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Old 12-28-2016, 06:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Noob starting at 19.6MPG in '00 Ford Explorer

Hello all!

Been driving a '99 Chevy Prizm for the last 125k miles and got so bored with it I've been starting to neglect basic maintenance, so it was time for a new vehicle - and I've wanted back into a truck for a LONG time. Just couldn't justify the expense/fuel usage. Now I have a shorter commute (10 instead of 25 miles one-way) so I can afford to splurge a bit on gas for a while - and start a new game: Try to get better MPG!

I wanted an EV, but I could not justify the cost vs. the limitations - anything I could pay cash for would only meet my basic commute needs in the winter, barely able to stop for groceries on the way home. Anything with enough range would need a loan. Either way, I would need to add charging infrastructure. Plus I wanted a truck again. (Yes, Irrational - call it my mid-life crisis if it makes you feel better.)

Per my previous thread: What small safe 4x4's have no center console? I recently picked up a 2000 Ford Explorer XLS. It has the 4.0 OHV V6 (NOT the SOHC) and a 5-speed manual. About 149,6XX miles on it, remarkably little rust for a MN truck, and very clean inside and out. $1995 cash price - bottom end of the dealer scale for these rigs.

Never thought I'd buy one of the "Original Soccer Mom SUV's" (My Mom had a first gen one - when I was in soccer as a kid!) but it's basically a Ranger mechanically, has slightly better aero stock than a stock Ranger (no bed), and I was just tired of chasing unobtanium, so I settled. 4-star crash ratings, so it is objectively as safe in a frontal 35mph crash into a deformable barrier as my Prizm. Subjectively, it seems to corner almost as well, but I'm not pushing it as hard since it's a lot more top-heavy. I like the higher-up view, too. Feels better than my MIL's '04 Trailblazer - less wallowing.

I need to put a better set of seats in the front and nix or modify the console, but its OK for now. IIRC it has 3.55 gears. I put General Grabber HTS tires on it in the stock 235/75R15 size shortly after purchase (cords showing!), then had some minor things fixed (rear brakes, rotted rear shackle, thermostat leak) on it and had an alignment done/oil change/front end greasing. Total in the vehicle with tires and fixes is ~$3500, so ballpark for a "good" condition vehicle of that era from a dealer around here - and most at that price are total rust-buckets up here!

I just filled up the tank for the second time (first fill was shortly after purchase, so I reset the trip gage): 347.9 miles, 17.78 gallons to second click-off = 19.6mpg indicated! And the dipstick says I didn't need to add any oil! Not bad, not bad at all. EPA "sticker" is 15 city, 19 highway using the "Revised" standards, and the original sticker was 16 city, 20 highway. Could have gone further but the gage moves ~1/8 tank depending on last "stopped" nose up/down angle, and I saw it below the E after my last stop before going on errands. Had been above the E ~1 mile previous. Would rather fill early than get stranded in the cold!

Weather and driving conditions: There was a lot of highway in that tank, including at least 30 miles of 65mph. Winter here in the South-Western suburbs/exurbs of Minneapolis, so ice and snow and rain and whatnot all going on - and temps from 20 below F to 40 above F, plus some really gusty winds. (Two nights ago, gusted to 55mph! Daytime highs of 35mph.)

Driving style: Speed limit generally obeyed, generally smooth acceleration but a number of "Wring it out, see what it does" romps because it is a new (to me) toy. Very little "hypermiling" behavior, vehicle is AFAIK bone stock. Lots of use of cruise control, unless it is icy/snowing.

Definitely needs shocks. First vehicle I've ever owned that does the classic "bouncing up and down going down the road after hitting a bump" thing - and my '99 Chevy has blown struts.

Found another reason I got the truck so cheap: tweaked passenger rear frame just ahead of the rear leaf spring shackle. Definite small kink. I can probably wedge my Hi-Lift Jack in there and make it straighter, if I can get a few steel plates to spread the force out. Not a priority, though.

