Ford Explorer: Four-Wheel Drive

Ford Explorer 2020-2021 Owners Manual / Four-Wheel Drive

Principle of Operation

This system is a proactive system. It has the ability to anticipate wheel slip and transfer torque to the rear wheels before slip occurs. Even when wheel slip is not present, the system is continuously making adjustments to the torque distribution, in an attempt to improve straight line and cornering behavior, both on and off road.

The system automatically turns on every time you switch the ignition on.

If any component requires maintenance, a message appears in the information display.

Using Four-Wheel Drive

WARNING: Vehicles with a higher center of gravity (utility and four-wheel drive vehicles) handle differently than vehicles with a lower center of gravity (passenger cars). Avoid sharp turns, excessive speed and abrupt steering in these vehicles. Failure to drive cautiously increases the risk of losing control of your vehicle, vehicle rollover, personal injury and death.

The intelligent 4WD system continuously monitors vehicle conditions and adjusts the power distribution between the front and rear wheels. It combines transparent all-surface operation with highly capable four-wheel drive.

The 4WD system is always active and requires no driver input. It is capable of handling all road conditions including street and highway driving as well as off-road and winter driving. You can optimize more 4WD control by selecting different drive modes. See Selecting a Drive Mode.

Note: A warning message displays in the information display when a 4WD system fault is present. See Information Messages. A 4WD system fault causes the 4WD system to default to rear-wheel drive only mode. When this warning message is displayed, have your vehicle serviced at an authorized dealer.

Note: A warning message displays in the information display if the 4WD system overheats. See Information Messages. This condition could occur if the vehicle is operated in extreme conditions with excessive wheel slip, such as deep sand. To resume normal 4WD function as soon as possible, stop the vehicle in a safe location and stop the engine for at least 10 minutes. After the engine is restarted and the 4WD system is adequately cooled, the warning message turns off and normal 4WD function returns.

Operating Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Vehicles With Spare Tires

Do not use a different size spare tire other than the tire provided. If the mini-spare tire is installed, the 4WD system will disable and enter rear-wheel drive only mode to protect driveline components. Some limited 4WD traction could be provided if the mini-spare is installed on one of the front wheels. If you are in driving conditions where limited 4WD traction is needed while the mini-spare is installed, it is recommended the mini-spare be installed on the front axle. See Information Messages.

If the mini-spare is installed, this condition is indicated by a warning in the information display. If there is a warning message in the information display from using the spare tire, this indicator should turn off after reinstalling or replacing the normal road tire and cycling the ignition off and on. We recommended reinstalling or replacing the normal road tire as soon as possible. Major dissimilar tire sizes between the front and rear axles could cause the 4WD system to stop functioning and default to rear-wheel drive or damage the 4WD system.

The slip response system could activate if the mini spare is installed on the front wheels. If the mini spare was installed on the rear wheels the slip response system will fully disable. In situations where there is a wintery mix or an off road situation, and you need to use a mini spare, you must install the mini spare in the front tire position and move a full size tire to the rear tire position for the slip response system to function.

Operating Four-Wheel drive (4WD) Vehicles with Mismatched Tires

WARNING: Only use replacement tires and wheels that are the same size, load index, speed rating and type (such as P-metric versus LT-metric or all-season versus all-terrain) as those originally provided by Ford. The recommended tire and wheel size may be found on either the Safety Compliance Certification Label (affixed to either the door hinge pillar, door-latch post, or the door edge that meets the door-latch post, next to the driver's seating position), or the Tire Label which is located on the B-Pillar or edge of the driver's door. If this information is not found on these labels, then you should contact your authorized dealer as soon as possible. Use of any tire or wheel not recommended by Ford can affect the safety and performance of your vehicle, which could result in an increased risk of loss of vehicle control, vehicle rollover, personal injury and death.

Major dissimilar tire sizes between the front and rear axles (for example, 17 inch low profile tires on the front axle and 22 inch high profile tires on the rear axle) could cause the 4WD system to stop functioning and default to rear-wheel drive or damage the 4WD system.

For optimum 4WD Performance, it is recommended to follow the tire rotation maintenance schedule. To avoid potential 4WD malfunction or 4WD system damage, it is recommended to replace all four tires rather than mixing significantly worn tires with new tires. For example, using 3 worn tread tires and 1 new tread tire all of the same original tire size/brand, can be tolerated by the 4WD system as long as the worn tires still have usable tread depth.

