To buy or not to buy, that is the question... | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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To buy or not to buy, that is the question...


Well-Known Member
September 11, 2007
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Year, Model & Trim Level
Totally out of blue, I saw a '94 maroon Explorer for sale while driving by a neighborhood. Welp, couldn't help myself.

Went to check it out and knocked on the door. Guy came out and showed me the :exporange and told me the key was in the ignition.

Keep in mind, this is my first time driving a first gen - when I climbed in it, it was small. I thought it'd be bigger. :confused: Much smaller than the Ford Bronco I used to have.

Engine sounds good, drives good. It still has some GO left at 142k.

It has the usual issues:

Passenger side radius arm rubber is loose (I can move it with my hand) but hasn't ovaled out and is still in the factory position (also didn't get any clunking when stopping) the left was just as bad, but the rubber didn't move.

Checked underneath, it was totally rust free. Including the rockers. The undercoating was beginning to peel off, though. The paint needs some elbow grease, but mostly still good. I found evidence of overspray so it may have been repainted in the past.

It has the manual trans. When I drove it, the shifter was buzzing loudly whenever I touch the knob. I didn't have any problems shifting between 1 & 2 at all. Is this a sign of it needs a rebuilding?? I know they aren't strong...

I did note the gauges were erractic. The gas gauge doesn't seem to funciton (reads empty no matter what, didn't move) whenever I turn on the key, the volt gauges start dancing from end to end then reads the voltage. :eek:

The gray interior was dingy, but seems good for 142k. Normal wear and tear.

The biggest issue, there is some fluid leaking on the rear axle. Not sure if it's the gear oil, but the fluid looks like brake fluid. In any case, I told the guy I'd let him know tomorrow. I did get him to knock down $300 off his asking price. So it's mine for $1000.

What do you guys think? This epic event happens in less in 24 hours... :D also looking at another one tomorrow which seems as good as it gets. :salute:

EDIT: Didn't realize I rambled on. :eek: :thumbsup: to anyone who reads this. :D

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usually those trannies start to whine when they are going bad. The buzzing shifter is a common problem with all gen 1 manuals.

the radius bushings are easy to fix, just takes some time.

for $1000 you dont get much. So since the frame is in good shape thats a good start.

the 4.0 ohv motor will run way longer than 147K so as long as everything sounds good.

Does it have 4x4? if so did you test it?

I can't hear good anymore, so I didn't hear it whine.

Yes, it does have 4x4. I pushed the button, and the 4x4 lights up in the gauge & on the button but nothing happened. It was in neutral with engine off. Must the engine be running? This is my first time trying out an electric 4x4 system so I didn't know what to do. I'm used to my NP205.

The body is in awesome shape, there's no dents or rust anything.

the engine should be running, and the clutch in when you shift to 4x4, you should only test it on stones or lose gravel. Once the light is on and it is locked in 4x4 start to move the truck forward and turn the wheel to one side or the other. If everything is locked in properly you should start to feel a binding, almost like the parking brake is on. This is normal for a true 4x4 system because the wheels are locked together and in a turn the wheels need to turn at a different rate due to different radius for each wheel.

once your finished testing that, drive in a straight line for 10 feet or so to remove the 4x4 binding. Then depress the clutch and disingadge the 4x4. Then try to drive in a turn again. there should be no binding, if there is still binding then the 4x4 system is not disengadging properly. With those automatic hubs when you are finished testing everything you need to backup in a straight line to unlock the automatic hubs.

You may want to look at the transmission. if it has the seal leak problem it will be leaking oil from the top rear of the transmission.

Oh and the OHV motors are famous for valve cover leaks, not expensive or a problem but it will smell like oil and should be fixed if it is leaking.

that's about all I can think of right now...

my motor and tranny dont have one leak, hicup or issues at 141K. have many high speed off road miles on them. that set up is very solid. the only issue is the slave cylinder in the cluch is the first thing to go. relativaly cheap part but very labor intense. its inside your trans so you have to pull it out. then when youre in there you might as well do the clutch, throw out, etc. it adds up quick kinda.

I don't know anything about the manual trannys, so I'll defer to these guys.

Otherwise, I'd say $1000 is a steal for the condition it's in. I have 275,000 on my 94, and the motor runs like new.

As mentioned, other than the tranny, most of this work is more labor-intensive than expensive in terms of parts. If you're handy, you can do all of it, even if you got the tranny done by someone else. Even the common 4x4 issues can usually be fixed at home for little money.

As for the axle leak, it could also be the bearings (or seals, I can't recall if these bearings are sealed units). It's been several years, but I had that problem, I got it done at a shop, but you could do it yourself (might need a press, I can't recall). Anyway, the diff cover comes off to remove something that retains the axles, which then slide out so the bearings can be replaced.

Good luck!


For 1000 bucks, i would do it. If you have basic mechanical skills, it's pretty easy to fix one of these first gens up. I have a 94 and im thinking about buying another one. just my two cents


Sounds easy, right? Yes, I have some experience.

I have worked on brakes, rebuilt carburetors, changed most maintenance items...however, this would be my NEWEST vehicle I may own. I've been adhering to old cars that only require gas and spark to run.

I don't know a dang thing about the electric gizmos and whizzbangs they have on cars these days so I'm a little intimidated. More stuff to break.