Parking brake (foot type - argh!) is currently disconnected - needs a driver side cable and the mechanic disconnected the passenger side cable when he replaced the parking brake shoes on that side that were previously burned nearly completely away due to driving with the parking brake on. Bonus: no idling in neutral if I'm not in it! Negative: this means I may have to stop an extra time or two in the morning for a windshield re-scrape. By the time I get around the truck, the windshield needs re-scraping already, so it is the last thing I do before I hop in. Block heater: I want one.

So, plans are to keep driving it to work and get a few tanks through it to see what it does. Shocks and parking brake cable and other "known necessary fixes" come before any mods or gadgets that cost money - I'm cheap. Definitely want a Scangage or similar though - I know it has a "Rear O2 sensor" code (dunno number, just what mechanic told me) that sporadically lights up the CEL and I'd like to be able to easily check other codes. That and it is one of the best ways to keep the nut behind the wheel tight. Does the rear O2 sensor have any effect on MPG, or is it "just" an emissions warning? I know if the cat is plugged and not working right the MPG will suffer, so if the O2 sensor code really means the cat is bad/partially plugged, then I will need to fix that. Runs OK for now (getting rated MPG!) so not worried about it yet.

Anybody else on here have 2nd Gen Ford Explorer experience (or related Ranger experience) on things to look out for/potential issues/cheap things to do to make it ride/drive/etc. better and use less fuel, other than the stickied Ecomods and Hypermiling tips?

I should start a garage entry or similar, but will probably wait until I've got a few more tanks in. I have a notebook I've started to keep track of expenditures and fuel usage over time, but I generally just do a trip-meter/gallons dispensed calculation to see how I'm doing in general. Slooow feedback loop, but it's cheap.

Thanks all.

(NOTE: yes, I am verbose.)

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Old 12-28-2016, 07:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The rear O2 sensor code won't effect anything unless the converter clogs up.

Check the odometer against the mile markers too.

We had one of the heaps when I lived in Maine because it was cheap 4wd. It only got up to about 15mpg when we did take it out on the highway.
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Old 12-28-2016, 10:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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getting 20 mpg out of one of those beasts is pretty good. The question is: can you keep it up?

You'll probably have to get creative to get much more out of it. Good luck!
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Old 12-28-2016, 11:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Fairly recently, I had a 95 Ranger, 4.0/5speed... Given that mine was 2wd(yours is 4wd?), I got some pretty decent mileage... That OHV doesn't like to rev high though, I kept mine under 2000 RPM most of the time... If you landed a 2wd rig, search junkyards for some 3.08 rear gears, you'll turn under 2k RPM at 60mph, and I think the engine can handle it...
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Old 12-29-2016, 06:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
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oil pan 4:

Quote:
The rear O2 sensor code won't effect anything unless the converter clogs up.
Thanks, I figured as such. Annoying that I can't tell the CEL: "Yes, I know, the rear O2 sensor(s) is(are) bad, can you go off and only come on again when something *new* happens?"

Quote:
Check the odometer against the mile markers too.
Did that today after I saw your suggestion. I got a bit of a surprise when my first attempt came out almost exactly 0.1 mile off - must have not been room to put it in the right spot with all the exits or something. The next two miles were pretty much dead on, at least within the margin of error of watching a small moving number on the dash and a much faster moving number on the sign and trying to get them synced without hitting anyone or driving off the road...

Quote:
We had one of the heaps when I lived in Maine because it was cheap 4wd. It only got up to about 15mpg when we did take it out on the highway.
"heap" as in Jeep? Honestly, 15mpg was about what I expected out of the truck. I'm still surprised that my first tank was nearly 20mpg.

Stubby79:

Quote:
getting 20 mpg out of one of those beasts is pretty good. The question is: can you keep it up?
I thought so too - that's at the top of the EPA range. I hope I can keep it up! We'll see how the next few tanks go as I get into a routine and the desire to punch it and see what the new toy can do wears off.

Quote:
You'll probably have to get creative to get much more out of it. Good luck!
Yes, I figure. Should be an interesting game.

