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PTU Problems

Discussion in 'Stock 2011 - 2019 Ford Explorer Discussion' started by GeoMimi89, December 9, 2012.

^^Searches ExplorerForum.com^^





  1. Tsuga

    Tsuga Member

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    I went into the dealer for another matter and air out my frustrations with the Explorer to an advisor. He told me that the biggest issue with the Explorer is the PTU.
     
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  3. whimsey

    whimsey Member

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    I don't have actual proof, as you don't, but I've seen posts of 'Problems" of PTU's fluid being bad and causing issues on less than way less than 50,000 miles on the factory fill. It's not a got factory design problem If you intend to keep your vehicle with this PTU for no longer than the warranty or lease, the same time period. Basically this is not a "lifetime" fluid from the factory if you intend to keep it longer than the warranty. Since we intend to keep our Explorer for 200,000+ miles I intend to change the PTU and transmission fluid at least every 30,000 miles, at least it's easy to do both.

    Whimsey
     
  4. ExPlat

    ExPlat Elite Explorer

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    Okay, I have a question.
    My Owner's Manual states clearly that the PTU is 'electrically monitored' and will display a message if the PTU needs service. I just had a failure of the PTU and the only message the dash information display showed me was '4x4 is disabled', when was I supposed to get this "PTU needs service" message?
    Another thing, using the Ford in-car Engineering Test Display in the left information screen I looked up the DTC's, there are none. Then my OBD II scanner was connected and again, no DTC's are logged in the ECM. So, apparently, a significant piece of equipment can fail without throwing a Code? I suppose Forscan and the Ford IDS scanner might see them but I don't have those items.

    'Scheduled Maintenance
    Axle maintenance: The Power Transfer Unit (PTU) in your vehicle does not require any normal scheduled maintenance. The system is electronically monitored and notifies the driver of required service by displaying a message in the information display. The PTU lube will be more likely to require a fluid change if the vehicle has experienced extended periods of extreme/severe duty cycle driving. Do not check or change the PTU lubricant unless the unit has been submerged in water, shows signs of leakage or a message indicating required service is displayed. Contact your authorized dealer for service and to reset the PTU lube life monitor.'
     
  5. Keith N

    Keith N Elite Explorer

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  6. ExPlat

    ExPlat Elite Explorer

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    With all due respect, I think a lot of us understand the problem, it's a small gear case (ring & pinion type) with not enough fluid in it, to compound the problem not all Ford Dealers will change the fluid if asked, mine won't. Even if I was going to change the fluid at 30k miles like a lot of people recommend my Exploder didn't make it that far, missed by 720 miles.

    Ford is going to fix this PTU problem in the 2020 Explorer, but until then this is a known issue with Gen 5 and a lot of owners are highly inconvenienced by it. If this was the only issue with this particular car of mine I wouldn't be quite so peeved and my confidence in this particular car would not be so low. The best I can say is that it is supposed to be repaired under warranty, but the Dealer hasn't seen it yet.
     
  7. Keith N

    Keith N Elite Explorer

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    I really don't think many understand the root issue. Why would some fail right away (under 30k) and some go to over 150k with no oil change. Hence all the confusion around simply changing oil will make it last. Of course common sense says fluid changes will only help, and I have done a few on mine so far. What I seen in blue oval forum that I don't recall seeing here were two theories which make sense to me.

    1) Fluid is binary. Once you hit 340 degrees or so, the fluid is damaged and you are in trouble. (maybe this is why some have temp sensor)

    2) Even with above, why do only a percent fail. Other theory is manf. tolerences of the gears and how they mesh, particularly the hypoid gears which are designed to rub against each other, generate more heat from unit to unit. Luck comes into equation here, if you get a tighter mesh gearbox which generates more heat, you are probably in trouble. Could explain the 30k failures.

    Of course couple above with the location next to cats, small amount of fluid, lack of drain/fill plug, and you have even more trouble.

    I will add my kids drive a 2008 rav4 v6 awd. (270hp) I just did a fluid change on its pto at 110k. Fluid was great looking. It only holds .5qt also. It has a drain plug/fill plug. It is not next to any cat. I drove it 20 miles to warm it up. Fluid was barely warm. The Ford would be burning hot after 20 miles. It uses 80w-90 oil also, vs the 75-140 molasses in the Ford. PTO are not a weak issue on the Rav platform. So a reliable PTO on fwd car with around 300hp is possible. So is an external waterpump, which I did for myself this past summer for $100, but that's another discussion.
     
    Last edited: December 2, 2018
  8. VCFP153

    VCFP153 Active Member

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    The fact that Ford added a drain plug to 2016 and later models seems to suggest that they, too, endorse fluid changes (at least implicitly).
     
  9. ExPlat

    ExPlat Elite Explorer

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    All well and good, theories are swell, I love 'em. But theories don't change the fact that Ford says not to change it except under certain conditions, my local Dealer will not change it when I've asked and if the tamper paint on the the drain plug on my PTU was broken (undocumented) I might be denied a Ford repair. It is all ridiculous. Ford improved the PTU design in later years but mine is an early 2015 model without the best improvements.

