'97Ford Explorer--repair or let it die...

bookmom41September 4, 2008

I've had my 97 Explorer for 11 1/2 years. It has nearly 180,000 miles and brand new tires as of a month ago. It has some minor issues (like door locks which have broken) but I was hoping to keep it going another year or two despite signs of aging, like the intermittent check engine lights/OD light flashing. Instead, after the new tires were put on, the truck began creaking on the left side. Got an estimate of roughly $900 to replace both the upper and lower left ball joints, along with some little stuff like an alignment, "service the battery," etc.

Do I put more money into this truck--or has it reached the point of probably needing regular and costly repairs? Hmmmm....

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You've got a 180,000 mile truck that is begining to need front end parts, which is not unusual. If the left side is bad, can the right side be far behind? My vehicles from the 1980's through 1990's often needed ball joints every 100,000 miles or so.

Major points to consider are motor, transmission, steering, and fuel mileage. If you have an automatic transmission, 180,000 mile is lot of use unless it was all highway. I've owned only one automatic tranny that went this far; It was in a Jeep Cherokee (190,000 miles and still ok) Commuting requires a lot of shifting and wear on the clutches. If you have a manual, the clutch and throwout bearings must be considered. Of course, don't forget the brakes.

Is the body holing out, or is it still servicable?

If $800 of work on the front suspension will get you one more year, that's pretty good and you'll get some use out of those new tires. However, I'd sure take a hard look at the joints and pins on the other side as well.

I don't know your needs, but surely you can find a people hauler that gets better mileage.

Car lots are full of new and 3 year old SUVs that are not selling. Sales are down on SUVs making it easier to bargain on a new one. A number of 3 year old SUVs are coming off lease and are being replaced with vehicles with better fuel mileage. Bargains may be found in these 3 yr olds. Dealers want to move these expired leasers off their lots.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 5:13AM
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Jemdandy, thank you for your input. Good point about the right side probably needing the work soon, too. Transmission is automatic though a good deal of it is highway driving. I had the transmission checked in the last year due to the regularity of the overdrive and/or check engine lights flashing and it was good. I've noticed the truck using more gas in the past year or two and tune-up and other maintenance has not made a difference. The body is in good shape, but one of the back door handles is broken and cannot be opened from the inside and my driver's door lock is partly broken and often the door must be opened from the inside.

If I knew I could get another year or so out of this truck with no OTHER big repairs, I'd fix it and keep going. I do realize the folks on this forum don't have crystal balls! My family hikes, camps and has some very tall folks (DH is 6'7", pre-teen son and daughter take after him height-wise) so we prefer an suv or something else with enough leg room and some hauling capability. 4-Runners look good but I wish its mileage was better and Highlander looks good.

The real reason I'd like to keep my truck going another year or so is I'd like to see what other new fuel efficient vehicles might be available. Whatever/whenever I buy, I like to keep it as long as I can.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 10:51AM
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" I'd like to keep my truck going another year ". " I like
to keep it as long as i can ". you've answered your own
questions. So what is your problem ? Fix it. Spend the money.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 8:42PM
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If you haven't already, drop your comprehensive insurance (keep liability or whatever your state requires). Use the saved $ for repairs. Even $1000 is cheaper than 2-3 car payments. My 2 cents (of course I still drive a '90 Maxima with about a quarter million miles, so I'm biased - and cheap). Seems like most repairs these days cost me about $400 +/-, a couple time/yr., but I figure that's one or two car payment and 1-2 mo. insurance +/- for a new car.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 2:21PM
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Pooh Bear

I need a transmission for a 98 explorer.
Local shop said it would cost $2500 + labor.
The explorer is sitting behind our house
while decide what to do with it.
Wonder what a transmission from a junkyard would cost.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 9:52PM
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This thread, like my Explorer, can die. I'm enjoying the new Highlander and I feel certain the Carmax store auctioned my Ford for its brand new tires. I appreciated the input, folks, but the Ford needed $1500 in repairs between the ball joints, alignments and door lock mechanisms. Beyond that, the engine light just kept flashing, and were the right side ball joints ready to go?..Did I mention the Ford's radio would come back on after I shut it off? Bottom line, I did not want to put any more $$$ into the truck and was willing to buy a new vehicle which gets better gas mileage and on which everything works.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 10:10PM
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For the record. If you keep after the vehicle and fix things as they break, you won't save much money on the repairs, but you wont be hit with a lump sum bill that feels unmanageable either.

From here it looks like you have spent $20,000 or more to fix a $1500 problem, and your trying to justify doing so by expecting better fuel economy. If you don't change the way you maintain your vehicles, the Highlander will be no different than the Explorer in short order.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 8:33AM
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Well, john g, the repair bill was not the issue here. Luckily for my family, we got 180,000 and 11.5 years out of the Explorer--most likely thanks to our "keeping after" it with regular maintenance and fixing problems as they arose. Is replacing ball joints indicative of poor maintenance? My understanding is that they wear out. The flashing check engine light and the overdrive light, on the other hand, have been recurrent problems over the years. A $1500 repair bill was not the problem--$1500 this month, $800 for the rt side ball joints next month, and more a few months later to keep an old truck running was not what I wanted to do.

As stated, I am enjoying my Highlander. If I treat it like I treated my Ford and get 11.5 years/180,000 miles, I'll be pleased.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 6:39PM
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When I read what people are paying for repairs it sure makes me glad that I can do all my own repairs.

That also makes driving older cars much more cost effective.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 4:11AM
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