Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start?

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Among the various SUVs Ford has put out; one of the more popular ones is the Ford Explorer.

Production for this line of SUVs started in 1990, and now the car is in its 6th generation, being the best selling of all time in 2020.

Despite all this praise, there have been instances where fans have had to ask the question, “Why won’t my Ford Explorer start?” and there are multiple answers to this question, most of which revolve around the battery of the car but other issues can also include problems with the fuel system and the starting system.

Here is a list of the most common problems with the Ford Explorer:

  1. Ignition Switch Issues
  2. Battery Charge Problems
  3. Starter Problems
  4. Alternator Problems
  5. Camshaft Position Sensor Defects

These are also the main issues that I will be highlighting in this article, so if you have had extensive problems starting your Ford Explorer, then make sure you read the article until the end to learn the most about these problems.

What Would Cause A Ford Explorer To Not Start?

Learn how to turn over your Ford Explorer when facing the issues

The Ford Explorer, like any other car, is prone to various issues and, without proper maintenance, can easily fall victim to many different problems preventing it from starting properly.

The most common of these issues have been mentioned above for your convenience.

From here on out, I will explain these issues in great detail so that you can get all the information you need to properly assess why your Ford Explorer is not starting and what you can do to solve the problem.

1: Ignition Switch Issues

All journeys and rides inside a car start with the turning of a key.

It is that key that activates the ignition, which, as we all know, is extremely important as it generates the spark needed by the car to ignite the fuel and give the energy to move the car, hence the name; ignition.

This part of the car is also very fragile as even one small defect can stop it from functioning properly and, in turn, prevent the cat from starting entirely.

The Ford Explorer is no stranger to this type of issue as it has had a history where the electrical portion of the ignition switch fails, which causes the car to lose power to specific systems and parts.

Eventually, the ignition switch fails and will need to be replaced if you want to start the car. This will depend on the positioning of the key.

The result is that certain parts and accessories and even the car itself will not turn on and may cause various issues such as stalling while driving and unresponsiveness when the key is being turned.

What Should You Do About It?

  • There is not much you can do if you think you have a faulty ignition switch. The most you can do is to look for signs to see if the ignition is failing so that you can plan a visit to the mechanic.
  • If you find that the car key is not turning, there is no noise from the starter motor, the car’s accessories are flickering on and off, and the car, in general, is stalling, you can confirm that it is the ignition’s fault for your car not starting.
  • Now you can take your Ford Explorer to the mechanic and tell him about your car’s exact problem.

2: Battery Charge Problems

One of the most common and naturally occurring issues in every car is charge problems related to the battery.

It is so common that it is an instinct to assume that the battery is at fault when the car is not turning on and for a good reason, as this is the case more often than not.

The ignition above relies on the battery to provide the energy necessary to create the charge, so you can determine the importance of the battery just from this statement alone.

You need to ensure that your battery is in good health and that the charge is always maintained.

Car batteries generally require a lot of maintenance to keep healthy.

If you leave your Ford Explorer stationary or take it out for long journeys too often, you risk degrading the battery charge.

This can manifest in the car not starting but still being capable of turning on the internal lights or other accessories.

The average battery lasts 4 to 5 years and should be replaced once fully drained.

What Should You Do About It?

  • If you suspect that the battery is the main cause for your Ford Explorer not starting, you should conduct a voltage test to see if that is the case.
  • If the battery is below 12 volts, you should consider getting a replacement if it has been a long time since you owned the battery.
  • Alternatively, you can try to jumpstart the battery to recharge it. You can do this by getting another car with a healthy battery.
  • Hook up the two batteries with cables, start the car with the good battery, followed by the Ford Explorer with its dead battery, and leave them on for a few minutes.

3: Starter Problems

The average starter can last between 100,000 to 150,000 miles, which can be a common source of problems across Ford Explorers.

Almost 20% of the time, your Ford Explorer may not be starting due to issues with the Starter.

The main job of the starter is to get the movement of the engine going. If that does not happen, then there is no chance of your Ford Explorer starting.

You can determine if the source of the problem is the starter by hearing clicking sounds that the engine makes while you try to turn the car on.

The cause of the clicking is the solenoid. It tries to rotate the engine but fails.

Along with this clicking noise, you should keep track of any fast spinning noise or whirring sound as these too can indicate issues with the starter.

Other components can also indirectly cause issues to the starter, so check the entire system so that you can isolate the correct component and not end up replacing something else.

What Should You Do About It?

  • Keep notice of any distinct clicking and whirring sounds to determine if the problem is with the starter or not.
  • If you do end up hearing this, you should visit the mechanic and have them check the starter motor and the solenoid.
  • Isolate the afflicting component and replace it with a new one so you can fix the problem without any other issues.
  • It is better to get a new product entirely as it is much cheaper and simpler to set up.
  • You should try your best to drive conservatively and ensure that the starter remains cool.

4: Alternator Problems

The alternator is the second reason many people find their Ford Explorer not starting, almost 27%. The alternator is another vital component your car needs to charge the battery.

As the name suggests, it exists to change the form of energy the car releases, converting the mechanical and rotational energy of the car into electrical energy, which in turn charges the battery.

This is a very sensitive conversion which is why even the slightest malfunction in the alternator can cause it to go bad, making it unable to charge the battery.

Eventually, the battery of your Ford Explorer will be drained.

You will have to notice this drain pattern if you plan on properly fixing the car; otherwise, you may waste a lot of time and money on charging and replacing perfectly fine batteries.