    Of course, some will say 'get another Dealer', 'take to an Indy shop', 'change it yourself', etc, etc, but show me the scenario/facts that prove any of that works to prevent the PTU from failing. It might, but there are no facts or studies to back up any home-made plan of maintenance, your linked article above is titled 'possible' solutions. Like I said, even changing it every 30,000 miles would not have affected my case. Ford's clever wording says it all, 'does not require any normal scheduled maintenance', leaving worried customers to practice 'ab-normal' maintenance schemes hoping the equipment will last longer at the risk of voiding their warranties.

    It will be interesting to find out what exactly happened to my very well maintained vehicles PTU and watch the shoulder shrug of the Service Advisor when I ask why he wouldn't change the fluid when I asked. I don't think he really cares.
     
  10. whimsey

    whimsey Member

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    For our 2017 Explorer the dealer had no problem changing the factory fill of the PTU at 9,000 mi and charging $110. I had my indie change the PTU again at 22,000 mi using Amsoil Severe Gear 75W-140. The Motorcraft 75W-140 the dealer used at 9,000 mi came out golden, looked new. This service cost me $44 including the Amsoil. Ours has a drain plug and easy to access fill plug. However the same dealer refused to do a drain and fill for the transmission because it's "sealed" and "good" for 150,000 miles, but they would do a flush for $250 :rolleyes:.

    Whimsey
     
  11. 613GT500

    613GT500 Well-Known Member

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    I had the PTU on my 2016 replaced and was also advised that it is not "serviceable".
     
  12. blwnsmoke

    blwnsmoke Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    @ExPlat there hasnt been 1 member on here that has posted they received a service ptu message.. I think what the manual says about it being monitored etc is pure crap.

    I think the closest to it that members received was when the ptu has overheated and it disbaled itself temporarily.
     
  13. Keith N

    Keith N Elite Explorer

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    Here is my theory on the PTU in the 3.5L powertrain, since its fun to theorize and I have studied this on other forums and have been puzzled by it.

    1) The unit runs hot because of its location next to catalytic converter, and somewhat due to nature of a ring and pinion gear that generates its own heat.

    2) However, with manf variations, some units will generate even more heat from tight gear meshing, and further heat the unit to the point the oil is compromised (blue oval forum mentioned 340 degrees). I think the sludgy oil is created at this point and lubrication is compromised.

    The units that generate more heat due to manf variation in gears, will fail early and likely replaced under warranty. This may explain the failures under 30k.

    If your ptu makes it past the powertrain warranty, it probably does not have the manf variation problem and should last longer, as some have made it to 150k with no oil changes (blue oval forum). However, common sense would say with some oil changes, it could last even longer. I think blwnsmoke said his original 2011 made it to 130k with no oil change. My 2011 is on 100k and I just did the second oil change. Seems fine. First change was at 60k and oil was ok both times, and magnet had minimal metal on it.

    Contributing factors MAY also include.
    1) Different diameter tires front to back (although this has been disputed either way)
    2) Only .5 qt gear oil in unit (although this seems to be pretty common for FWD ptu systems)
    3) Lack of drain plug and easy way to fill it on most units, and Fords "no maintenance required" position.
    4) Towing, but only in sense the catalytic converter is working harder and generating even more heat.
    5) Lack of the air duct to help cool it. I think its standard on towing version Explorers, but not sure if standard across the board.
    6) Driving in sand. I recall car and driver article that says most the primary FWD SUVs had the awd system shut down in comparison they did. Only truck like transfer units worked more than 15 minutes. (again, lots of heat coming off Cat and little air flow when in the sand)

    That's my theory at least for the 3.5l powertrain.
    Sounds like 2.3l has better set up with no nearby cat and a drian/fill plug.
     
  14. KayGee

    KayGee Well-Known Member

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    For 2016+, the maintenance schedule (ford) explicitly states PTU fluid change every 30K under most driving styles.

    On those vehicles with the PTU temp sensor, I believe when it senses an overheat condition it is supposed to notify driver to service ptu or something similar (basically, change fluid, probably only those with a PTU drain plug??). If no temp sensor on PTU, then I assume the only message one may get will be a 4wd warning message when the ATC/RDU overheats, not a message about PTU overheating.

    Here's an article with some basic info on the PTU and RDU/ATC for those interested. Ford NextGen Police Interceptor Tech Training - Part 1 | Hendon Publishing
     
  15. 613GT500

    613GT500 Well-Known Member

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    2016 Ford Explorer Owners Manual:
    Exceptions
    There are several exceptions to the Normal Schedule:
    Axle and PTU maintenance: The Power Transfer Unit (PTU) and rear axle (AWD only) in your vehicle does not require any normal scheduled maintenance. The PTU lubricant will be more likely to require a fluid change if the vehicle has extended periods of extreme or severe duty cycle driving. Changing or checking the PTU lubricant is not necessary unless the unit has been submerged in water or shows signs of leakage. Contact your authorized dealer for service.
     
