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Are Ford Explorers 4 Wheel Drive? All You Need to Know

Suppose you look to get your hands on a fantastic 7-passenger SUV on the market. In that case, the Ford Explorer should preside over all other prospective choices, for it’s comfortable, capable, and condensed with other great features, which makes it an excellent choice for “daddies.” Are Ford Explorers 4 wheel drive?

Basic Ford Explorers come with a primary 2WD type, and a large chunk of Ford Explorers are 4WD. However, some of them can be revamped to intelligent 4WD, a high-tech feature that supersedes AWD in its control options, such as the Hill Descent Control.

Among its bragging rights is that the Explorer has plenty of power and can tow up to 5,000 pounds, making it an excellent option for those who need an SUV that can run those heavy-duty works. The interior is spacious and well-designed, with plenty of room for adults. 

The Explorer is also packed with safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and alike.

Ford 4-Wheel-Drive Systems:

All Ford 4X4 have an Electronic Shift-On-The-Fly (ESOF) or a 2-Speed Automatic 4-wheel drive system that allows you to select different 4X4 modes depending on your driving conditions. In addition, the ESOF offers a 2-High method which helps provide a smooth ride for everyday dry pavement driving.

The High mode is advised only to be used in off-road or slippery winter conditions like snow and shallow sand. While on the other hand is the 4-Low mode, which gives you extra power at a reduced speed for climbing steep terrains, going through deep sand, rock, or towing.
On the 2-Speed Automatic 4-Wheel-Drive system mode, there are the 2 High, 4 High, and 4 Low modes, and adds a 4 Automatic mode, which determines the driving conditions and provides power to the front and rear tires as needed to prevent/control wheel slip(s). This mode is suitable for everyday driving and is especially useful on wet surfaces, snow, or gravel.

However, regardless of your vehicle’s mode, you can change 4X4 modes using a switch on your center stack.

Shifting Between Modes on Your Ford:

F-150 4X4:

For the F-150 4X4 system, you can shift between 2-High and 4-High or 4-Automatic at a standstill or speed. When you do, you may see a “4X4 Shift in Progress” message in your instrument cluster.

For example, if you have shifted into 4-High, you will see 4H illuminated. And if it is 4-Auto, you will see 4A illuminated. And if it is 2-High you shifted to, 2H will be temporarily illuminated.

Remember, if you shift to and from the 4-Low mode in the F-150, slow down to 3 miles per hour or less and shift into neutral.


When shifting to and from 4-Low, you will need to bring the vehicle to a stop. You will see a “4X4 Shift in Progress” message when you do.

If you see a “Shift Delayed – Pull Forward” message at any time during your shift, there is a block in your 4X4 system. If this happens, shift into a forward gear, like drive, move your vehicle forward a few feet to alleviate the block, then put your car into neutral.

Occasionally, you may hear noises when you shift into one of the 4X4 modes. While these noises do not mean you are doing severe or even any damage to your vehicle, you can get a smoother shift between modes by easing off the gas pedal while the "Shift in Progress" message is displayed in the instrument cluster.

However, remember that your vehicle may have Electronic Locking Rear Differential feature, which locks the rear differential, forcing both rear wheels to spin at the same speed for improved traction, and is designed for use in off-road situations.

To engage the Electronic Locking Rear Differential, you need to be moving below 20 miles per hour unless you are in 4-Low or using 4-High with deep snow/sand mode or mud/ruts mode.

But when you exceed 25 miles per hour, the system will disengage. When it automatically disengages due to vehicle speed or is selected above the allowable speed, the icon in your cluster will be gray, indicating that the system is in standby mode. When the appropriate conditions are reached, the system will automatically engage.

Ford Explorers Over the Years:

Are Ford Explorers 4x4

Ford explorers, since it developed into an entirely new platform (as the third generation), started in the early 2000s and have cemented their place among the most efficient cars that can be used on all terrains.

The Ford explorers are of 5 generations; the first generation spanned from 2003 to 2005, while the second, third, fourth, and fifth were released between 2005 to 2009, 2010 to 2015, 2015 to 2019, and 2019 to the present, respectively. Below is a table about the series/generations and specifications:

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Firstseries /3rd gen (2003 - 2005)

(GASOLINE) 4.0L V6 5MT (300 HP) 4.6L V8 5AT (241 HP) 4.6L V8 5AT AWD (241 HP) 5.4L V8 6AT (304 HP) 5.4L V8 6AT AWD (304 HP)

Electronic Injection

Ventilated Discs/Discs

154 KW, 209 HP, 207 BHP at 5250 RPM for the 4.0L V6 5MT (300 HP) Engine,

177 KW, 241 HP and 237 BHP at 4750 RPM for the 4.6L V8 5AT (241 HP) and 4.6L V8 5AT AWD (241 HP) engines,

223.6 KW, 304 HP, 300 BHP at 5000 RPM for the 5.4L V8 6AT (304 HP) and 5.4L V8 6AT AWD (304 HP) engines

5-Speed manual/5-speed automatic/5-manual speed/6-speed automatic/6-speed automatic

