How to Tell If a Ford Explorer PCM Is Bad?

Written by richard ristow
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How to Tell If a Ford Explorer PCM Is Bad?
A bad PCM can activate your dash's check engine light. (Car dashboard image by Andrejs Pidjass from

A power train control module is part of a Ford's overall On-Board Diagnostic system. It is your Ford's central computer. If it ceases to function correctly, then your vehicle's overall OBD-II will not work. Your vehicle will still function, but it will not be able track engine and vehicle malfunctions as they occur. As a result, you will not be able to catch serious problems before they lead to fault, failure or breakdown. Checking the system requires the use of an OBD-II scanner. You will be able to tell very quickly whether the PCM is working or not.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • OBD-II scanner

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  1. 1

    Search through your OBD-II scanner's handbook for a list of generic OBD-II codes and their definitions. Mark the spot by either dog-earring the page or using a bookmark.

  2. 2

    Locate Ford's supplemental OBD-II codes online. Print out those codes. This is the quickest, lowest costing option. The Explorer's manual will neither have Ford's codes or the generic OBD-II codes. If you own a Haynes or Chilton's guide for your Explorer's year of manufacture, you will find the codes you need in the chapter that covers emissions.

  3. 3

    Read through both the generic and Ford OBD-II codes. Mark or highlight all the codes that deal with the PCM. These codes will be on both the generic and the Ford-specific lists.

  4. 4

    Open the Explorer's passenger-side door and place the materials into the navigator's seat. You will return to them later.

  5. 5

    Open the driver's side door and look under the dashboard and left of the steering column. There, you wind the OBD-II system's Data Link Connector. Connect your OBD-II scanner to this computer outlet.

  6. 6

    Turn on the Explorer's electrical system. Depending on your brand of OBD-II scanner, you may also have to turn the Explorer's engine on.

  7. 7

    Look at your scanner's read out. If codes have not been pulled from the system, ensure that your scanner has been switched on. Some brands of scanners can auto-activate and auto-retrieve codes. Enter in a code "scan" command,if your scanner is not preset to immediately do so.

  8. 8

    Look at the scanner again. If the codes have not been retrieved, then you have a serious problem with your PCM. Once the codes have been pulled from the system, pick up the materials you left in the navigator's seat. Compare the codes on the scanner with the ones your noted earlier. If there are no PCM related codes in the system, then the module is working.

  9. 9

    Take the Explorer to a mechanic should your find PCM related trouble codes. In the best case scenario, you may only need to have the PCM reprogrammed. Your worse case scenario involves paying for new module entirely.

Tips and warnings

  • A Haynes or Chilton's repair manual is always a good investment. Not only does the manual contain OBD-II codes, but it covers most repair and maintenance tasks in detail.
  • Your Explorer's owner's manual will not have OBD-II codes listed.

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