Slow explorer

i have a 1997 ford explorer and i live in northern’s the problem:

- i let the car warm up before i get in

- i try to put the car in reverse and push the pedal and the car doesn’t move

- i move the steering wheel both ways and then finally will start moving

- then i’m on the street and the rpms are at 3-4 and the car is revving and revving,and moving very slow and i have to pump and pump and pump and finally the gear will engage and finally i will get to regular speed.

i am puzzled and i have not taken the to a mechanic yet.does anybody have any ideas.

thanks for the info


If this an automatic check your transmission fluid.

How many miles on this vehicle and has the transmission fluid (if automatic) ever been changed?

You’re warming up the engine, but the transmission is still ice cold. Have you checked the transmission fluid level? You should. I think you should have someone change the transmission fluid, especially if it’s never been done before.

Yup! This appears to be a transmission problem.

Check the level, the color and the smell of the transmission fluid, and then come back to this thread to report your findings.

Although you did not tell us how many miles are on the odometer, the age of your vehicle means that the transmission fluid (and filter) should have been changed at least 3 times already. Those who “cheap out” and decide to skip that service are the ones who wind up overhauling or replacing their transmission. Hopefully you are not one of those people.

Please check your maintenance invoices so that you can tell us when the transmission fluid and filter were last changed.

here are more details about the slow explorer.

  • it’s automatic trasmission
  • it has over 135 thousands miles
  • i checked my receipts and never found one with trasmission fluid being flushed
  • i took to one mecchanic and he drained couples quarts of fluid and said it had a burnt smell and some ‘fiber’ and i will ‘need’ a new trasmission in my car and they run about $1,500-2,500.he didn’t want to flush it because it would make worse
  • i can’t afford a new trasmission and he said i could drive until i get the money together.
    what should i do?

Well, you’ve ruined your transmission by not bothering to service it properly. Now that you’ve learned your lesson, what can you do about it? Burnt fluid and “fiber” stuff coming off clutches and bands is very bad news. Maybe you can get by with a rebuild (yours or swap for another), or maybe you’ll have to spring for a junkyard tranny. No way do you want to buy a factory new unit (costing far more than the vehicle is worth). Your mechanic may tell you that you can keep driving, but from the amount of slippage you reported in your original post, I fear the end is near for the transmission. Don’t plan on any long trips, and good luck!

mr phil, i did take my car for the 3,000-3,500 oil changes and every year the mechanic did the ‘major tune up’ changing filters , sparks plugs, change /check fluids and never mentioned anything about flushing the trasmission fluid. he was the mechanic that was checking everything on my car. maybe i should not be so trustworthy and complained about all mechanica that try to take advantage of women.

Read your owner’s manual maintenance guide. It covers all the stuff you need to have done to the car. It’s a big investment, isn’t it worth fifteen minutes of your time to double check what the mechanic does?

A flush would not make it worse, but it is too late for it to help either.

I have to agree with both MrPhil and with tardis. If there is fault here, it should be shared by both queenzeze and her mechanic. Unfortunately, the mechanic is not going to share the cost of rebuilding her transmission, and he will probably not own up to having ignored the importance of transmission fluid changes.

It is fine to trust your mechanic, but some are more competent than others, and some are more honest than others. The mechanic in this case convinced queenzeze that she needed new spark plugs every year, despite the fact that this was unnecessary unless she drives more than 30k miles per year. But, he ignored the necessity to change the transmission fluid every 30k. I think that this guy goes for the easy bucks like unnecessary spark plug changes, but doesn’t want to get involved in some other procedures that he might have a hard time convincing the car owner to do.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify”, and queenzeze could have verified the proper maintenance of her Explorer simply by opening the glove compartment, taking out the Owner’s Manual, and reading the maintenance schedule. If she had done so, she would have had the transmission fluid changed at least 4 times by now. Those who faithfully change their transmission fluid every 30k rarely have transmission problems before 200k miles. Those who don’t change the transmission fluid can look forward to this type of problem after about 90k miles.

Queenzeze–This is a hard way to learn about auto maintenance, but the fact remains that it is your vehicle and you are ultimately the one who is responsible for having it maintained properly. The maintenance schedule that is contained in the Owner’s Manual is written in a non-technical way and is designed for those who are not auto mechanics to understand what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. Hopefully you will learn to use this resource that is sitting in your glove compartment so that this type of episode is not repeated with future vehicles that you will own.

And, by using the maintenance schedule, you will even save money in two ways–by not allowing someone to do questionable things like replacing your spark plugs every 12 months, and by knowing that one needs to service the transmission in order to extend its life.

Proper maintenance is invariably cheaper than repairs, as this situation clearly shows.

It’s a shame, but many manufacturers and not including transmission fluid changes as part of the list of proper maintenance they list in the owner’s manual. You can follow the rules and still damage the transmission.

You could try a fluid change, it may help. Don’t get a flush and have the filter cleaned when they do the change.

While it it may not be related, it is good to remember that warming the car up to keep you warm does not warm all the working parts and the transmission is one that does not get warmed.  It is really best for the car, to drive it easy for a couple of miles than to let it idle. 

Good Luck.

BTW If a guy called transman sows up and makes a suggestion, his recommendations are gold.

The transmission fluid should have been checked, at the very least, in the shop when it was in for service. A careful technician should notice darkening, burning trans fluid.

FYI, the fluid for the 4R70W transmission is supposed to be replaced every 30,000 under normal service. The spark plugs at 50,000 with the 5.0 l and 100,000 with the 4.0 l. Oil changes are done at 5000 miles if not ?severe service? If the OP does not have a service schedule, you can download one at Note that severe service can mean lots of short trips. Also note that the oil called for is semi synthetic blend. If a lesser motor oil is used, shorter drain intervals might be warranted. It would probably be less expensive to use what is specified and do it every 5000.

This Exploder might have a thermostatically-controlled transmission cooler. The bypass or the cooler itself might be clogged up at this point contributing to the no-shift behavior.

O.P., If family, friends, associates,? do not have recommendations on a good local transmission rebuilder, consider having a Ford remanufactured transmission installed. They have an excellent warranty.