How Your Vehicle Differs From Other Vehicles

Truck and utility vehicles can differ from some other vehicles. Your vehicle could be higher to allow it to travel over rough terrain without getting hung up or damaging underbody components.

The differences that make your vehicle so versatile also make it handle differently than an ordinary passenger car.

Maintain steering wheel control at all times, especially in rough terrain. Since sudden changes in terrain can result in abrupt steering wheel motion, make sure you grip the steering wheel from the outside. Do not grip the spokes.

Drive cautiously to avoid vehicle damage from concealed objects such as rocks and stumps.

You should either know the terrain or examine maps of the area before driving. Map out your route before driving in the area. To maintain steering and braking control of your vehicle, you must have all four wheels on the ground and they must be rolling, not sliding or spinning.

Driving In Special Conditions With Four-Wheel drive (4WD)

Note: 4WD vehicles are equipped for driving on sand, snow, mud and rough roads and have operating characteristics that are somewhat different from conventional vehicles, both on and off the highway.

Basic Operating Principles in Special Conditions

  • Drive slower in strong crosswinds which can affect the normal steering characteristics of your vehicle.
  • Be extremely careful when driving on pavement made slippery by loose sand, water, gravel, snow or ice.

If Your Vehicle Goes Off the Edge of the Pavement

  • If your vehicle goes off the edge of the pavement, slow down, but avoid severe brake application, ease the vehicle back onto the pavement only after reducing your speed. Do not turn the steering wheel too sharply while returning to the road surface.
  • It could be safer to stay on the apron or shoulder of the road and slow down gradually before returning to the pavement. You could lose control if you do not slow down or if you turn the steering wheel too sharply or abruptly.
  • It often could be less risky to strike small objects, such as highway reflectors, with minor damage to your vehicle rather than attempt a sudden return to the pavement which could cause the vehicle to slide sideways out of control or rollover. Remember, your safety and the safety of others should be your primary concern.

If Your Vehicle Gets Stuck

WARNING: Apply the parking brake, shift into park (P), switch the ignition off and remove the key before you leave your vehicle. Failure to follow this instruction could result in personal injury or death.

WARNING: If the parking brake is fully released, but the brake warning lamp remains illuminated, the brakes may not be working properly. Have your vehicle checked as soon as possible.

WARNING: Do not spin the wheels at over 34 mph (55 km/h). The tires may fail and injure a passenger or bystander.

If your vehicle gets stuck in mud or snow it could be rocked out by shifting between forward and reverse gears, stopping between shifts, in a steady pattern. Press lightly on the accelerator in each gear.

If your vehicle is equipped with AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™, it could be beneficial to disengage the AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™ system while attempting to rock the vehicle.

Note: Do not rock the vehicle if the engine is not at normal operating temperature or damage to the transmission could occur.

Note: Do not rock the vehicle for more than a few minutes or damage to the transmission and tires could occur or the engine could overheat.

Emergency Maneuvers

  • In an unavoidable emergency situation where a sudden sharp turn must be made, remember to avoid "over-driving" your vehicle (i.e., turn the steering wheel only as rapidly and as far as required to avoid the emergency). Excessive steering can result in less vehicle control, not more. Additionally, smooth variations of the accelerator and/or brake pedal pressure should be utilized if changes in vehicle speed are called for. Avoid abrupt steering, acceleration or braking which could result in an increased risk of loss of vehicle control, vehicle rollover and/or personal injury. Use all available road surface to return the vehicle to a safe direction of travel.
  • In the event of an emergency stop, avoid skidding the tires and do not attempt any sharp steering wheel movements.
  • If the vehicle goes from one type of surface to another (i.e., from concrete to gravel) there is a change in the way the vehicle responds to a maneuver (steering, acceleration or braking). Again, avoid these abrupt inputs.

Sand

When driving over sand, try to keep all four wheels on the most solid area of the trail. Avoid reducing the tire pressures but shift to a lower gear and drive steadily through the terrain. Apply the accelerator slowly and avoid spinning the wheels.

Avoid excessive speed because vehicle momentum can work against you and cause the vehicle to become stuck to the point that assistance could be required from another vehicle. Remember, you could be able to back out the way you came if you proceed with caution.

Mud and Water

If you must drive through high water, drive slowly. Traction or brake capability could be limited.

