Without getting into any arguments I'd like to ask about the Ford comments. What is flawed about the Exploder's rear suspension? Until recently and as far as I know in all cases being sited, it was a simple live axel, no different from the one on the Ranger or any other small truck with a live rear axel made by any other manufacturer. I've always avoided blaming Firestone for the issue but I'm not sure Ford is to blame either as it has always appeared to me that this was a user/driver problem not a tire/vehicle problem. After all more than 9 out of 10 people AFTER the Ford/Firestone debacle couldn't tell you what their tire pressures were, 3 out of 4 didn't know where to find what the manufacturer said they should be despite the near nightly demonstrations on CNN and every local news station, and more than 6 out of 10 SUV drivers had one or more tires seriously underinflated, defined as 25% or more below the manufacturers recomendation. I'd imagine that if I were to panic at 75MPH because of a tire blow-out I could yank the wheel enough to make even a Celica flip, obviously much harder to do in a Celica than in a top heavy SUV. I'll agree that the change in standards is a typical kneejerk government reaction to a problem that was blown out of proportion by the press and lawyers but it seems that blaming Ford isn't a good answer.
I'll be up front here and say I'm not un-biased. My father works for Ford, my grandfather is retired from Ford and one of my uncles also works for Ford. I grew up in a militarily Ford family, who isn't happy that I own a BMW, a Toyota and a Subaru and don't own any Fords (and haven't since I dumped the POS Contour back in 99). While I do not think that Ford builds any decent cars, at least under the Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury names, and I've heard enough diatribes against Nasser to last me a lifetime I still feel somewhat obligated to speak out when Ford is blamed for something I don't think they could have done anything about.
I think most of it had to do with suspension characteristics *after* the blowout, and the tire chosen by Ford to sell with the vechicle. How many people bought Wilerders A/T's to replace the ones on there 2 year old Exploder, because that's what came with it?
Why most of these SUV's come with A/T tires I don't understand either.... How many SUV's actually go 'All terain'?
As someone who owns one of the offending Exploders who went through the Firestone recall, I'll share.
The Wilderness AT's were stupid compromise tires obviously spec'ed by the marketing department for their looks, because they sucked in the dry, and were only marginal in rain, snow, and mud. (yes, my Exploder does slog through the occasional quagmire now and then) The replacement Michelin X Radial LT's now on it are much improved in all ways, even though they have a highway tread.
This was not the first set of Firestones I had a problem with. The Splash suspended Ranger Supercab I had before the Exploder came with Firestone FTX 235/60-15's. I went through 2 pair of rears, both of which after about 35,000 miles developed circumferential cracks on both inner and outer sidewalls at the tread joint. Sound familiar? I used this truck as my tow vehicle, and it was typicaly rather heavily loaded in the back, with a lot of torque applied to the tires. The front pair lasted 70,000 miles. After the 2nd pair of rears did the same weird thing with he cracks, When it was time for a full set, off to the BFG store I went for Radial T/A's.
Also as an FYI, an Explorer of this vintage has a number of suspension band-aids over a Ranger, including additional longitudinal damping, and trailing arms added to the oxcart leafs and shocks rear.
And to get little more on Hoosier topics, can they get the 4's out of the molds now? I heard that was the biggest problem.
Personally I don't know what was wrong with it but I'll bet Ford does, they recalled and corrected it in I believe South Africa. Same issue NOT Firestone tires, remember more people have died on Goodyears then Firestone Wilderness A/T's
Yes people did under inflate their tires because Ford told them to. Ford set the pressure low on the placard for "improved" ride quality but they forgot that once set the clueless masses will never check their pressures again.
Other interesting data points
Any court case where a Lawyer attempts to introduce evidence that Ford could be at fault is immediately settled out of court for an "undisclosed" sum.
No other vehicle has the same problem even with underinflatted tires.
It probably doesn't take much suspension engineering to figure out where the roll centers are on an explorer, then calculate some spring rates, then figure in the tire as a spring, and I bet you start to see what makes the Explorer problematic.
While many (most) manufacturers do have live axle trucks, not all of them are going to use control arms in teh same places, same spring rates, etc.