  16. KayGee

    KayGee Well-Known Member

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    Keyword is "normal". All of the maintenance schedules are published by Ford. For those that use their remote start, drive in a lot of stop and go traffic, tow, or drive in any 'severe' conditions, it is your call if you want to use the "normal" maintenance schedule or one of the alternates. I have long followed the 'severe' maintenance schedules for my vehicles and not had anywhere near the problems of others that follow the 'normal' maintenance schedule. YMMV - good luck.

    Retail and fleet maintenance schedules are same, but fleet chart is easier to read all at once instead of clicking through each mileage interval on the retail side.

    Maintenance schedule - retail Maintenance Schedule | Maintenance | Official Ford Owner Site
    non-"normal" maintenance schedule for 2016 explorer 4wd v6
    [​IMG]

    Maintenance schedule - fleet Maintenance Schedules | fleet.ford.com
    non-"normal" maintenance schedule for 2016 explorer 4wd v6
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: December 3, 2018
  17. ExPlat

    ExPlat Elite Explorer

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    Don't know where you got that 'explicit' maintenance info but my 2016 Owner Manual is as stated in my post #463 and 613GT500's post # 474 stating 'no normal maintenance'. In addition, my PTU has some type of Sensor, there is a wired plug in the case, otherwise how did I get the '4x4 is disabled' alert?

    @ Keith N: My car has 4 same size Michelin tires because I replaced the crap Hankooks at <12k miles, had a PTU drain plug and sensor, never towed anything, air duct was installed and working, never drove in sand and a PTU that did not need 'normal maintenance' (as per my OM).

    No, there are just too many words like 'may, possibly, assume, theory, etc - the basic truth is that these PTU's are a poorly engineered part for the task it is given and Ford has made the situation worse by not allowing or recommending reasonable and proper maintenance.

    Anyway, the car is at the Dealer, I have an Enterprise rental/loaner car, a 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid. My SA is an old pro and has a cute act, he was surprised that a PTU had failed, has only seen one other, a high mileage Police PIU. I mentioned to 'please clean the oil off the bottom of the car, we can't drive it smelling like it does', he clucked and said it does smell funny but made no promises. Ford service, gotta love it.

    Yes, I need another Dealer very much, it just might be a Toyota or Honda Dealer. I'm fed up with this 'Platinum', my wife is too. It will be difficult to sell this car if it stinks of gear oil though.
     
    Last edited: December 3, 2018
  18. Keith N

    Keith N Elite Explorer

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    @ExPlat - Its just a theory, like I said. Under my theory your car falls under the bad luck and the unit generates extra heat due to manf. tolerences of gears, and has failed due to baking the oil. Sorry you don't like theories, but you are in a forum, where a lot of info shared is opinion, theory and best guesses. Truth is only Ford knows and I am sure they fully understand the issue, as it does cost them money in warranty replacements.

    The engineering in where it is located on V6 is probably the biggest mistake in my mind. Too much heat to deal with. The oil is always baking, and if you add any extra stress, like towing, climbing a mountain, sand, or extra heat from a tight gear mesh, it goes over the thermal edge.

    There are other choices out there, as you alluded to.
     
  19. 613GT500

    613GT500 Well-Known Member

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    Don't bank too much on Honda either, especially if you are thinking of the Pilot with the 9speed tranny.
    My colleague already had the tranny on a MY2016 replaced at less than 30K.
     
  20. ExPlat

    ExPlat Elite Explorer

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    Aw, hell, I'm just upset at this car at the moment, didn't mean to take it out on you fellers, my apologies. :chug:
    The Honda/Toyota comment was because the tow truck driver this morning said they were the two brands he didn't pick up very often. There is no perfect car, the many I have owned are maintained and clean, so I expect a little cooperation from them, this Explorer is a test of my patience.
    To top it off, my Corvette is acting up too but for some reason I make allowances for that one. ;)
     
  21. KayGee

    KayGee Well-Known Member

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    The info I posted has the links to the Ford websites it came from right in the post. It's the blue text that you can click on. Do you guys/gals not know that there is far more info out there than just what is published in the owner's manual?

    As far as the PTU sensor, that is only for a PTU fluid overheat situation. The PTU and driveshaft are alway spinning whether the vehicle is operating in FWD or AWD. If you don't have enough fluid or the fluid is sludged, I suppose it may delay or not ever trigger the sensor.

    The 4x4 disabled is for the ATC/RDU and has nothing to do with the PTU. If the ATC clutches overheat, the system will either lock them to keep them from slipping and generating more heat or completely disable them (which will prompt the AWD off/disabled message) until the clutches cool and vehicle is shutdown/restarted. This is covered in the link I included in post #473.
     

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