Rear Wheel Drive/4WD/Front Wheel Drive/4WD

Second series /4th gen (2005 - 2009)

(GASOLINE) 4.0L V6 RWD 5AT (210 HP) 4.0L V6 RWD 5AT (210 HP) 4.6L 4WD 6AT (292 HP)

Electronic Injection

Ventilated Discs/Discs

154 KW/ 209 HP/207 BHP at 5100 RPM for the 4.0L V6 RWD 5AT (210 HP) and 4.0L V6 RWD 5AT (210 HP) engines

5-speed automatic for both 4.0L V6 RWD 5AT (210 HP) and 4.0L V6 RWD 5AT (210 HP), 6-speed automatic for the 4.6L 4WD 6AT (292 HP) engine

Rear Wheel Drive/ 4WD/4WD

Third series/5th series (2010 - 2015)

(GASOLINE) 2.0L EcoBoost 6AT (240 HP) 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 AWD 6AT (290 HP) 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 FWD 6AT (290 HP)

Turbocharged direct injection/Multipoint injection for both 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 AWD 6AT (290 HP) 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 FWD 6AT (290 HP) engines

Ventilated Discs/Ventilated Discs For the 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 AWD 6AT (290 HP) and 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 FWD 6AT (290 HP) engines And the 2.0L EcoBoost 6AT (240 HP) engine has ventilated discs for front brakes and Discs for rear brakes

177 KW, 241 HP, 237 BHP at 5500 RPM for the 2.0L EcoBoost 6AT (240 HP) engine, and 216 KW, 294 HP, 290 BHP at 6500 RPM for both 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 AWD 6AT (290 HP) and 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 FWD 6AT (290 HP) engines

6-speed automatic (ALL)

Front Wheel Drive/4WD/Front Wheel Drive

Fourth series/6th gen (2015 - 2019)

(GASOLINE) 2.3L EcoBoost 6AT (280 HP) 2.3L EcoBoost 6AT AWD (280 HP) 3.5L V6 6AT (290 HP) 3.5L V6 6AT AWD (290 HP) 3.5L V6 EcoBoost 6AT AWD (365 HP)

Turbocharged Direct Injection/Turbocharged Direct Injection/Multipoint Injection/Multipoint Injection/Turbocharged Direct Injection

Ventilated Discs/Discs (ALL)

208.8 KW, 284 HP, 280 BHP at 5600 RPM for the 2.3L EcoBoost 6AT (280 HP) engine, 208.8 KW, 283.9 HP, 280 BHP at 5600 RPM for the 2.3L EcoBoost 6AT AWD engine, 216.3 KW, 294 HP, 290 BHP at 6500 RPM for both 3.5L V6 6AT (290 HP) and 3.5L V6 6AT AWD (290 HP) engines

6-speed automatic (ALL)

Front Wheel Drive/4WD/Front Wheel Drive/4WD/4WD

Fifth series/7th gen

(GASOLINE) 2.3L EcoBoost 10AT (300 HP) 2.3L EcoBoost 10AT AWD (300 HP) Platinium 3.0L EcoBoost V6 10AT (365 HP) ST 3.0L EcoBoost V6 10AT (400 HP) {HYBRID GASOLINE ENGINE} 3.3L 10AT (318 HP)

Turbocharged Direct Injection (ALL)

Ventilated Discs/Discs (ALL)

220.6 KW, 300 HP, 296 BHP at 5500 RPM for both 2.3L EcoBoost 10AT (300 HP) 2.3L EcoBoost 10AT AWD (300 HP) engines/ 268.5 KW, 365 HP, 360 BHP at 5500 RPM for the Platinium 3.0L EcoBoost V6 10AT engine, 294.2 KW, 400 HP, 395 BHP at 5500 RPM for the ST 3.0L EcoBoost V6 10AT (400 HP), 213.3 KW, 290 HP, 286 BHP at 6500 RPM for the 3.3L 10AT (318 HP) engine

10-speed automatic (ALL)

Rear Wheel Drive/4WD/4WD/4WD/Rear Wheel Drive

The Top 5 Problems with the Ford Explorers (5th Gen):

1. The Throttle Body:

With the Ford Explorers, issues arise with the throttle body, which is crucial as the safety measures are compromised. It does not want to go when you step on the gas pedal.

When that happens, you will see something pop up on the dash. It looks like a little wrench and, more likely, a check engine light close to it. What that’s going to tell you is that you have a couple of codes, which are P2111 and P2112.

The symptoms of this will come down to that when you step on the gas pedal; the vehicle will not want to propel forward.

This can happen either from a stop, maybe you stopped at a stop sign, and it’s time to go, you then step on the gas, and the vehicle does not know when to go.

Maybe you are on the highway going at 55 miles per hour, and all of a sudden, you are trying to maintain that speed, and the vehicle speed keeps diminishing to the point where you just kind of feel like you well unsafe, and all you can do is steer of the road. And when this happens, your vehicle is in limp mode.

What is Limp Mode?

Limp mode happens when your vehicle realizes a discrepancy in the information it receives. And most times, it is widespread to be an issue with the throttle body.