19bonestock88:

Quote:
Fairly recently, I had a 95 Ranger, 4.0/5speed... Given that mine was 2wd(yours is 4wd?), I got some pretty decent mileage... That OHV doesn't like to rev high though, I kept mine under 2000 RPM most of the time... If you landed a 2wd rig, search junkyards for some 3.08 rear gears, you'll turn under 2k RPM at 60mph, and I think the engine can handle it...
Mine's got what I've decided to call Ford's "Truck Version" AWD with low range: no hubs, the front axle and driveshaft always spins, and the system watches for speed mismatches to tell whether the rear is slipping so it needs to apply the center transfercase clutch to connect power to the front axle. I appear to be shifting at 2000-2500 RPM, 55MPH is right around 1800RPM or so, IIRC. Pretty sure this one has 3.55 gearing but I haven't checked the axle code to be sure. Hmm - Math suggests 3.55 is pretty likely, if I take ~1700 at 55 and ~1900 at 65. Seems to do fine at that speed - holds uphill with the cruise set, any speed 50 or higher, in 5th. No massive vibrations or anything.

Working on smoother driving - have to get used to this clutch. First gear feels a bit steep. If I get ambitious (and get cash) I could swap in gears from a smaller-engined Ranger manual, and get a lower 1-3 gearset. Or go nuts and put in a ZF-5 wide-ratio but I don't think I'll find a bellhousing that'll bolt to the V6. Either way, that'd let me go with steeper final gearing or taller tires without much change from stock feel. Spendy, though - I'll do "hard parts" changes last.

Thanks, all!
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Old 01-13-2017, 06:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Second tank down - going the wrong way!

So, second fill up down - closer to EPA City at ~16.3mpg. 19.4 gallons on 316 miles. Possible handicaps: found a crack in the radiator side tank, so running with wired-open cap vent for 0PSI system and still getting some dribbling. Also, truck started reverberating horribly on Thursday on my way home from work, seems vehicle speed dependent (same major noise in 3rd, 4th, 5th gears) and is only bad when engine is loaded (lots quieter when clutch in). Minor improvement in noise made when I pumped ~50PSI into the rear air helper shocks to reverse some "butt sag". The rear leaf spring shackles are rubbing on the trailer hitch receiver mount - it is bent a bit. I think it is transferring noise from the driveline, and could be exacerbated by a "rear end sag" condition.

Most likely: truck gets worse MPG when only going the ~11 miles one way to work from cold start, then cold soaking for 9 hours, and doing it again. (Cold here being less than 10F for the past few weeks, with several nights at -1 to -10F.) It isn't exactly city driving, but it isn't steady-state freeway driving either, and there are no "more constant speed" alternate routes, although I could potentially skip a 45mph section for a 50mph section and an extra mile, and making one "turn at a light" into a "stop at a light".

Maybe when I put in the new radiator/hoses I will put in a block heater. I'll have better access with the radiator out, and I'll be making a mess/draining the system anyway, so why not? I can always finish this tank of gas before plugging it in - though I doubt I'll want to wait. Takes ~1 mile to get off C, and another mile or two to normal/good heat output. (heater core may have a bubble in it, too, thanks to the leak...) I also notice a sharp temp drop at mile ~7 when the thermostat opens.

Any downsides to installing a thicker radiator core, if it will fit?

Automatic-equipped Explorers got double-row radiators - my manual truck has a single-row. Not sure the fan shroud will fit the thicker radiator, and the salvage yards are all frozen tundra right now though I'd love to pick up a metal fan off an older Explorer to replace my cracking plastic one.

Gotta save my pennies and figure out a Scangage or similar. The MPGuino sounds like a more accurate MPG gage, and there are other scanners than Scangage that have better access to the Ford subsystems (read/reset ABS codes, etc.) but they tend to use a tablet or phone.
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Old 01-23-2017, 03:25 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Unhappy "Hey, you ruined my truck, man, I just bought it!"

333 miles, 17.64 gallons - 18.9mpg. Better than last, but not as good as first. Truck likes the slightly warmer weather and longer freeway drives.

