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Why the Ford Explorer works so well offroad
Ford Explorer being the #1 SUV in America for over a decade there is certainly no one
in the US who is un-familiar with
this vehicle. The trouble is that most people equate a Ford Explorer with soccer
moms and shopping malls rather than off road trails such as the Rubicon and
The Ford Explorer may be the best kept
secret in the off-road world. When these rigs are stock they are capable
off-road performers. After a few modifications they become nearly unstoppable.
From 1991-1994 the Ford Explorer platform
came with a full ladder type frame based on the tough Ford Ranger platform, an
extremely tough 8.8” 31 spline rear axle, Dana 35 Twin
Traction Beam (TTB) front suspension (axle diameters and U-joints are the same
as a Dana 44), choice of a manual or electronic shift BW1354 transfer case with low
range, manual or automatic locking hubs, and a torquey, super reliable 4.0L V-6.
Ford changed the front suspension on
the Explorer to an IFS system (Independent Front Suspension). Although the IFS
systems offer less wheel travel than the TTB systems, they have proven
themselves to be extremely reliable off-road. 2002 brought more changes to the
Explorer 4 door. The most noticeable change is the addition of an Independent
Rear Suspension system in place of the live axle suspension all previous
So, what does it take to make the Explorer
“really” off-road worthy? The same type of modifications as any other rig. Large
tires for flotation and ground clearance. A lift to accommodate the big tires.
Re-gearing to compensate for the larger diameter of the tires and a locker
or two for putting the power to the ground. Approach and departure angles can be
maximized by installing aftermarket bumpers, and the break over angle is
excellent since the transfer case is tucked well up within the frame rails.
The big change:
2011 brought the biggest changes to the
Explorer since it's inception in 1991. Beginning in 2011 the Ford Explorer was
built on a unibody chassis. There is no longer a separate frame. In 2011 Ford
also ditched the Explorer's transfer case, so low range is no longer available. Sadly, due to the changes which have made the Explorer more "car
like" the Fifth Generation Explorer is the least capable in off highway
conditions of all the generations. I am looking forward to eventually seeing 5th gen
Explorers with solid axle conversions front and rear, along with a proper transfer
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In our network of sites you will find
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For those interested in
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Let the "Serious Explorations" begin!
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several of our
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Thousands of Tech Tips Can Be Found
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And in our Archived Copy of
Explorer Owners Maintenance
In the beginning...
The first Ford Explorer...
The Inside Story of
by Derek Elliott
Former Ford Body & Electrical Engineer
Ford Explorer Specifications
1991 - 2011
VIN Number Decoding
Rick's "Great Pumpkin"
SEMA Show Photos
My photos from SEMA, the ultimate parts and accessories
exhibition presented each year in Las Vegas by the Specialty Equipment and