The Blue Oval's mid-size SUV tends to wander away from where owners left it.
Despite a starting price of $33,745, the Ford Explorer remains one of the best-selling passenger vehicles in the United States. Last year the Dearborn-based automaker managed to shift 219,871 units of the SUV; an impressive sales figure pipped only by the Toyota Highlander. With so many examples on the road, the latest recall to plague the Blue Oval is fairly serious.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), if the rear axle bolt breaks, there's a possibility the driveshafts/half shafts may become disconnected. This could result in the loss of transmission torque to the rear wheels, which is necessary to hold the Explorer in park. Without the parking brake, this could allow the vehicle to roll while the park gear is engaged.
Naturally, this is a concern for all owners as it could result in injury and property damage. The NHTSA notes a staggering 252,936 examples, including the Explorer Police Interceptor, are potentially affected by this issue. Of this quarter-million, the estimated defect rate is 100%.
Explorer models built between October 22, 2018 and April 11, 2022 are afflicted, with the recall including the 2.3-liter, 3.0-liter plug-in hybrid, 3.3-liter hybrid, and the 3.0-liter ST models. The same production dates have been given for the Explorer police vehicles, which include the hybrid and gas-powered derivatives.
The problem can be traced to faulty components; the NHTSA reports the "joint design is not robust to peak axle input torques and manufacturing variability. The primary contributor is [an] insufficient bearing area for maximum joint loads." This can potentially result in a deformity in the bearing area, placing further stress on the bolt and, as a result, potentially leading to fatigue failure.
Interestingly, the remedy differs for law enforcement and civilian versions. Police vehicles will need to have the bushing and axle cover replaced, while regular derivatives will have the PCM software updated to engage the electronic park brake when the vehicle is placed in the park gear.
Naturally, there will be no charge for either of these repairs. Ford also plans to reimburse owners who have previously repaired the fault before the recall. This isn't the first issue to plague the Explorer - shortly after being introduced, the SUV and its plusher sibling, the Lincoln Aviator, were recalled over a missing manual park release in the cabin.
Unfortunately, this was one of several problems that Ford later said was the result of taking on too much. From suspension issues to faulty HVAC systems, the Explorer and Aviator were introduced with an unacceptable number of faults. In terms of recalls, it hasn't been a great couple of months for the company. In April, Ford had to recall nearly 653,000 vehicles over faulty windscreen wipers.
While we should point out that the Blue Oval isn't the only manufacturer to suffer recalls in recent weeks, it has made the news several times for fairly serious issues, such as faulty brake master cylinder problems on popular models such as the F-150.