Explorer on borrowed time: A story (that you will want to read…) | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Explorer on borrowed time: A story (that you will want to read…)


February 28, 2004
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City, State
Detroit Lakes, MN
Year, Model & Trim Level
'95 XLT 4x4
It has been a while since I have last posted to this board, so I though I would share my sad Explorer story. In the past, I changed my Explorer’s oil myself, but we all (or at least myself) seem to get busier and busier these days and therefore I have been relying on my local Ford dealer’s Quick Lube Express to do the job for me these past few years. One fateful June day last year was no different and off to the Quick Lube I went. That evening we were heading to a nearby city to attend a concert and while in transit the “check gauges” light illuminated and a glance down revealed my oil pressure gauge had dropped to zero. Upon slowing down and proceeding to the side of the road to shut her down, the “check engine” light illuminated and the motor died. I coasted into a gas station luckily and discovered the oil pan drain plug was nowhere to be found.

A quick call back to the dealership had a courtesy car on its way to get us and the truck would be towed back to the dealership the next day. I was reassured they would be taking care of me. My 1995 Explorer has 247,000 miles on her, of which 175,000 we put on. We have owned it since 1999. I have a file folder of repairs and records for this truck…it was well cared for. The next day I sat down with the dealership owner and it was revealed that the Quick Lube employee that began the oil change went to lunch and someone else “finished the job” which obviously they did not do very well. They told me that I needed a new motor, which I already knew and would have expected nothing less, but they could not justify rebuilding the original motor because of the high miles, so they would be seeking out a junk yard motor. “OK I guess” were my thoughts, but “what kind of warranty are we talking about on this junk yard motor with zero history?” This particular junkyard warranties their motors for 4 months I was told. You can imagine my response. Some discussion later, midway through which the owner had to close his office door because our “conversation” was spilling out onto the showroom, I walked out with a 1yr/12,000 mi warranty and was as happy as I could be at that point.

Until…the truck began to burn oil within the first 6 months. And I mean about a quart of oil every 500 miles. Then came the oil leak from the rear main gasket which was followed by an intake manifold leak spilling about a softball-sized antifreeze leak onto my garage floor every night. For about 4 months they replaced various sensors, etc… trying to track down the oil usage and finally this spring decided I needed another motor. So, a 2nd junk yard motor with zero history was found and installed. For a moment, it was thought we might have to go for #3 because this 2nd motor had what was described to me as a “miss” upon firing it up but magically the dealership was able to “fix” this with some fuel injection cleaner. Upon delivery it was also revealed that my fuel pump might have issues because the truck never starts on the first try but always fires during the second try of the key. I pointed out to them directly that the original motor and the 1st junk yard replacement never did this but they insisted that it was nothing related to this 2nd junk yard motor or their installation of it.

So, upon pickup of my truck, I told them I needed the same agreed upon warranty on the 2nd motor because obviously that extended warranty is what saved me. I was told “Sorry…” but this junk yard only warranties their motors for 30 days and that is all I was getting this time. The dealership owner absolutely refused to even meet with me this time and all discussions happened through his service manager. So, I told them that I would see them in court. Keep in mind this is a fairly large Ford dealership with which I had a 6 year relationship.

I took the case to small claims court and sued for $3000, the quote I had to rebuild a 4.0L motor to at least give me some piece of mind for a reliable truck once again. As an alternative, I agreed to receive a 1yr/12,000 mile warranty on this 2nd motor, because that is all I wanted in the first place.

As you can perhaps guess, I lost the case. I absolutely do not regret taking the case to court though because I finally had the owner face me on my terms, even if it cost me court filing fees. So, bottom line, when we get our vehicles serviced by “professionals”, we are taking a real risk each and every time. And it does NOT matter how old, how cared for, how valuable (both in terms of $$ or any sentimental value), the law apparently states that dealers just to have replace or cover the work to = that before the damage was done. They destroyed my 245,000 mile well-cared for motor, with most of those miles coming under my foot, in one afternoon and replaced it with a junk yard motor (that ended up being defective) with 180,000 miles on it with no history, and I was told by the dealership owner I was coming out on the “good end” of the deal because of the mileage difference.

