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Those low down Ford Explorer blues

Was driving into town today in my 96 Ford Explorer XLT v6 4wd, when I noticed my O/D off light flashing. “Oh hell.” I thought to myself, “Another problem I have to bash at with a wrench to get going again.” I figured that meant I’d be stuck with gear 1 and would burn some extra gas on the ride home, but after parking and running an errand, woe behold me but my car won’t start! The starter turns, but no other noises come out of my now very-large paperweight. I’ve tried shifting into neutral, moving the car to get the gearbox turning, starting the car in neutral and park, yet the stubborn car remains dead.

Anyone have an idea on what’s happening? Am I drawing a connection between the light and the failure to start where one need not exist? Is this going to cost me more than my car is worth to fix?

We don’t know enough yet to tell you. Since your starter turns, we know your battery is ok and your neutral safety switch is good. If the starter sounds normal and not high pitched, your timing belt or chain have not broken.
Get a can of starting fluid and spray a 2 or 3 second burst into the air intake and see if the car fires up briefly when cranked. If it does it is a fuel problem.
If it doesn’t, take it to a local independent mechanic, it shouldn’t cost much to find out why it isn’t starting.The repair might be expensive, but the diagnosis shouldn’t be.
You could have helped by telling us the mileage and repair history of the car.

It’s nearly at 200,000 miles (yeah, it’s held together by hopes and dreams). Before I got it, not much as far as repairs. As of my ownership, the fuel pump has been replaced (which makes me doubt fuel problems, but will try that anyway), as has one of the bearings and the front ball joints, but those aren’t really integral to this issue. Other than that, it’s been running like a gas-guzzling dream.

The issue seems to be that it’s not cranking at all. The starter motor is turning, but the actual engine doesn’t seem to be even attempting to turn over. Just the electrical motor whirring.

The starter motor won;t spin until the Bendix assembly is extended, so either you have a chunk of teeth missing from the flywheel ring gear or the starter gear is no longer rotationally affixed to the starter motor.

You’re gonna have to open this one up to find out.