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Flat-Towing A Ford Explorer (Complete Guide)

On this blog, we’ve written extensively about Ford vehicles and their capabilities. Recently, we’ve taken a deep dive into flat towing these vehicles. Given that this is a popular activity these days, it’s essential to know the ins- and outs. Let’s start with a quick answer:

2003 – 2005 Ford Explorers can be flat towed if they have 4×2 RWD or 4×4 with a tow kit accessory. 2005 – 2009 Explorers can be flat towed if they have 4×4 with a tow kit accessory. 2010 – 2019 Explorers with a 3.5 or 3.7L engine can be flat towed if they have 2WD. 2020 – present-day Explorers cannot be flat towed. All Explorers with AWD cannot be flat towed.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Below we’ve outlined the specific rules for each generation of the Explorer. Furthermore, we give you step-by-step instructions on how to flat tow these cars for the generations that have this possibility. Read on!

Also read: Are Ford Cars Reliable? 15 Models Analyzed

Model Years That Can Be Flat Towed

2003 – 2005

Ford Explorers manufactured from 2003 – 2005 can only be flat towed if they are 4×2 RWD. 4×4’s with an electronic shift transfer case can only be flat towed if the neutral tow kit accessory is installed. AWD Explorers can not be flat towed because damage to the transmission will occur.

2005 – 2009

Ford Explorers manufactured from 2005 – 2009 can only be flat towed if they have 4×4 with an electronic shift transfer case and when the neutral tow kit accessory is installed. Towing a 2WD or AWD Explorer can only be done by using a trailer where all four wheels are of the ground. Flat towing these models will result in transmission damage.

2010 – 2015

Ford Explorers manufactured from 2010 – 2015 that have a 2.0, 3.5, or 3.7L engine can be towed with the help of a tow dolly and with the front wheels of the ground (except for AWD models). The 2.0L models cannot be flat towed. However, the 3.5 and 3.7L versions can be flat towed.

2015 – 2019

Ford Explorers manufactured from 2015 – 2019 can only be flat towed if they have a 3.5L Duratec or 3.5L EcoBoost engine. All other Explorers cannot be flat towed. The front-wheel-drive versions of the car can only be towed by use of a tow dolly and with the front wheels of the vehicle off the ground. The all-wheel-drive versions of the Explorer can only be hauled on a trailer and with all four wheels of the ground.

2020 – present

Ford Explorers manufactured from 2020 – present day cannot be flat towed. Vehicles that are equipped with rear-wheel-drive can only be towed by using a tow dolly. Explorers with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive can only be hauled on a trailer and with all four wheels of the ground.

Also read: The Exact Bolt Pattern Of A Ford Explorer

Safety Precautions When Towing An Explorer

There are several safety precautions you have to take into account when towing an Explorer. Below we’ve written down the precautions for every model year of the Explorer.

  • For 2003 – 2005 Explorers a maximum speed of 35 mph cannot be exceeded. The same accounts for the maximum distance of 50 miles. If you intend to flat tow your Explorer for a longer period of time than you have to disconnect the driveshaft. This is something that only a qualified technician can do.
  • For Explorers produced from 2006 onwards a maximum speed of 65 mph cannot be exceeded.
  • Put your climate control system in recirculated air mode to prevent exhaust fumes from entering your vehicle.
  • Start the engine and allow it to run for five minutes at the beginning of each towing day and every six hours thereafter. With the engine running and your foot on the brake, shift into drive (D) and then into reverse (R) before shifting back into neutral (N).

Also read: Types Of Gas A Ford Explorer Takes (Explained)

Flat Towing An Explorer Step-By-Step

Below we’ve outlined the flat towing procedure for Ford Explorers that were manufactured from 2010 – 2019. The reason for this is that Ford did not include instructions for flat towing the Explorer before 2010. The Explorers produced after 2019 cannot be flat towed and therefore don’t have any instructions.

2010 – 2015

If you tow your vehicle with all four wheels on the ground:

  • Tow only in the forward direction.
  • Release the parking brake.
  • Place the transmission in position N.
  • Place the ignition in the accessory position.

2015 – 2019

If you tow your car with all four wheels on the ground:

  • Tow only in the forward direction.
  • Release the parking brake.

Vehicles with Keyless Start

  1. Start the vehicle by pressing the brake pedal, and then pressing the keyless start button until the vehicle starts.
  2. Press the brake pedal and shift the gearshift into neutral (N).
  3. Turn the vehicle off by pressing the keyless start button once.
  4. Disconnect the negative (black) cable from the battery. You need the door key to lock and unlock doors when the
    battery cable is disconnected. Start the engine within 15 minutes of reconnecting the battery cable.

Vehicles with an Ignition Key

  • Start the vehicle by pressing the brake pedal, and then turning the ignition key until the vehicle starts.
  • Press the brake pedal and shift the transmission into neutral (N).
  • Turn off your vehicle by turning the ignition key past the accessory position. The key position is between the accessory and off positions.
  • Disconnect the negative (black) cable from the battery.

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