needs a new ignition coil, it's a good idea to replace all the spark plugs as well. At least once a year, have your truck inspected in a repair shop where it can be lifted on the hoist, to keep it safe.

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More photos:

Ford Explorer second row seats Optional rear DVD player Ford Explorer rear seats up Ford Explorer cargo area

2007 Ford Explorer specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
Wheelbase:
Ground clearance:

193.4 in (4,912 mm)
73.7 in (1,872 mm) - excluding mirrors
72.8 in (1,849 mm)
113.7 in (2,888 mm)
8.2 in (208 mm)

Seating capacity:

5, 6 or 7 passengers

Engine:
V6:


V8:


4.0-liter, V6, 12-valve SOHC
210 hp @ 5,100 rpm, 254 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm

4.6-liter, V8, 24-valve SOHC
292 hp @ 5,750 rpm, 300 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
Recommended Fuel:

87 octane

Fuel Tank Capacity:

22.5 US gallons (85.2 liters)

Engine oil capacity:
4.6L engine
4.0L engine

6.0 US qt. (5.7L)
5.0 US qt. (4.7L)

By Samarins.com Staff