Dr. Bob's Ford Explorer
Preventive Maintenance Schedule

Contributed by drbob

Oil and filter every 3000 miles, give or take. Driving 22k per year, this means a change every third or fourth weekend. I get out the grease gun and give the tie rod ends a little pump to keep the boots just slightly swollen. I strongly believe in using synthetic oil on the cars you want to last, so it's Castrol Syntec with either Fram or Motorcraft filters depending on what's on sale.

The automatic transmission gets a fluid and filter service twice a year. I tow a 2000lb trailer in extreme conditions, 120f+ temps going to the Colorado River. Everything is OK so far. I am looking to swap in synthetic ATF at the next service. Mobil-1 is what I found the best buy on.

The transfer case gets a service once a year. So far, that has been a ATF change. No problems.

The front differential is seldom used, but got a fluid change to synthetic gear oil at 50k. It's due again now.

The rear differential was serviced at 40k. Ford suggests not even inspecting the gear lube until 100k. I will probably put synthetic hypoid oil in there, as soon as I can get a commitment from a manufacturer that it's ok with the limited slip.

Justification for the synthetic oil is tough unless you plan on keeping your car well past 100k. Otherwise, the same change interval with conventional oil would probably be fine. Synthetic fluids in the differentials and gearboxes are a must for long life.

The coolant is changed every year on the car's anniversary. Registration, insurance, coolant ... like clockwork.

The tires are rotated every third oil change. I run the pressure down a bit to soften the ride, with 22 in front and 24 in rear. I go up to 28 and 30 when the trailer is on and the car is loaded up.

While the wheels are off, the front calipers are pulled and the slides are greased. This schedule seems to keep the warped-rotor devils at bay. I have used EP-moly wheel bearing grease for this service, but changed to a waterproof synthetic at the last service. Same on the steering, BTW.

The brakes have been lasting over 40k so long as I stay on the caliper grease. I have tried the various brake brands and found that I got the most miles out of the original pads and shoes (55k). Since then, the Raybestos lasted 25k and 20k, and the Wagners are in there now. I change the rear shoes when I change the pads to keep the load on the fronts to a minimum where possible.

The front hubs are torn down and serviced once a year, usually at the beginning of summer if the brakes don't need to be done. The last few brake replacements include the front hub service, though. The rotors come off, the spindles are off, and the splines get a bit of grease on the right side. U-joints are checked, the needle bearings get a spot of grease, and it all goes back together. Front wheel bearings should have premium grease. Ford recommends a CV-joint grease for this service. I didn't realize that, and ended up replacing the bearings once, thank you. I now use an EP-rated synthetic bearing grease on these. New seals each time, BTW-- about $2 each if you shop.


The hubs themselves are treated to a cleaning and a soak in 75W-90 synthetic gear lube. About 2 inches in the bottom while the rest of the front service is happening. Pour out the liquid and install them, leaving whatever hangs on. An informed user suggested this trick to me last year, and it is very effective. He suggested using ATF, which is OK. I use the gear lube since I live in an always-warm climate.

The drive belt has been replaced at 30k, 70k, and 100k. No signs of wear or impending failure, just as PM. Belts always give up at the worst times, so putting one on while doing something else is cheap. I keep an old one in the toolkit just in case one fails on the road.

The spare gets pumped up to 40 psi at least once a year. This is usually in conjunction with "spring cleaning", where all the accumulated stuff is washed off the bottom of the car and the running gear. Mud and road oil film obscure leaks, so it's worth while keeping the underneath stuff clean. A little tire foam on the spare and the rest of the lower stuff looks real pretty for a while.

The engine compartment gets a bath a couple times a year. I take a pass through with a little 409 in a spray bottle, then hose everything out. Again, any leaks or problems are easier to find and remedy if everything is clean. At any given time, you can wipe a little dust off of whatever and set your sandwich down in there.

Plugs are due again, maybe 25k on them. Probably needs wires again too. 50k on the wires, about $35 at the local parts store for the genuine parts.

Air filter a couple times a year.

Battery terminals pulled and cleaned twice a year, to reset the EEC memory as much as anything else. The water gets checked and topped up every oil change now.

The rear drive shaft splines get lubed once a year. Takes about 10 minutes to drop the front of the shaft and slide it apart. That now-famous waterproof synthetic grease gets this duty. Reinstall the boot, and bolt it back up in there. I put u-joints in last weekend. Although they inspected fine, I had the new ones so in they went. A high-frequency vibration went away, one I had become 'numb' to. Like a nagging mate, you don't appreciate the problem completely until it's gone. (Sorry, ladies... I'm not really that cold. Can I buy you a cocktail?)

The door latches and hinges get a shot of Teflon spray lube twice a year. They close with one finger. My only gripes have to do with folks slamming the doors because they move so easily, and they don't stay open on the spring stops if you are on the slightest hill.

My car lives indoors both at home and at the office, so it gets washed once a week to keep the black looking black. Wax every 3 months or so. I use Autofom from blue coral. The carnaubas look better, but the shine only lasts a week or so. Then the built-up wax starts to haze some. So I use the Autofom, which isn't quite as shiny but lasts a lot longer.

I have yet to use any of the "leather treatments" on my seats, and they look fine. I did look for some of the recommended treatments from the group, but not hard enough apparently.

Did I miss anything? ;-)

Those are all my secrets-- I'm going home now.

dr bob

Reprinted with permission




Updated January 25, 1999

All contents of this site Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 Jeff Singleton. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.