The Ford Explorer: A Brief History Told Through Recalls
The Ford Explorer is one of the automaker’s most popular SUVs. However, it’s also one of the most recalled vehicles ever. While the Ford Explorer’s reputation was perhaps at its worst in the 1990s and early 2000s, even the new models have suffered their own recalls. Of course, the recent recalls are much less dangerous than those from the early years of the iconic Ford SUV. What’s truly interesting is that internal memos show that warning signs existed before the Ford Explorer debuted for the 1991 model year. Here’s a brief history of recalls for the famous SUV.
The Ford Explorer tires posed significant safety problems
The Firestone tires used on Ford Explorers in the 1990s were among the SUV’s biggest problems, according to Ford Explorer Rollover. Starting with prototype tests in 1987, there were concerns with the stability of the Explorer as well as the Bronco II. From the start, these stability problems were worse for the Explorer than in the Ford Bronco. Ford changed the Explorer before production started to stop the vehicle from lifting or rolling over at certain speeds. However, the automaker refused the most extensive design advice due to limited time. The design team was advised to widen the track width, but this process would have delayed the SUV’s release.
Ford and Firestone made minor adjustments to prevent the vehicle from lifting or rolling at certain speeds. Namely, Ford wanted Firestone to redesign the tires and suggest a specific PSI for air pressure. There were concerns regarding if this would fix the issue, but both companies were pressed for time. Once the Ford Explorer was on the road, there were even more problems than the vehicle lifting. Instead, there were also reports of the tires separating from the vehicle. Of course, this led to notable injuries and lawsuits. Unfortunately, there were several fatalities related to the early models of the SUV. In December of 2000, an NHTSA report detailed 148 deaths and 525 injuries associated with Firestone tires on the Explorer. Firestone recalled the tires, but the public blamed the automaker for the Explorer’s high rollover rate.
Early 2000s Ford Explorers also had recalls
In the midst of still dealing with the Firestone issue, the SUV had other problems in the 2000s. One safety concern was the airbags used on the 2000 model SUV. Unfortunately, some of the Explorer’s side airbags experienced unwarranted deployment. According to Cars.com this happened when the ignition was in the run position. In addition, the seat belt had to be extracted in a certain way for this to happen. It’s unclear how many people this impacted. However, unexpected seat belt deployment can be dangerous and cause significant injury.
Another recall for the 2000 Ford Explorer concerns the axle rotation and Powertrain Control Module. Because of this design, impacted Ford Explorers could go faster than the intended top speed. The problem is that some vehicles reached speeds beyond what the tires could handle. Of course, the vehicle reaching speeds beyond the tire capacity was dangerous and could result in crashes. Luckily, dealerships were able to reset the Powertrain Control Module.
Today’s Ford Explorers still have problems
The Ford Explorer has come a long way. However, every vehicle is flawed, so the newer models still experience recalls. Some 2020-2022 Ford Explorer models had an issue with the Powertrain Control Module. The PCM would reset while the vehicle was in motion. This caused damage to the park system. The damage would cause the SUV to not shift into the park gear.
One of the latest Ford Explorer recalls impacts the 2023 model. The vehicle experiences issues with the 360-degree camera, which could cause the backup camera not to work. Dealers are updating the image processing software to fix the problem. Of course, some of these recalls are less significant than others. However, they all lead to the Ford Explorer being a popular SUV with a less-than-stellar reputation. While usually a great vehicle, it’s an SUV potential buyers need to research before buying.