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Ford Explorer Won't Pass Emissions

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by thephotohound, Aug 16, 2007.

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  1. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    I found this great deal on a 97 Explorer (150K mi) that I'll use just to get to and from work 15 mi. away. The problem is this: the guy who's selling it to me forgot to mention that it failed emissions twice in March of '06 before he took it off the road (he says it was a 3rd vehicle anyway, and he was saving it for his daughter, but now she doesn't want it). He thinks that it's probably nothing more than a sensor, but I'm a little concerned. I've worked on cars, so that doesn't scare me.

    My question is: in everyone's experience, how often is this a huge engine problem, and how often is it just an O2 sensor or a cat?

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  2. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Try this.

    Run the engine and change the oil to a synthetic.
    Get the truck to operating temperature and see if it will pass that way. You can also try a little tranny fluid down the throttle body.
  3. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    I probably will try those things, but I haven't bought it yet. I'm trying to decide whether it's worth the risk... How many times is it a major part (i.e. engine!!) and how often is it something minor like a sensor? And even if it is major, aren't there ways to "trick" the machine, or are they more complex than that now??
  4. John H

    John H Member

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    Chances are if there is no check engine lite and with 150k (miles) the cat converter could be the problem.

    John
  5. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    PhotoHound...

    Scratch Babalu's previous comments... they don't come into the equation for a 1997 model.

    So you have already bought the vehicle????

    This is a post I can get into... The Mass Trace 99 inspection program has lotsa holes in it big enough to drive a semi through...so A Ford Exploder (I mean explorer) lol should be no problem.

    It's a 1997 model... First question? Is the "Service Engine soon light on" if it is... it's an automatic failure at the inspection station. If it is.... the first thing you need to do is to get that resolved. Take it to someplace you can trust and have a simple OBD (On board diagnostics) scan done.... since it's the "heart" of the inspection process for anything 1994 or newer...anything from 1984 to 1994 still goes on the dynamometer for a sticker.

    When you do... ask the mechanic EXACTLY which generation of OBD you have...(1997 is right on the cusp between Gen 1 and 2) Gen 1 OBD is popcorn... as long as the check engine light is off you are almost guaranteed to pass. Gen 2 and higher needs time and mileage to clear out of the system not to be an issue for Mass Trace to pick up on.

    Unless you are familiar with OBD... and don't mind randomly replacing parts under the hood, have the OBD scan done by a mechanic to first off diagnose the problem. If it's only gonna be $50 bucks for a new sensor decide whether or not its worthwhile to have them fix it on the spot... but either way find out exactly what is the problem so that you can go from there.

    You live in Central MASS too? PM me if you need some direction on where to go for reasonable/reputable work done on a vehicle.
  6. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    For the Massachusetts inspection program its a matter of pre and post 1994... Anything with OBD... the only way to trick the system would be done electronically. I have yet to hear of anybody hooking up a computer to their car to give the OBD system a "labotomy" for the test... but I'm sure sooner or later someone is gonna try! ;)

    On a side note:

    For those (Mass Residents) out there that buy a vehicle that "Still has a good sticker on it"...remember the sticker expires "automatically" when a change of ownership OR plate transfer takes place. In this bold new world where computers are everywhere (keep in mind the cops have laptops right in the car these days) a good looking sticker on the windshield doesn't matter anymore... When a cop runs your plates through the Registry of Motor Vehicles system he knows THE EXACT DATE you got (or didn't get) your sticker...

    You wouldn't believe what the cops have access to these days...right in their cruiser! lol

    Attached Files:

  7. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    KeyMan - I just sent you a PM...

    The check engine light is out. There is currently no sticker on it. It is unregistered and off the road. Has been since 2006. It was a 3rd vehicle for the seller... he was saving it for his daughter, but now she says she's not interested... so he's selling.
  8. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Well my next coarse of action would be to gather up all the particulars (make, model, year, VIN number) go talk to my insurance agent opening the conversation with "I need another RMV-2 form filled out and counterstamped so I can go to the registry"...

