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Buying friend's Explorer Sport. Tips?


Active Member
May 28, 2006
Reaction score
City, State
Fall River, MA
Year, Model & Trim Level
'97 Explorer Sport
Hello, I am a VW guy by heart (89 Jetta GLI), but my friend is moving cross country and decided to sell his 97 Explorer Sport 4WD, and I have decided to buy it. It's got 169k on the body, 60k on the rebuilt engine. I realize that's a lot of miles, and I've been warned about transfer cases and transmission issues. Assuming it's the original trans (auto), is it being held together by luck at these many miles? It has fog lights, power seats, rear seat radio/heat (IIRC these are added cost options). I only bought it for $1500, and I can't decide to resell it and make a profit, or use it as a winter car with my Jetta. Opinions? Thanks.

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In my opinion....

If it was me, and i bought a 97 ex for 1500 bucks, i would compensate the other 4 grand that it would cost me to buy from another person and pimp it out hehe. It does have quite a few miles. I have a 96 with 138k and it still runs strong. At 1500 dollars, if you got the extra dough (assuming a 97x runs for around 5grand), that leaves around 3500 leaway, i would do some work on it and make it a sweet ride.

Drive it. No more difficult to repair than a Vdub.

je5 said:
Drive it. No more difficult to repair than a Vdub.

Hey, what's that supposed to mean?? :D

I guess, since I know my VW inside and out, I'd almost be afraid to get a differnet kind of car and not know how to repair it. Though I'm sure I could figure it out easy enough, and since VW dosen't have any kind of 4x4 offering in my price range, and I like to go 4x4ing... ;)

Some questions, when I last saw it, it had a cluster bulb out. how easy are these to fix, and can anyone turn me in the right direction? Is the fog light switch supposed to light up too? All he told me was it needed an oil change, but I'll do the full monty (fluids, belts, etc).

BTW don't know if I mentioned this but it had a rebuild at 108k, so the engine has 60k on it.

welcome to the forum a fellow Fall River Ma. Explorer owner

thats an exremley good price especcially for a sport...the fog light button should light is most likley a bad replace the bulb in the instrument cluster you have to....well get to the instument cluster by pulling the dash apart then once you get to the cluster replace the bulb.

Well hello fellow Fall River-ian! :)

Thanks, but I was looking for a more detailed how-to (though i'm sure I could figure it out), since in the Taurus I owned, the gauges and the housing were seperate, making it difficult to get at the bulb, while in my VW the cluster is a removeable unit. THe fog bulb is hopefully simple too. Small things, but would do a lot to the resale value (if I decided to sell it, haven't crossed that bridge yet ;) I do LOVE offroading).

Also, stupid question, and I feel like such a n00b (we get this at my VW forum about 3x a day), but could someone point me in the direction of some DIY, with some tips or hints as to some things I could do to improve power, looks, etc? Thanks :)

the fog lights should only come one when the park/head lights are on, at least thats how mine works, the light in the switch only comes on with the lights.

I'd keep it as a winter car/beater. You may want to look though the list of usefull threads. Lot's of good info in there. The above post saying it should have run 4k more is being very optimistic. Clean 2000s with 100k on them are going for 3500 around here. The 4 door v8's are sometimes going for even less with people afraid at the thought of filling them up.

the whole gauge cluster is a removablre unit.

Ok, so.... lucky me. 2 days before I am supposed to buy it, my friend says the o/d light was flashing on the highway (for about an hour). He says it still runs fine, but it seems like this would mean a problem with o/d? :cringes: could this mean it needs a new transmission? If so, I should steer clear? is probablt the tranny....try and drive the price down more.......the tranny is going to be rebuilt at some point......soo i would say buy it rebuild it and use it as a winter beeter or 4x4 rig.

I got an OBD scanner to read fault codes, and there were none relating to transmission, though there was one for pre-emminent cat faiilure. I drove it and it checks out, shiifts into and out of o/d just fine (even with the button). I think a quick and healthy trans fluid flush will be in order.

As for maintainance.... the coolant tank was empty (though not overheating), the liifters were ticking right after startup (but eventually quieted down), and he told me in the last year he's owned it (15k miles), he's done 3 oil changes. I'm not worried about the engine, though that does hint towards the kind of maintainance it got recently. He got it at a dealer so no history came with it, beyond that engine rebuild slip.

soa re you going to buy it?

After owning an '01 Golf TDI I can tell you that not only is the Explorer easier to work on it's much less expensive!! VW thinks it's parts are gold plated... for example the $85 dollar water hose:eek: Of course I didn't pay for that. I ended up using a regular old piece of 5/8" hose without all the custom preformed bends. Did the trick for $84 less;)

My GLi is much cheaper to work on, I assure you :) the older VW models shared almost everything between them- you can find the same parts in Vanagons, Rabbits, Jettas, Golfs, Passats, Corrados, etc.

Anyway, I bought it:


It's in amazingly good shape for 170k miles. I fixed the broken driver's seat by taking the side panel off (must have been a loose wire), but the seat will still need to be replaced due to someone breaking off the adjustment lever (and someone else apparently welding the backrest in place). The O/D light stiill flashes on occasion, and causes nervousness, but it will see a transmission shop tomorrow and they can tell me what is wrong. It drives fine when the O/D light flashes, though it shifts a bit harder (probably low on fluid, I literally haven't had a second to check it out). THe cluster wasn't terribly hard, to my joy :), though taking apart most of the dash wasn't fun. The radio is only held iin place by 2 screws :eek:

I'd have worried more about tranny fluid level, than a burned out bulb. It probably shifts hard when the O/D light is on because it is in limp mode, and just supposed to get you home. 170k,a flashing OD light, and a 4r55e and a would make me nervous.

Well, I'm a perfectionist :p plus, the trans didn't start acting funny until after replacing the bulbs and such.

Anyway, I gave it a full bath today, the underbody is completely rust free. just the bumpers seem to be deteriorating. The paint looms new, and it looks nothing like a 170k mile car.

The trans fluid is nice and red, and seems to be full (after a short drive, and in P while idling, it looked like it was full). I'm hoping if it is in limp mode, it is some bad wiring somewhere... where could I possibly start looking? I have a multimeter and am not afraid of wiring (4 years of electronics in high school), just wanted to know where I could start looking before I take it to a trans shop and pay expensive diagnostic fees.

More pics because I like it ;)



Like I said, the bumper is the worst thing about it. Oh, and there's my Jetta feeliing a bit neglected in front ;)

Question: I read the VIN thread and found this:
Transmission Codes

U - 4-Speed Automatic Overdrive
D - 5-Speed Automatic Overdrive
M - 5-Speed Manual Overdrive

Does that mean 5+OD or 4+OD=5?