Common Ford Explorer Sport Trac Problems: 2001 to 2005

Ford Explorer Sport Trac

Before the Ford Explorer Sport Trac was discontinued in 2010, it offered a lot of value and utility to its owners. The vehicle was quite competent and handled pleasantly both on the highway and off-road. Like many vehicles, it has its own share of problems. Here are the common Ford Explorer Sport Trac problems for the 1st generation 2001 to 2005.

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Top 5 Problems Ford Explorer Sport Trac

Watch the video below or read on to see what the top 5 common problems are on the 2001 to 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac.

Top 5 Issues with the 1st Gen Ford Explorer Sport Trac

1. Dash Gauge Cluster Working Intermittently

One of the most common problems that owners of the 1st Gen Ford Explorer Sport Trac experience is a dash gauge cluster that tends to intermittently turn on and off on its own. This happens even when the key is not put in the ON position. You may notice the same thing with the radio. 

This happens due to an issue with the wiring that leads to the back of the cluster. There could be a break in one or more wires, or a break in the connector pins that connect to the gauge cluster. The pins could be missing or pinned over. 

The solution to this is to either repair the pins and fix the damaged wires or replace the gauge cluster. You could also have a mice problem in your garage. Mice are known to chew up wires – causing minor and major electrical issues in many vehicles. 

2. Long/Hard Start

Our second most common problem in the 2001-2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is one that affects a lot of other vehicles. This is a long or hard start when you switch on the engine. Your Sport Trac pickup should be able to start in a second or two whenever you turn on your key. 

When it doesn’t, the most common cause is usually a bad fuel rail pressure sensor. Other problems include a bad ignition coil or engine crank sensor. The easiest place to start when diagnosing the problem is to hook a pressure gauge to the fuel system and check the fuel pressure. 

Once you put the key in the ON position, you want to check how fast the gauge comes up to its maximum level. If it’s slower than normal, you could have a blockage or a small leak that’s preventing pressure from building up. Leaking will also cause the pressure to drop from its maximum after a few minutes. 

This can also be due to a bad fuel pressure regulator. The best thing to do here is to confirm from your vehicle’s manual where the pressure is supposed to go as per the manufacturer’s design. 

In situations where the pressure is too low at the start, you’re going to have long cranks every time you switch on the engine. The fuel pump will be forced to pump pressure to the fuel injectors any time they lose fuel to a leak or bad fuel pressure regulator. 

It’s also best to confirm that you have vacuum going down to your pressure sensor. You can use a scan tool to graph the information. This is useful in figuring out whether you have too high or too low of fuel pressure. 

3. Blend Door Actuator Failure

There are several symptoms that you’ll experience when your blend door actuator goes bad. One of them includes hearing a thumping, ticking, or clunking noise from behind the dash any time you switch your temperature gauge from hot to cold. You may also notice that your AC doesn’t change the temperature of the air coming out when you want it to. 

The actuator itself could be bad or you could have a blend door housing that is cracked. Cracking prevents parts from meshing perfectly. It could be causing the blend door to skip inside the groove. If the blend door mechanism is damaged, the corresponding parts will no longer be copacetic. 

Something else that could cause a crack in the system is a small object that may have fallen through the vents. This could be an item that fell from the top of your dash or was inserted by a child. It could cause the blend door to bind and get stuck. The actuator will not be able to do its job well due to a stuck blend door. 

Issues with power can also affect how the actuator performs. You’ll want to check your fuses and whether power is getting to the actuator. Getting to the blend door and actuator is not easy in the first-generation Ford Explorer Sport Trac. You’ll need to remove the cup holder section. This will provide access to the inside of the dash. 

Remember to disconnect the actuator connector while doing your diagnosis. Check for corrosion as well. You can unplug the actuator and plug it back to test if it works. Also, find out if there are any obstructions where the blend door is located. 

4. Coolant Leaks

A coolant leak is one of the most common problems experienced in the 4.0-liter Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Symptoms include having coolant leaking on the ground, a sweet smell in the air, an overheating condition, or seeing moisture on some of your coolant parts. 

The first step to diagnosing this problem is to first test for pressure inside the coolant system. This is especially if you can’t see any leaks. All you need to do is open up your radiator when it’s cold and hook your pressure tester to it. Pump it to about 15-16 psi and watch it. If it drops down, you’re definitely losing pressure. 

This is mostly caused by an external leak. In the 2001-2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, the leak could be taking place at the thermostat housing. The plastic used to make it eventually cracks. This occurred way too many times that Ford decided to update it with a metal housing. 

You’ll need to first identify where the leaking is taking place. The next step is to drain and flush out the cooling system, replace the broken part as a whole unit, fill it up with the manufacturer’s specified fluid, and re-pressurize the system. This should help fix the problem.

5. Front Wheel Bearing Failure

Our last common Ford Explorer Sport Trac problem involves the front wheel bearings. One of the things you’ll notice when your bearings are worn out is a growling noise whenever your wheels spin. The noise tends to increase with speed. 

Any other abnormal wheel movements and noises such as clunking are also a sign that your wheel bearings are worn out. This includes having a steering wheel that feels loose. 

Unlike other trucks, the 2001 to 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac features wheel bearings that were made to be manually adjusted. They also come with a seal at the back of the rotor that is supposed to keep moisture out of the bearings. It’s also meant to keep the grease inside. When it fails, it causes the grease to leave the bearings and allows moisture inside. 

If there’s no grease, the bearings will spin around with the wheel and overheat. They might get scoured and leave debris inside. 

Ford installed a nut on the front side of the fitment to allow manual adjustment. This needs close attention especially when you’re fixing the bearing problem. If the nut is not putting enough pressure on the bearings, you’ll definitely notice some movement in your wheels. 

Ideally, you’re required to replace the bearings, pack them full of grease, and put everything back together with a new seal. You should not make the nut very tight. This could cause binding. When replacing your bearings, you want to pack enough grease inside and press it in there. Make sure there’s a good amount inside the center area and rotor as well. 

If you fix everything and still find that the wheel makes noise a month later, the most common cause of this is grease that heats up after some time. It liquefies and causes the bearings to press further together and loosen the nut. You’ll need to readjust it. This is to prevent grease from coming out.  

Servicing and adjusting your wheel bearings needs to be done right. Use new parts and new grease. It’s also best to double-check everything after the first few hundred miles. This includes the rest of your front end to confirm that you don’t have a problem with the ball joints or tie rods. 

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 Common Ford Explorer Sport Trac Problems | 2001 to 2005
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Common Ford Explorer Sport Trac Problems | 2001 to 2005
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Common Ford Explorer Sport Trac problems for the 1st generation 2001 to 2005
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