    There is a story behind the picture below... one that still sticks out in my mind to this day when I told the magistrate and then showed him this picture....

    To live in a state like MAss where the sexiest thing about buying a used vehicle is having this as the most pretty thing to look at:

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  9. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Sounds good to me. Will do. I'll post the results next week.
  10. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Keyman, they still stick a sensor in the tailpipe to measure how "clean" the exhaust is. A HOT engine with clean oil burns cleaner and if there is any junk in the system a little tranny fluid can clean it up.
  11. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    While we're on the topic, any ideas to fix a gas pedal that sticks a little? When you go to give it gas from a standstill, the pedal sticks ever so slightly...
  12. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Are we still by any chance talking about the 'exploda'....lol
  13. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    I should mention that after the first time it failed, he replaced the O2 sensor (which cleared out the check engine light) but it failed again 2 weeks later. Maybe because the station was looking to fail him??? Either way, it's 17 months later, and the light is still out...
  14. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Yes, sir
  15. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Err umm... No Comment;) ROFLMAO (inside joke)

    The "Mexican Tune-Up" method (trainy fluid in the intake) harkens back to the motor pool days of the service... personally I think it's ffine for a G.O.V. but my P.O.V. I prefer running the tank down on fumes, putting in 1 gallon of high-test and adding 4 bottles of drygas ;)

    (been there...done that) "Sticker time" can be downright comical sometimes..lol ;)
  16. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Perhaps we will re-visit this latter...gotta run (Got some miles ahead of me on my favorite MAss playground...I-495) ;)

    Yesterdays trip to Gooses' homestead encountered this little gem... I would love to have choked this idiot and asked him "Hey driver what genius outfit do you drive for and what moron told you to run an over dimension load up 495 through the Lowell Connector in the 5 o'clock rush hour...You got a death wish or somethin???"

    Perhaps I wasn't all that courteous to "our guest to this state" but hey read the motto on the license plate...

    The only thing worse than some chuclke head running the hammer lane, pulling a camper with the whole family on board with the cruise control set at 65 is these crews hauling a demo pile in the making...

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  17. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Another alternative is to keep in mind that there are some places that do inspections, and other places that sell inspection stickers - A donation to the shop beer fund or other such is appreciated at such locations, and they can be quite helpful if you have a "dubious" vehicle...

    For the sticking pedal, I would consider doing a careful clean and lube all the way down the line from the pedal to the throttle body, see if that helps, if not try to split the system and narrow down just where the sticking is happening. It is probably a fairly minor part. If all else fails I'd consider seeing if there is some way to add an extra spring to the throttle return.

    Gooserider
  18. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Great advice - on both accounts... I'm going to pick it up on Sat AM. GOing through it top to bottom this weekend. Will let you know...
  19. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Picking it up today... Will let you know if I get pulled over or not for illegally using the plates from my truck to get it home...
  20. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Ahhh...You gotta love the "Yeah Massachusetts has to be different" attitude that there is no such thing as temporary tags...

    "Officer..This vehicle is 'in transit'..."

    ***DISCLAIMER***

    The following advice is to be used as a reference..."Not as Gospel"...

    Word to the wise... You are not necessarily breaking the law...so long as a few general provisions are met, which are in the spirit of Massachusetts General laws and provisions:

    Under MGL laws and statues you can (but should be carefull) in doing this.

    Under the "2 Day/10 Day rule" in the MGL regarding RMV policy... You can legally do this so long as 1.) It is a newly purchased vehicle...(being a private sale...I would have a rather formal bill of sale in possesion, on your person and in the vehicle while operating it) 2.) To the letter of the law: The plates you have now affixed are going to be transferred within TWO business days of the intial purchase but no later than FIVE days total (provisions for weekends and inclusive of holidays)...for a newly purchased vehicle from a Massachusetts licensed auto dealer the timeframe increases to 7/10 respectively. 3.) This is optional but a "CYA" be in possesion of a counter stamped (by your insurance agent) MAss RMV Form 3? (I always get 2&3;mixed up...application for registration)...

    Personally:
    Having met the 3rd requirement is the only way I would do what you are intending to do...

