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2002 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer: 4.6L V8..4 wheel drive..dash--4x4 auto

Customer Question

I have a 2002 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer. It has the 4.6L V8, and has 3 options forXXXXXon the dash--4x4 auto, High, and low. I've had it now since 2004. Just this fall, as the temperature has dropped below 50 degrees or so, the front axle starts to "hop" when the car is cold (meaning just started up) and I turn the wheels. It makes kind of a "crashing sound" coming from the front of the car.

My local mechanic after checking everything has determined it is the transfer case. The Explorer only does it when it's cold outside and the car itself is cold. Today, it was almost 6 degrees and it was fine.

I am not wanting to replace the transfer case--I was hoping that it might be able to be fixed relatively inexpensively at a local transmission shop...Any suggestions what this might be?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Ford
Expert:  Kenny Z. replied 4 years ago.
Hello and thanks for your question.

So I assume it only does this in 4x4 auto?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
All. In addition, it will engage from Auto to 4x4 High sometimes when it is really cold and is acting up without me pushing the button to do so.

All tires are stock sizes, etc. also in case you are wondering.
Expert:  Kenny Z. replied 4 years ago.
Sounds like the friction clutch in the t/case needs to be replaced. No need to replace the case for this, Its a fairly simple repair. About 5 hours in labor plus parts around $150 if all the bearings are ok.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The car has 98K miles on it. However, I have kept it in tip top shape. I am hoping to get at least 150k or so. On these models, are there any other "typical" wear and tear items that I can expect to go bad...is there any kind of "tune up kits" while the mechanic has it apart and I'm paying for the labor?

How hard to replace bearings and what kind of mechanical symptoms would there be?
Expert:  Kenny Z. replied 4 years ago.
He is not going to have that much apart to remove the Tcase, just the front and rear driveshafts. As far as a kit there isn't an overhaul or tune up kit for the Tcase like there would be for a transmission. If the bearings are good then the only other wear item is the friction clutch. For this model and year there is a pretty big list of items that go bad, but it sounds like you have a good one if you have owned it since new and have not had any issues with the rear differential failing, rear wheel bearings failing or the transmission servo bores failing. These 3 items are the most common failures, I have also replaced many radiators for coolant leaks.
Kenny Z., Ford Senior Master Tech
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 5177
Experience: Auto Trans, Drivability and Electrical Specialist
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi-- a few weeks back, you answered a question for me--turns out that this may not be the case at all. I had a completely remanufactured (from a reputable, long term company with a good warranty) Transfer case installed, today, and the problem still persists.

Again, when the Explorer is cold started and the temperature outside is less than about 50 degrees, when I turn my wheels, the front axle hops.

The unit was just filled with the transmission fluid (or whatever it takes) as it was shipped dry from the factory.

Could it possibly be the shift motor, OR will it need to be driven a few hundred miles to get the fluid to circulate though the transfer case for the first time?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Inaccurate answer.
I had the entire transfer case replaced with a refurbished one and it still is having the same problem.
Expert:  Ironmike replied 4 years ago.


new expert. we need to make sure all the tires are within 1/4 inch out side circumference. I have seen these explorers have wind up issues when the tires get replaced and some are 1/4 inch or more different. These need all the tires replaced at the same time. Many people have TPMS (tire pressure monitor system) lights go on in the cold temps, this could be the tire issue we are having.

let me know what you find

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Stock size, all good there. Tires were changed in the Spring--all 4 brand new, all stock size....drove all rest of Spring and Summer. Problem started in late Fall. Tires always checked for inflation, etc.
Expert:  Ironmike replied 4 years ago.

one other thing to check. There is a bulletin(06-4-4) for the rear differential clutches. On turns it can cause the vehicle to a chatter, shudder or binding sensation. I had one give me a hard time a few years ago, felt it in the steering wheel. The vibration travels through the whole drive train , through the front suspension and can go to the driver at the steering wheel. These are know for bearing noises and these clutches in the rear differential. I would take a sample of the fluid. If not too bad you can try to change the fluid and add the friction modifier. These take 75-140 synthetic(23$ a quart) 3 quarts and 1 modifier. since the rear is independant suspension the differential has to come out for ths job.

let me know what you find

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
One transmission shop was pretty adamant that he thought it was the shift motor. Thoughts on that?

My mechanic changed all differential fluids, no signs of any damage. We tried all simpler, less expensive fixes before he determined it was in the transfer case.

Again, the issue is only when it is cold outside (below 50 degrees) and car is started cold. When it warms up, it is fine.

Since we just installed a newly remanufactured Transfer Case today, and it is still doing it (and it's Winter here in Cincinnati)...is it a decent possibility that it needs to be driven a few hundred miles to get all the fluid warmed up and distributed throughout the transfer case?
Expert:  Ironmike replied 4 years ago.

I could see the 4x4 actuator cause this if it is weak and the fluid gets thick and it is in auto 4x4. You should try to leave it in 4x4 high when cold and see if it still makes the noise/binds.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Is the actuator part of the shift motor? The issue is in 4 x 4 auto.
Expert:  Ironmike replied 4 years ago.
yes, actuator is the shift motor.
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Kenny Z. , Ford Senior Master Tech
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 5177
Experience:  Auto Trans, Drivability and Electrical Specialist
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