Another way you can determine if the alternator is the problem is if you notice frequent stalling while driving, slow or malfunctioning accessories, and noise similar to growling or whining.

What Should You Do About It?

  • Fixing an alternator is very difficult if you plan on doing it yourself, so you should take your Ford Explorer to the mechanic and have it done by an experienced professional.
  • Most of the time, fixing the alternator is not worth the money, which is why it is recommended that you simply get a new one to save time and resources.
  • Once your alternator has been replaced, you should note how long it takes for the battery to drain. If the battery ends up draining again, then it means that the problem lies elsewhere.
  • You should have the alternator checked every 300,000 miles for malfunctions and have it maintained.

5: Camshaft Position Sensor Defects

Part of the fuel system, the camshaft position sensor is a very important sensor that is needed by the fuel system to determine the best time to inject more fuel.

It does this by determining the exact position of the crankshaft drive using the engine control unit and sensor signals. It scans a ring gear on the camshaft and detects changes in voltage.

Seeing as it is nothing more than an array of sensors, it is easy to see how the sensor can break down easily.

Once this happens, the computer senses the engine is out of time and turns on the check engine light.

Other symptoms of a defective camshaft position sensor can include difficulties in starting the Ford Explorer, the control unit entering the emergency program, and storing fault codes.

This results from mechanical damage, internal short-circuiting, interrupted connections and breaks in the encoder wheel.

All of this can prevent your Ford Explorer from starting, and even if it does end up starting, it will run on poor mileage and just run poorly in general.

What Should You Do About It?

  • To begin troubleshooting the camshaft positional sensor, begin checking the actual sensor for damage.
  • You should then read out the fault memory and look for any discrepancies or bad code.
  • Check the electrical connections of the sensor, such as wiring, connectors, and the sensor itself, for breaks and corrosion.
  • If all of this is in order, you should move to check the supply voltage and see if the sensor is getting an adequate amount of power. This should be around 5V.
  • If any of these is the root cause of the problem, then you should have a mechanic fix the problems and, in the worst-case scenario, change the sensor entirely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start With New Battery?

Replacing your battery is not the solution every time your car struggles to start.

If you have read the article by now, you should understand the various different problems that can cause your Ford Explorer to not function properly.

The issue could lie in the fuel system of the car or in other electrical components such as the starter motor, the alternator, the battery cables, or in another place entirely.

What you can be sure of is that there is nothing wrong with the battery itself.

Q2. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start Even With A Jump?

If you were under the suspicion that the battery is low on charge and decided to jumpstart it, only to see that it does not fix anything?

If this ever occurs to you, you should know that the issue is then not in the battery but in some other part of the Ford Explorer.

The most obvious place to look would be the fuel system, but just in case, you should also inspect the car for bad battery cables and a broken starter motor.

Q3. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start But Lights Work?

As the battery gets weaker and weaker, it eventually loses the strength to power certain aspects of the car.

While the battery may not be able to start the car, it is able to turn on the lights and other small gadgets inside the car.

You can confirm this suspicion by carrying out a voltage test. If the car battery passes the test, then you may have issues with the starter switch or with the cables of the battery.

Q4. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start But Cranks?

While it may not seem such, the cranking of the car is actually a good sign as it signifies that many systems of the Ford Explorer, which include the electrical and the starting system, are properly working.

From here on out, if your car cranks but does not start, you should assume that the issue is within the fuel system.

This usually happens because the car is unable to get enough fuel to start the engine, so have the entire fuel system checked out by a mechanic.

Q5. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start Just Clicks?

Starting the car should be quite effortless and quick to do, but if you are met with clicking sounds and the car is not starting, then you should assume that something is wrong with the electrical system of the Ford Explorer.

Any device from the starter motor to the alternator to even the battery could be the root cause of this clicking which is why you should personally inspect all of these components or visit a mechanic and get an experienced look at the situation of your car.

Q6. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start In The Cold Weather?

It is never a good idea to leave your car out in the cold for too long as there are a lot of different issues that can pop up which can prevent the car from starting.

This begins with the cold weather reducing the reactions in the battery, hurting its output. Soon the oil also starts to thicken up, making it almost useless.

The end result is that you will rather need to jumpstart your Ford Explorer or get your oil changed or, in many cases, both.

Q7. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start After I Get Gas?

If you have recently topped up with gas but found that your car is still not running, then there is no point in adding more gas as the problem is not a lack of it.

It could mean anything from battery issues to starter problems and could even be that the fuel itself is not reaching the engine.

You should plan a trip to the mechanic to see what the source of the problem is and get it fixed as soon as possible.

Q8. Why Won’t My Ford Explorer Start But Radio Works?

The situation where the car itself does not start, but the radio seems to function properly is quite perplexing but also very common.

You can usually attribute this to a lack of power that the starter motor is getting.

If left unchecked, it can eventually degrade the ignition system entirely, and all hopes of starting the car will be lost.

In the alternative, it could simply be a weak battery or one with either corroded terminals or bad battery cables.

Related: What Are The Worst Years For The Ford Explorer?


A great number of people have absolute love and respect for the Ford Explorer, and this is what you would expect from a car that has been on the market since 1991.

At this stage, you would think that the car would have little or no issues at all, but sadly that is simply not a possibility.

You will be put into situations where you will stop and ask, “Why won’t my Ford Explorer start?” but hopefully, you should be able to understand the situation now that you have read my guide and should have all the knowledge necessary to fix the problem.