Note: Driving through deep water could damage your vehicle.

When driving through water, determine the depth; avoid water higher than the bottom of the hubs (if possible) and proceed slowly. If the ignition system gets wet, the vehicle could stall.

Once through water, always try the brakes. Wet brakes do not stop the vehicle as effectively as dry brakes. Drying can be improved by moving your vehicle slowly while applying light pressure on the brake pedal.

Be cautious of sudden changes in vehicle speed or direction when you are driving in mud. Even 4WD vehicles can lose traction in slick mud. As when you are driving over sand, apply the accelerator slowly and avoid spinning your wheels. If the vehicle does slide, steer in the direction of the slide until you regain control of the vehicle.

After driving through mud, clean off residue stuck to rotating driveshafts and tires. Excess mud stuck on tires and rotating driveshafts causes an imbalance that could damage drive components.

“Tread Lightly” is an educational program designed to increase public awareness of land-use regulations and responsibilities in our nations wilderness areas. Ford Motor Company joins the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in encouraging you to help preserve our national forest and other public and private lands by “treading lightly.”

Driving on Hilly or Sloping Terrain

Although natural obstacles could make it necessary to travel diagonally up or down a hill or steep incline, you should always try to drive straight up or straight down.

Note: Avoid driving crosswise or turning on steep slopes or hills. A danger lies in losing traction, slipping sideways and possibly rolling over. Whenever driving on a hill, determine beforehand the route you will use. Do not drive over the crest of a hill without seeing what conditions are on the other side. Do not drive in reverse over a hill without the aid of an observer.

When climbing a steep slope or hill, start in a lower gear rather than downshifting to a lower gear from a higher gear once the ascent has started. This reduces strain on the engine and the possibility of stalling.

If you do stall out, do not try to turn around because you might roll over. It is better to back down to a safe location.

Apply just enough power to the wheels to climb the hill. Too much power can cause the tires to slip, spin or lose traction, resulting in loss of vehicle control.

Descend a hill in the same gear you would use to climb up the hill to avoid excessive brake application and brake overheating. Do not descend in neutral; instead, disengage overdrive or manually shift to a lower gear. When descending a steep hill, avoid sudden hard braking as you could lose control. The front wheels have to be turning in order to steer the vehicle.

Your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, therefore apply the brakes steadily. Do not “pump” the brakes.

Driving on Snow and Ice

WARNING: If you are driving in slippery conditions that require tire chains or cables, then it is critical that you drive cautiously. Keep speeds down, allow for longer stopping distances and avoid aggressive steering to reduce the chances of a loss of vehicle control which can lead to serious injury or death. If the rear end of your vehicle slides while cornering, steer in the direction of the slide until you regain control of your vehicle.

Note: Excessive tire slippage can cause driveline damage.

4WD vehicles have advantages over 2WD vehicles in snow and ice but can skid like any other vehicle.

Should you start to slide while driving on snowy or icy roads, turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide until you regain control.

Avoid sudden applications of power and quick changes of direction on snow and ice. Apply the accelerator slowly and steadily when starting from a full stop.

Avoid sudden braking as well. Although an 4WD vehicle could accelerate better than a two-wheel drive vehicle in snow and ice, it won’t stop any faster, because as in other vehicles, braking occurs at all four wheels. Do not become overconfident as to road conditions.

Make sure you allow sufficient distance between you and other vehicles for stopping. Drive slower than usual and consider using one of the lower gears. In emergency stopping situations, apply the brake steadily. Since your vehicle is equipped with a four wheel (ABS), do not “pump” the brakes. See Hints on Driving With Anti-Lock Brakes.

Maintenance and Modifications

The suspension and steering systems on your vehicle have been designed and tested to provide predictable performance whether loaded or empty and durable load carrying capability. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you do not make modifications such as adding or removing parts (such as lowering kits or stabilizer bars) or by using replacement parts not equivalent to the original factory equipment.

Any modifications to a vehicle that raise the center of gravity can make it more likely the vehicle will rollover as a result of a loss of control. We strongly recommend that caution be used with any vehicle equipped with a high load or device (such as ladder or luggage racks).

Failure to maintain your vehicle properly could void the warranty, increase your repair cost, reduce vehicle performance and operational capabilities and adversely affect driver and passenger safety. Frequent inspection of vehicle chassis components is recommended if the vehicle is subjected to off-highway usage.

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