So, now about 3 months into the 2nd junk yard motor, I start the truck with 2 turns of the ignition each time, I have a quarter size oil leak each night that recently began, and I now get about 12 mpg on the highway so I cannot help but feel I am on borrowed time with this truck. But…what is one to do? I am sure there is a lesson to be learned somewhere in here, but other than not letting your local Ford dealership work on your Ford Explorer, I am not sure what it is. Thanks for reading…

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caring for children & vehicles

Just as in most cases parents take more care raising their children than strangers, owners take more care maintaining their vehicles than paid technicians. That's the potential penalty for not devoting time and attention to someone or something dear. When I witnessed an auto shop "mechanic" bleed my brakes using an adjustable wrench 50 years ago I decided I would acquire the tools and knowledge to perform normal vehicle maintenance myself. My only regret since is if I do something wrong I have no one else to blame. When I purchase a brand new vehicle I'm always concerned when I take it to the dealer for the "free" maintenance and warranty work. I sympathize with your experience.

man, that sucks, but my experience with dealerships has almost always been negative. the only time i ever had a dealership do an oil change for me, was on a brand new car that was in for it's 3k check up. they overfilled the crankcase by at least 3 qts (i believe they never drained it) which was a good thing because they never tightened the new oil filter. on my ride home the engine puked out 4-5 qts of oil all over itself (top and bottom). i made them clean it up and when i went to pick it up i made them put it up on the lift so i could make sure they'd tightened the filter and drain plug, then i checked the oil level before leaving and i never went back. i've always changed my own oil before and since. i have many more aggravating dealership stories, but that was the worst and most potentially disastrous. oil changes are the worst because they don't exactly put their top mechanics on them (quite the opposite). the last time i had a car in for warranty work i believe they deliberately pulled off a plug wire trying to get more money out of me. thieves!

Frogman - thanks for sharing your story.
I notice there is no mention of the specific dealership name. Maybe this was intentional.
If it were my situation, I would be putting their name "out there" to social media, including this forum.

The last time I ever took a vehicle to a dealer for service was 18 years ago. I would bring my Dodge Ram for oil changes while it was under warranty, this time would be the last change while it was in warranty so they went over the truck to "catch things" before the warranty was up. Make a short story long, they flashed the ECM to update the software without my permission and I lost TCC lockup at any speed under 70mph. But sorry for hijacking your thread.


Good read. I almost never go to the "stealerships" as I like to call them. I have a very good relationship with my mechanic and I trust him with all of my vehicles. As you stated, we have gotten busier and busier and the need to trust someone else with your investment is paramount. I will not take my vehicles to any of those quick lube in and out type places. They hire people who don't have my or the companies best interest at heart. I'd rather wait for my guy, and have the same person work on my vehicles all the time. He knows me, knows my cars, and knows that I want it done right the first time, every time, regardless of the cost.

The name of the dealership was not left out on purpose...since this is not a local type of Board I just never thought it might be useful, but I guess you never know!! I live in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota (north-west part of the state directly east of Fargo, ND) and the dealership name is Webber Family Motors. Again, thanks for the comments.

Frogman thank you for sharing this story with us. As with every other commenter to this thread, I have had no pleasant intercourse with any dealership. (deliberate choice of adverb) Most of us are on this forum because we have a special relationship with our vehicles and take PRIDE in maintaining them. Whenever Bubba, or Hosea, Jarmelle get ahold of our "babies", we stand to lose much more than the few dollars we might have saved. Like many of you, if I can't do it, I will wait till my trusted mechanic and friend has time to service it. A few hundred miles over on an oil change is of little concern for a well maintained vehicle. Just my two cents worth. I am truly sorry you had your experience. I would consider dropping a crate engine in it, if you think you can get another 10 years out of the chassis. Best Wishes. Jim

Sorry for your loss, but it's time to bury your old X and replace it with something that has more life left in it.

Ive never taken any of my vehicles to dealerships for service outside of warranty work, and both times I was not 100% satisfied with the work. Ive also had mixed experiences with quick lube type places. As of late, I've had my mechanic do my oil changes with oil and filters I provide, and I couldn't be happier.

Sorry about your troubles frogman, I think a lot of folks have had negative experiences with dealerships and shops. Sounds like you did all you could do to try to get your explorer back to the way it was before the oil change. If there is a bright side, getting 247K miles out of a vehicle up your way sounds like you squeezed a lot of good life out of it.

I can remember ~20+ year ago when I was told by a dealership service manager "You are what we call a bad customer". I had questioned them about some service work and they had lied to me about some things and I called them on it and then proved it to them that they were lying. I refused to pay for the work I did not authorize nor was needed. I guess a "good customer" would have let them lie and get away with whatever they want. In any case, my vehicles only see a shop for new tires and alignment work or painting. I have spent a lot of time on my back underneath them and have gone through gallons of Fast Orange Pumice hand cleaner, but they all run like they should and when/if I mess something up, I get to fix it.

I have spent a lot of time on my back underneath them and have gone through gallons of Fast Orange Pumice hand cleaner, but they all run like they should and when/if I mess something up, I get to fix it.

And thats the bottom line.

I can't stand it when someone puts their hands under the hood of any of my cars. I've found coolant in my brake fluid, a power steering fluid reservoir filled to the brim, an auto tranny so full it was spewing out the fill tube (found that one on the service lot), oil pan plugs that "oh....it must have been stripped the last time somebody put it in"....sure.

And you know who the worst is? Friends of friends.