The green Explorer with the moonroof guy never got back at me for meeting which was today. :( so this may be the one to buy. At least I won't have to do any body work at all.

Called the guy and I'll inspect it again this week to make sure I missed nothing and to test the 4x4 system.

So far the issues it has are:

Gas gauge nonfunctional
Check Engine light stays on
Radial arms bushings shot
Volt gage very erratic
Loud buzzing shifter (by feeling it, not hearing it)
A leak on the rear axle (brake or axle, not sure)
Radio is aftermarket

Sounds good for $1000, I guess. I live in MD, it's a pain to get it inspected when registering an used car from a private party.

So far the issues it has are:

Gas gauge nonfunctional
Check Engine light stays on
Radial arms bushings shot
Volt gage very erratic
Loud buzzing shifter (by feeling it, not hearing it)
A leak on the rear axle (brake or axle, not sure)
Radio is aftermarket

We're obviously biased because we love these trucks (and that should speak volumes), but it's your money so don't let us talk you into anything you're not comfortable with...

Having said that, for a rust-free 94 for $1000, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. The gauges are a common failure item, as are the radios and RABs.

My gas gauge hasn't worked in many, many years. I use the odometer and fill it when I get to 300 miles or so (more often in the winter when using 4x4, or when towing). To repair this usually requires dropping the gas tank, which I've done once on another car and am not in a big hurry to do again just for a gas gauge.

As for the CEL, you should bring it to AutoZone when you test drive it, they should be able to read the code and tell you what's wrong for free. Most CEL problems are inexpensive and simple (normally bad sensors which are fairly inexpensive and very easy to replace).

Hope this helps!


I just may - I sure like the 1st gens!

Also, what does the tow package offer? Just found it supposedly has it.

My 2 pence worth, I'd buy it in a heartbeat too, love how my automatic '94 runs,drives,rides comfortably even on extended trip thanks to lumbar support in front seats, etc. :).....automatic 4x4 is great if you get in something like a damned quick snow or ice storm {like I did in Maine once} , don't have to get out & screw around with locking hubs in.....

With the manual on a 1st gen the towing is very limited. there will be label on the inside of the door that will give you the tow rating.

The reason is the clutch on the manual was easy to burn out if you ride it during towing. However I gotta say that my ranger was manual and if you know how to drive a stick properly it is a very capable tow vehicle. I routinely towed 4200lbs with mine which was slightly over the rating (I don't recomend this to anyone else!!) and I had 190K on the clock and that truck ran like it was new.

Follow Mikeinri's advice and get your code read at autozone for free. In fact it may be good to have them read before you buy it. Then you can use the info to get the price even lower. :D

Having said that, for a rust-free 94 for $1000, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. The gauges are a common failure item, as are the radios and RABs.

94's have abs not rabs.

Sorry if this confused anyone, but in my message, RABs= Radius Arm Bushings :)

And, I definitely meant have the codes read before you buy it.


i knew you would know that a 94 had antilock brake system and not just rear antilock brake system.

I wasn't trying to discuss the difference between model years, just trying to help bluexpy feel better about the Radius Arm Bushings not being a showstopper for buying this particular truck.

I think I have RABS (Rear Antilock Braking System) on my 93 E350 RV, but what does that have to do with anything in this thread??? :confused:


I'm not too worried about the radius arm bushings.

They have ABS?? On this early of model years? Dang...

Is it *important* to get the check engine codes read out before purchase? Why? Don't they just monitor stuff? :-/ I'm too new to this era of vehicles...computers and cars don't mix, I always say. :D

Not sure if all 94s have ABS, but mine does. :) Easiest way to know is to look at the inboard side of the brake rotor, you will see teeth that the ABS sensor uses. Now that I think about it, it might be easier just to look for the ABS sensor on each side, do a search for some of DeRocha's pictures.

Should have mentioned this earlier, have no fear of the Explorer computer. This is the first vehicle that I've felt comfortable enough to bother buying a code reader, mostly because I found this site.

So, I'm clearly not an expert, but if you spend some time searching for code issues, you'll see that codes can be caused by numerous issues, and can also cause problems. This is basically the computer trying to compensate for whatever error condition it may be seeing. Sometimes, the issue is a real mechanical issue with the truck, other times, a sensor is bad, or there is a wiring issue (loose connector or short).

So, it is very important to know what the computer is trying to tell you with the CEL, mostly, because it will give you some indication of how much money you'll be spending to fix it. You don't want to be driving around with the CEL on, even if it's a "minor" issue (not causing the engine to run poorly). The reason for that is, it's like the boy who cried wolf. You won't know when you have a "real" problem if the CEL is always on, because you'll be ignoring it...

Sorry to be so long-winded. The CEL is your friend... :)


That makes sense.

How do I retrieve the codes? Many moons ago, I had a 84 Chevette, it had the computer...a paper clip was the best tool to diagnose the '94 the same or...?

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If you search this forum, you can find the paper clip method. Or, you can buy a basic reader for $20 at a good parts store.

The real trick is figuring out what to do with the codes. This site is a huge help. Something I found out unexpectedly is that AutoZone can print out a very detailed procedure on how to troubleshoot codes as well. It prints out on a really long cash register tape, and details how much voltage to expect on each colored wire in a sensor harness, etc.