2020 Ford Explorer Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Fuel system, brakes, electrical and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

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The 2020 Ford Explorer continues a long line of SUV production from the Blue Oval. This model continues to be a top choice, especially considering the automaker claims that it is “built for life’s adventures.” However, the adventures aren’t what most people signed up for. This SUV suffers from a defective fuel system, faulty electrical system, malfunctioning service brakes, a failing powertrain and poorly-made structure.

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Problems with the Fuel System

The fuel system in a vehicle is responsible for getting the gasoline to the engine so it can move. When something fails, it can cause performance issues or put people’s lives at risk.

Here’s one NHTSA complaint that talks about the issues with the Explorer. “When starting at intersections or stopping, you can hear and feel the fuel in the tank sloshing back and forth. I’ve taken my vehicle to the dealership and they confirmed the noise and documented it. They reached out to Ford which said they knew of the issue and at this time there is no fix.”

The reason that Ford hasn’t dealt with it probably has to do with the other fuel-system related issues they are working on. NHTSA Campaign Number 19V859000 states that some models have a protective sleeve over the vapor line that could chafe through, causing a fuel leak. If this happens, there is a significant chance for an automobile fire. There’s nothing quite like an “adventure,” such as a car fire.

Problems with the Electrical System

Running behind the scenes of everything in the SUV is an electrical system. When something becomes glitchy, it can create a lot of problems, just like consumers are experiencing.

One Edmunds review states, “All of sudden the Auto Hold turns off. When I tried to turn it on a warning light displayed that said Auto Hold System Fault. This was an erratic fault and was difficult to predicatively reproduce. The dealer couldn’t reproduce it after the first couple of visits so I shot a video and pics and sent to them. They accepted the car for service and for a number of days, drove it but still couldn’t reproduce the fault….then called and said suddenly something did not work when they were driving it and they were going to work with Ford to figure it out. Ford was not efficient or helpful. Eventually I think they did a software update. Hopefully it is fixed.”

There’s also an electrical system-related recall to pay attention to. NHTSA Campaign Number 19V687000 states that a wiring harness might not be properly installed, allowing the A/C pulley to rub through the harness and cause a short circuit. If this happens, there’s another chance for a fire. So far, it’s obvious that this SUV is focused very heavily on creating fire.

Problems with the Vehicle Structure

Moving onto the structure of the Explorer, one would think after all of these years that Ford would have perfected the design by now. However, there are some major complaints.

Check out this Edmunds review. “In November 2019 my wife bought at 2020 Ford Explorer Platinum. I went in and signed as my name is on it as well, however, I didn’t do a thorough check on the vehicle myself. Everything seemed fine until the first rain and when I went outside and opened the back of the vehicle after the rain the inside of the vehicle was soaked. While trying to clean up the water I also noticed that the back panels of the vehicle we not put in correctly at all. Of course I took the vehicle back to the dealership and explained the problems and they, of course, said they would take care of it. After a few weeks we were called to come get the vehicle upon repair. My wife picked the vehicle up and before I had a chance to check it out it rained again. The vehicle was full of water again and upon further inspection we also found that the back panels inside the vehicle were not repaired either.”

Maybe all the water is to help reduce the chance of fire. Not surprising, there is another recall to pay attention to. NHTSA Campaign Number 19V633000 says that over 600,000 vehicles might have missing pawls required for seat back strength. If the seat fails during an accident, it could lead to serious injuries. At least it won’t cause the Explorer to burst into flames.

Problems with the Brakes

Stopping a vehicle should be priority number one, but the Explorer can’t get this right either.

Look at this NHTSA complaint. “On occasion, the brakes do not work properly when the car is first put into Drive or Reverse after starting. When shifting into Drive or Park with the foot firmly on the brake, the vehicle begins to move, and the brake pedal does not depress all the way and does not stop the vehicle from moving. If you attempt to pump the brakes, there is a hard stop that prevents the brake pedal from going all the way to the floor. The only way to stop the vehicle is to put it back into Park.”

Yep, there’s a brake-related recall too! NHTSA Campaign Number 19V575000 says that the Manual Park Release cover might not have been installed, which could allow the vehicle to roll away. So far, the only adventure shown is the constant trips that owners have to take to the dealership for repairs.

Problems with the Transmission

One final look brings attention to the powertrain. With everything else going wrong, one would hope that the transmission would be functional, but that’s not the case.

Another Edmunds user says, “On my way to work on 02/11/20 the transmission did a hard slam as I was preparing for a right turn. I though that is strange. I prepared for a left turn and it slammed with a hard shift again. I had only had it 6 weeks and it had only 2,046 miles on it. We took it immediately back to [dealership] where it was purchased. The transmission had a ‘severe internal issue’ and could not be driven at all until they replaced it. Upon talking to the dealership I find out this is the 3rd transmission they have had to replace since the new 2020 came out. That’s when I realized I’m in deep do-do. I’ve bought a Lemon.”

Service Bulletin #SSM 48790 also states that some models might end up with a transmission fluid leak with less than 100 miles on the odometer. Once again, this is a condition that could lead to a fire or major failure. Between fires, not having the ability to stop and other defects, this is one “adventure” customers should run away from.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work aid your lemon at no cost to you. The law makes Ford pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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  • Janie S

    My 2020 Ford Explorer has lots of humming noise as it takes off and also as I’m driving it is nerve racking I sometimes feel that something is rubbing and might start on fire when I turn the AC off it stops taken it to two dealerships and was told they could not fix it till the AC went out it will probably go out when it is out of warranty or the noise makes me go crazy we paid so much money to drive a car that is very noisy I traded a very good car that had no noise because we wanted a new reliable car to travel now I’m very disappointed at ford

  • Jedediah S

    I need help my 2020 explore is crap going for arbitration. If that’s denied what do I do? I want my money back. It’s a lemon and they know it… Over a month to start off with in the shop had ford engineers try and fix it electrical problems all the time they don’t care. Denied my buy back twice. Please help me. Leave a voicemail if I do not answer.

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