Episode 34. Ford Explorer. S273 RJN. (Part 1).

Meet DORA... The Explorer!

Here it is in the now world famous first fill shot! So what can I tell you about this monster of the road? Well, you can forget going off road, forget driving along the motorways, forget even cruising the leafy suburbs. The natural habitat of the Ford Explorer is infact the Petrol station! To say that the Explorer is a bit thirsty would be the understatement of the decade, if this car was a person it would be Oliver Reed! Man oh man this thing can drink! I just wasn't ready for something that used quite that amount of fuel, and coming from someone who has had in the past various V8 muscle cars, V8 Mercedes, and V8 4x4s, I thought I'd be ready for it's 4.0 V6, especially as I've already had a couple of cars with this very engine, although they were both Thunderbirds. But ready I was not, this is thirstier than the lot of them, so a decision was made pretty early on in our ownership, that at some point soon it was going to need to be re-homed, to somebody with deeper pockets than I!

So why did I buy it? Well, I honestly don't know, I've never really wanted an Explorer, infact in the past I have actually said that I never wanted an Explorer! But I was walking past a car dealers lot, and there was this thing, it looked monsterous, and magnificent, and the next thing I knew, I was driving it home! The thing was it was in great shape, and it has quite a good thick file of history, and it was clear that whoever had owned this before the dealer I bought it from, had loved it, and it had wanted for nothing! I went through some of the receipts while I was there, and amoungst them all was a receipt for set of four BFG tyres back in September the dealer fella pointed out that the receipt was for almost as much as he was asking for the whole car! That was the clincher really, and off I went home, chuffed to nuts with my new car! However, a couple of days later I was looking at it parked on the street, and the sun was low, and kind of illuminating the underneath, and I was thinking, whats going on with those tyres? Upon closer inspection...

Hmm, thats not good, so I checked the others! They were all pretty much in the same condition as this one, and none of them was a BF Goodrich tyre, and no two tyres were even the same brand, and one wasn't even the same size! I, as I'm sure you can imagine, was not impressed! Not only had I thought that it had four fairly new tyres, but the dealer fella actually pointed the receipt for them out to me! I called him up, and he told me pretty much to funk off! He went on to say that how did he know that I hadn't swapped the tyres since I had it! Cheeky burger! Anyhoo, as he said there was nothing I could prove, and sadly he was right I guess, but the thing that made me mad was not the fact that I had been conned by a dealer, or by anyone for that matter. It was that the car in my opinion wasn't safe to be driven on the road, and that he was putting peoples lives in danger, but like I said, he couldn't give a poo about that! So before I drove it any further I bought a really good set of used BF Goodride tyres! They were probably only six months old and have getting on for 10mm or tread on them, so I figure they'll do the job, plus they were all the right size, and more importantly, all the correct load/speed rating! My feeling is that whoever owned the Explorer before the dealer would've left the good tyres on it, it was too fastidiously looked after to not have had the tyres on it. The way the history file was I doubt that whoever owned it would've had four tyres on it from various different makes, it didn't match up with the way the history file of it was, it was out of character I reckon. I think that the dealer I bought the Explorer from had probably taken the tyres off the Explorer, and put it's BFG tyres on his own 4x4, to replace the shoddy tyres he was running around on... Tosser! It, in my mind is the only explanation for the poor condition, and odd tyres that were on it. Funny thing, this is only the second time I've bought a car from a dealer, and both times the tyres have been down right dangerous! There's probably a lesson to be learned there.

Since I had some decent, and safe tyres on Dora I've started driving it about as often as I could afford to! I've not worked out how many miles to the gallon I was getting, but it's safe to say that it is at best low teens! I think at worst, maybe just eight!! I must admit though, although it's burning a hole in my wallet at an alarming rate I'm quite enjoying driving it. It's great to drive. What it isn't so great at is towing a trailer! Readers of my previous post may recognise this next picture.

I've only towed a trailer with it once, and that was more than enough! With the trailer hooked up, I would get up to about 40-50mph and it would start to fish tail. Fish tailing, or trailer sway if you prefer is very unpleasant, extremely dangerous, potentially deadly and under most circumstances, totally avoidable. For those of you who have never towed a trailer, or experienced such things, trailer sway is when your trailer starts to move from side to side behind the tow vehicle. If not brought under control the trailer can swing increasingly more violently causing the back of the tow vehicle to swing uncontrollably with the trailer. Poorly loaded trailers with excessive weight rearward of the axle(s), or with too much weight on one side of the trailer are the most common reasons for trailer sway and the most avoidable... The problem was, that I was getting it before I had loaded it with my Volvo, I was getting it with an unloaded trailer!

Another cause of trailer sway can be that the trailer isn't level behind your tow vehicle. Trailer stability can be seriously affected by how the trailer sits behind your trailer and can be influenced by how the trailer is loaded. A trailer that sits nose up at the front can cause the loads center of gravity to move rearward during normal use, causing even further weight to be added to the rear of the trailer. Apart from putting additional stress on your trailer, it takes any weight off the tongue and off the tow vehicles rear wheels. Any bump in the road or a truck or large vehicle passing by, a gust of wind or a slight change in your direction, can cause the trailer to become a very large and very heavy swinging pendulum of metal (including anything in or on the trailer) and can take over control of the towing vehicle. But my trailer was level, infact the Explorer should have towed very well, everything (in theory) was perfect, but it just wouldn't tow a trailer nicely. It was a very long drive both to, and from my friends workshop that day! I really was expecting an effortless drive, but in the end, well, lets just say I didn't have time to be bored while I was driving...

Hmm, it seems that I'd like to prattle on about Dora a bit more, so if you don't mind at some point there will be more to follow. Oh, and you might well be wondering why Dora. Well, I'm not one to name my cars but, I'm not one to un-name them either, and so...