2005 Ford Explorer XLT 4x4 grinding and jerking no lights on dash | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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2005 Ford Explorer XLT 4x4 grinding and jerking no lights on dash


New Member
October 5, 2013
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Year, Model & Trim Level
2005 Ford Explorer
I have a 2005 Ford Explorer XLT 4x4 that had a problem that originally started as the one detailed at http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=250463l . I had all the same problems, abs light, trac control and 4x4 high light flashing intermittently. The grinding I heard was coming from the driver's side front wheel so I took a wild stab at it and replaced the wheel speed sensor for that wheel.

After I replaced the sensor the abs light, trac control light and 4x4 high lights all went off but I am still getting the grinding and jerking. It sounds like 4x4 is trying to engage and feels like the wheels are spinning at different speeds.

I have also discovered that by unplugging the wheel speed sensor the car drives just fine. I also did not find any play in the front wheels that would be associated with a bad bearing.

Any clues?

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How's the tires? I've read that mismatched, under/over inflated or unevenly worn tires can play havoc with the auto 4x4 system. Guess I would check that first.

How's the tires? I've read that mismatched, under/over inflated or unevenly worn tires can play havoc with the auto 4x4 system. Guess I would check that first.

Thank you very much for your response! I hadn't even thought of checking tire issues/pressure.

The tires are p245/65r17 that only have about 2000 miles on them and are equipped with TPMS. They do not appear to have any abnormal wear on them and still look almost brand new. According to the sticker on the driver's door this is the standard tire size and recommends 35psi. I just went out and checked and found all the tires were at 35psi except for the front driver's side which was at 30psi. My wife just informed me that the TPMS light came on this morning on her way home from work. About 3 weeks ago the same tire was low and I aired it back up to 35psi. It looks like there is a slow leak in that tire that I will have to take care of, but could a 5psi difference cause this kind of problem?

Yes, it could. I would make sure they're evenly inflated.

Due to it being footballday I probably won't get around to inflating that tire until tomorrow. I will give that a shot and reply back. Thanks again for your time.

Will having different front and rear tires matter, even if they are the same left to right?

Yes. The different sizes (diameter) will tell the computer one set is spinning faster than the other set, indicating wheel spin, and will engage the 4 wheel drive.

There's a modification called the "brown wire mod" you can do so you can turn off the auto 4 wheel drive. Do a search for it. Easy solution. There's no indicator on the dash to tell you when the auto 4 wheel drive has kicked in so it could be engaged and you wouldn't know until the symptoms show up. (Seems a bit short sighted on Fords' part.)

Okay, I finally took the car down to get the tire inflated. All tires are at 35psi. I plugged the wheel speed sensor back in, lights all turned back off but the problem is still there.

Should I being doing the "brown wire mod" as well? Or at least see if that fixes the problem?

Here's a link to the procedure: http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=194875

You can get the same result by pulling the fuse to the 4x4 to trouble shoot. The switch just makes it more convenient and permanent.

I THINK it's under the hood, number 17. But you probably want to check your owner's manual to be sure.

According to http://www.fordservicecontent.com/Ford_Content/catalog/owner_guides/05expog3e.pdf the under the hood #17 fuse is for the two-speed 4x4 (relay coils). I unplugged the fuse and got the same result with the wheel speed sensor plugged in. As long as the wheel speed sensor is unplugged everything works fine except for the ABS light and advancetrac light are on all the time and the 4x4 high light flashes but there is no grinding and jerking. With the fuse plugged in and the new wheel speed sensor plugged in there are no lights on the dash, but as soon as I start to accelerate the advancetrac light flashes and the grinding and jerking begins.

I also attempted to unplug fuse #8 under the hood (4x4 shift motor) and the under dash fuse #12 (4x4 switch) just to see if that would help. None of those fuses got me any better outcome.

So I guess what I'm seeing now is the car thinks it needs to engage the advancetrac system when it clearly doesn't. My wife just had the tires rotated this morning and the sound is coming from the same place. Of course I don't know enough about what I'm dealing with to know if the sound would come from a different direction if it wasn't the driver's side front that is the problem. Just throwing out the information.

Thank you so much for sticking with me on this so far. I really appreciate the help!

I have had the same problem with my wife's explorer 3 times. All 3 times, it was a failed wheel bearing. The tone ring for the speed sensor is inside the hub. When the bearing fails, it damages the tone ring and the vehicle thinks that something is wrong, so it doesn't know whether to hit the brakes or turn on the 4x4. If that is the case, the brown wire mod won't help because it will still be trying to apply the brakes. Since the problem goes away when you unplug the sensor (mine did the same) that means there is a problem with the speed sensor or tone ring. You cannot replace the tone ring, but you can check it by removing the sensor and looking into the hole while you spin the hub. There shouldn't be any metal shavings inside of the hub, and all of the teeth on the tone ring should look the same, with the exception of one tooth. One tooth is longer than all of the others so the computer can read 1 revolution. buy a hub that has a warranty if you replace it...ive done it 3 times already

I agree with usafmedic on it being the bearing. You may not have any play that you can notice. I broke down and did the bearings and my "whirring" noise went away.
That said, there is a TSB on the Transfer case I believe.
I don't know why I like Explorers, it seems like everything on them was under engineered for the weight of the vehicle.