    This route lesens the likelyhood of getting into hot water...should you have the unfortunate priveledge of being pulled over... A police officer is less likely to write you up for (illegally attaching plates,operating an un-insured MV, operating an un-registered MV) if you are familiar with the procedures of the RMV...

    Once again...Verify all information as such...I'm not an officer of the court...just an educated resident.

    ...On a side note:

    For those residents of the Commonwealth purchasing a vehicle...regardless of your intentions (whether or not you register it) a trip to the RMV would be wise...RMV-2 (aplication for title/sales tax certification) within 10 days of purchase. Paying the sales tax (and ultimately going through the title process) is the best "CYA"... Hold onto your "Reciept for application" it looks like a registration...but clearly states "Sales tax paid ONLY"...

    ...This might not sound all that important... but will save a lot of grief and agravation "down the line" when it comes time to get plates. So get that piece of paper and tuck it away in a safe place...

    After all...Who wants to have a hard time at the RMV????
  21. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Keyman -

    All great advice. Great PSA. I wasn't going to risk it, but the guy lives 60 miles from me. I guess that makes it even more of a risk, but it also gave me even more incentive to do it all in two trips (one to check out the truck initially, and one to buy/take it home). Bottom line is that I wouldn't recommend what I did, but I got back OK, and it's sitting in my driveway!

    So a trip to the local parts store was obviously in order. The $332 receipt (to the parts store) is proof that I got an awesome deal on it, b/c I am doing a FULL and COMPLETE tune-up. I'm assuming nothing's been done before (probably not true, but it will increase my chances of it running well for another 100K mi). Oil change yesterday, then air filter, and everything came to a screeching hault at the plugs and wires. I've never seen a spark plug (or all 8 for that matter) rusted completely to the block. What a PIA. Took me over an hour and a half to do just 3 plugs! I have 5 left this AM, then AC recharge, xfer case fluid change, tranny fluid + filter, grease fittings, check brakes, etc, etc... As for the emissions, won't worry bout that till Monday. Your previous posts give me confidence. Just to be sure, I think I'll fill it with a gallon of super and run it for 1/2 hr just to be sure.....
  22. Marty

    Marty Feeling the Heat

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    I was under the impression that they no longer tail pipe test on 96' and up cars... so if you have no CE light it should pass. Why not take it to an auto parts store and have them pull codes on it for free... then you have an idea whats up, if there is a chance here that he pulled the CE bulb to 'help' sell it.
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Don't forget the dry gas. That tank has sat for awhile so there's bound to be some condensation buildup.
  24. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    BeGreen - Got the drygas!
    Marty - Good thinkin'.

    I have bigger problems now, anyway... After taking all weekend to do just plugs and wires (yes, I've done tune-ups before, and no, plugs and wires have never taken me more than an afternoon), I may have a problem. First of all, I doubt the plugs were ever changed in this rig. Most of them were rusted to the block, and #3 was rusted and seized. I had to take a wheel off to get to it from the side, then snapped the plug in half. I tried an EZ Out to retrieve the threaded portion of the plug, and then the unthinkable happened... The electrode and part of the porcelain fell into the engine. Awesome. An afternoon job has turned into something that might cost me $500 if they have to pull the head now. I say "they" because I have taken this baby as far as I will. One slip of the drill and you can kiss the head goodbye. I'm not messin' with that. I have a mechanic I trust that I'll have it towed to... and the saga continues...

    Even if it costs me a couple hundred bucks, it was still DEFINITELY worth it for the price I paid...
  25. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    So I am one happy DIY'er today. I talked to a mechanic friend of mine, and he gave me the confidence to put the torch on it and try the EZ Out again. It worked! Better yet, after I replaced the plug and started it up, there was no rattle! The electrode and remaining porcelain must have gotten blown out when I originally tried turning the motor over to blow out the broken portion of the plug to use the EZ Out. Regardless, no rattle when idling, but a little sputtering when accelerating (almost like a small exhaust leak??). If there was any remaining porcelain in the chamber, I'd hear it, even when idling, right?
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