Unfortunately, when your vehicle goes into limp mode, it’s going to diminish the power of your engine to a minimal state, just to that point where you will have enough power to hopefully “limp” into the side of the road, and hopefully get a tow truck to any nearby local mechanic.

2. EVAP Purge Solenoid:

This problem arises when you want to kickstart your vehicle when you fill your gas or move away from your office back home. All you will notice is that it just doesn’t want to start.

When this happens, you will see a “check engine” light on your dash with a code of 1450. This will tell you that you have a problem with your vehicle’s EVAP purge solenoid, and if it goes wrong, you will have runnability issues.

3. Door Ajar:

A common problem with Explorers is that the dome light and door ajar light stay on. And with this, you don’t even know if the door is open or closed… Pretty annoying!

How does this happen? On the inside of your vehicle door is a latch assembly, which is a pretty big unit. On the inside is a switch that essentially knows when the door is shut.

When the switch in the latch does not communicate the way it should, you have the door ajar light, which makes the question “is the door shut?” ambiguous.

4. Carbon Monoxide

A considerable chunk of users has reported that they have had feelings of nausea and headaches when driving the Explorer, and it is most common among passengers sitting in the back seats.

Generally, this happens when the car is moving at considerably high speeds or at least the vehicle has higher RPMs.

However, this all comes down to carbon monoxide poisoning, which happens when you’ve got exhaust fumes that are somehow making their way inside the passengers’ compartment through the auxiliary rear air conditioning vents. So you have got to do something about it.

5. Rear Toe Arms:

Ford, in its exclusive power, recalled the Explorers made between 2011 and 2017 due to the main reason they noticed that they had issue(s) with the rear suspension.

Some of these symptoms could be a “squirrely” feeling in the suspension. This makes you think your car is swaying out of the road when you are just innocently driving down the road.

Some severe cases involved with this issue are apparent wheel misalignment and movement due to the broken arm in the rear.

For its causes, Ford stated that if the car is subject to frequent rides over rough terrain, the toe link in the rear suspension could fracture, which will affect the steering and lead to more extraordinary traffic accidents.

To correct this, you must change the left and right rear suspension toe links and second that with a wheel alignment action.

Pros And Cons of a Ford Explorer:


1. XLT Trims Gives You a Lot of Luxury Options

Most noticeably, the XLT has synthetic, heated seats, which is standard among seat types. Also, the steering wheel is covered with leather and is the can-be-heated type too.

2. Huge Engine Varieties

300-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 400-horsepower V6 turbocharged engine, and hybrid model… These three, without doubt, are all formidable as a pack and even as individuals.


1. Harsh Ride Compared to Other Trims:

The Ford Explorer driving experience might not be as comfortable as you might have thought before, as even on the XLT type, the driving is slightly hard, which is not expected of a family SUV.

This feels regularly arise when you have bigger wheels, such as the 21-inch wheels, and can be hard to the hand, trust me.

2. No Traditional V6 is Available; only Turbos and Hybrids:

It is with the past, or better still, say, early Explorers, where the vehicles come with an original V6 engine, and with the latter ones, all you are going to end up with is a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which kind of feels small and sounds actually like one.

Although you can still get a 400-horsepower engine, you’d have to shed more.

Also the Low Interior Features Quality is a downside of the Ford Explorer.

Price of Ford Explorers- The Bitter Truth:

So, it seems you are the type that’s bent over getting yourself a Ford Explorer, and you’d even fight your friends anytime they speak about the series’s defects. Well, here’s a black pill for you in this section.

Ford Explorers are presumed to have a depreciation value of 52% after five years and have an average resale value of $21,053.

The chart above shows a Ford Explorer’s projected depreciation for the next 10 years. Mind you; these numbers are for vehicles in good condition averaging 12,000 miles per year and assuming a selling price of $43,600 when new.

Consider these numbers if you are contemplating between a new and used Ford Explorer. So if you are going for a two-year-old used Explorer, that might be a wise decision as that can save you up to $14,000.

In the long run, this will save you a considerable chunk of money and leave you with a vehicle with plenty of useful life left in it.

If you don’t want to end up like this man here, then you have to weigh up your options well enough before jumping into it.

Also Read:

Did Ford Make An AWD Fiesta? All You Need to Know
Can You Turn Off AWD On Ford Kuga? All You Need to Know
Ford Edge Off-Road Capability- What You Need to Know
Ford Flex Off-Road Capability- What You Need to Know
Ford Focus Off-Road Capability- What You Need to Know

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How do I know if my Ford Explorer is 4WD?

You can check for the 4WD label on the liftgates or the side of the car. Although, this can be a scandal. To fit if it is a 4WD, bend down below your vehicle, check on the rear wheels, and see if a sort of rod connects the two rear wheels.

Is Ford Explorer worth buying?

Yes, it is worth buying as it is generally a good SUV to get one’s hands-on, as it is packed with high safety features and efficient engines to power itself all around.

How long do Ford Explorers last?

With the excellent car it is, it can reach 200,000 miles when well maintained. But serious problems surfacing recently have been shooting the longevity down to around 100,000 miles or fewer, which is by a whopping 50%… Ironic.