Bigger problem: got rear-ended last Tuesday. I don't even have the title back from the state for the initial purchase yet! Pushed in the bumper on the passenger side and bent the hitch receiver into the shackles harder. Frame is bent on passenger side in front of leaf spring hanger, passenger spring looks like it has a bit more S-shape than the driver side, which also has a slight amount vs. previous. Looks like the hit *just* missed the body, so everything is frame-related. And rear bumper, of course. Still drives OK, but the vibration I was getting at speed is now a *nasty* vibration at speed, but found that to be a bad U-joint that is probably now complaining louder due to a slightly different operating angle. Other guy's insurance can't get ahold of him, so that's stalling their investigation.

I'm in that no-fun limbo land of "Will they total my truck?" so I don't yet know what will happen to my new tires, rear brakes, etc. and I can't do any more $$ repairs because I might just lose that money. If they fix it, great. If they total it - and give me enough for it to cover what I have in it - OK, but I'll be annoyed at having to find another truck as rust-free as this one. If they give me enough *and* the scrap value is low enough, I might keep it to use as parts for another one. Then I can at least transfer most new parts over to the replacement if I stick within the Explorer family.

It took me way too long to find this truck and decide to buy it, now I get to maybe start all over again. No fun.
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Old 01-23-2017, 03:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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That sucks, my wife hit a deer with the 2015 Rogue last month, 3 weeks after getting it. $3800 damage $1000 deductible. About 1/2 a mile from where normally deer hunt but didn't this year, maybe if I'd shot the normal 2 or 3 that one would have already been dead.
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Old 03-23-2017, 06:58 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Still driving it - 16's to 17's mostly.

Thanks roosterk0031. Turns out, it was totalled, but since it is driveable, I'm keeping it. The residual value is just under $200, so filling the gas tank increases the value by 20%! Such a weird feeling.

Doing the math, even though it feels weird to sink any money into what I can't sell for more than about $500-$800, I'm better off doing so than trying to buy into a "not totalled" rig. If I can drive it for a year or two, not making payments will cancel my "losses". Still need to sell the little Chevy too. I'll just try and put more of the money into tools vs. labor costs. For example: Bought a 20-ton shop press to replace $40 of rear u-joints to clear up the nasty vibration. Cost me less in total than paying someone to do it, so I'm ahead there.

Last few tanks have been in the high 16's to low 17's mpg-wise. I definitely need a block heater. They're cheap enough I'll install one when I replace the radiator. Was thinking of repairing the one I have, but a new one is about the cost of the plastic welding repair kit - and it has a warranty.

Found a fuel leak from the filler neck to hose connection, so parking nose-down to try and minimize that. $20 for a new hose, need to see if the parts store has cheap generic hose that will work.

My weekends keep getting pre-empted by family stuff, and I still need to do taxes, so repairs/mods will have to wait a while.

Since I do mostly short trips, I'll poke at the list of mods that help with that. Can't do EOC - gets air in the steering and causes a nasty vibration that's quite a lot like a "death wobble" until you sit in a parking lot with the engine running and crank the wheel to the stops both ways several times bleeding out the air. This means I can't even roll out of the driveway without starting it. Scangage is looking like a good bet. I want something that can do ABS codes too, but I prefer a wired module with screen rather than something that needs an Android tablet.
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Old 03-23-2017, 08:08 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I had an 01 Explorer Sport (2 door) and it did surprisingly OK in the millage department, and was a lot of fun in the bush with the anti-sway bars disconnected, longer shocks, longer shackles and the front torsion bars torqued. Man that thing could flex.

Even if you are getting rid of it soon I would still get the scanguage. You can always keep it when you change vehicles.

I bought my Explorer with 108,000 km on it, and sold it a few years later with 380,000 km. It went through a couple front ends in that time and a few sets of shocks. I had wheel bearings implode, shackles collapse, tie rods get bent, and the exhaust system fell off a couple times. There was always something wrong with it, but the engine and transmission were solid. Sometimes I wonder what kind of millage I would have gotten if it was maintained better.

I ran into the guy that bought it a few years after I sold it, and he said it's been trouble free. I guess I replaced everything that could have broken. I wonder if it's still on the road.

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