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Ford explorer overdrive light flashing – Causes, how to fix, and cost?

Got the overdrive light flashing on your Ford Explorer and don’t know what to do? Want to diagnose the problem but don’t know where to start?

The overdrive flashing light is a common problem for Ford Explorer’s owners. I’m here to help you get to the bottom of what may be causing this.

But before that, let’s go over what the flashing overdrive light means. Is it dangerous to drive with the “O/D off” light blinking?

Overdrive light flashing – What does that mean?

Overdrive shifts a car into a gear ratio higher than what it is already in. It is the highest gear in a transmission, allowing the vehicle to maintain a steady speed while reducing engine RPMs, increasing the fuel economy.

There’re 3 situations with the “O/D off” light that you may encounter:

  • “O/D off” light is flashing: something is wrong with the car’s transmission. The overdrive function is disabled, and you can no longer shift to the highest gear.
  • “O/D off” light is on: you’re not driving in overdrive
  • “O/D off” light is off: you’re driving in the highest gear

Here is what you can do if you’ve got a flashing overdrive light on your Ford Explorer:

  1. Check the transmission fluid
  2. Use an OBD2 scan tool 
common causes for ford explorer overdrive light flashing

Check the transmission fluidA common cause for the flashing overdrive light

Low transmission fluid

Low transmission fluid is a common cause for the flashing “O/D off” light. And that’s the first thing you need to check.

How to fix?

Just top up your vehicle with transmission fluid! Here’s how you can check and add the transmission fluid yourself!

However, watch out for leakages! No matter how much fluid you fill in, if there’s a leak, the fluid will drain out anyway.

When you see a small puddle of reddish fluid (smell sweet or tart smell) underneath your car, that’s a transmission leak!

To locate a leak, there are many things that need to be inspected, but the most common spots are:

  • The pan gasket
  • Loose bolts around it

Loose bolts from an earlier transmission fluid change can cause leakages. Make sure to tighten the bolts on the pan gasket.

You may find that the bolts are tight. In that case, there might be a crack in the gasket that requires replacement.

Large cracks would require replacing the gasket. It’s actually quite easy to do, you totally can replace the pan gasket at home and save some money. Here’s how:

You can fix minor leaks in the gasket by using transmission stop leak fluid. It is a great solution to help seal up minor leaks in a transmission system. 

Bar's Leaks 1416
Bar's Leaks 1416 Super Transmission Fix
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Simply pour the transmission stop leak fluid in the transmission and drive your vehicle as you would. It should take about 200 miles for the leak to stop.

How much does it cost?

 DIYRepair shop
Fill up transmission fluid$40 – $90$80 to $150
Use transmission stop leak fluid (additional cost)$10 - $12$10 - $12
Replace pan gasket$20 - $45$150

Contaminated transmission fluid

If the transmission fluid is OK, the next thing you want to check is its color.

Following the instruction of the video above, you can also check for the transmission fluid color. There are 3 basic transmission fluid colors you’ll get:

Bright red (on the right of the picture): the fluid is good. The problems causing the flashing “O/D off” must be something else. At this point, a transmission OBD2 scanner is a must to diagnose the issue.

Dark red (in the middle): you need to change the fluid.

Brown or black (on the left): at this point, something bad might already happen to your transmission system. A complete transmission flush is the first option (very risky, you should let a mechanic decide if your car needs that or not).

Replacing the oil filter is another common solution. But if it doesn’t stop the symptoms (very likely to happen when the fluid is completely black), you need to rebuild the whole transmission.

tranmission fluid color
The darker the fluid, the more money you’re gonna pay.

How much does it cost?

Transmission fluid colorSolutionsCost (labor included)
Dark redTransmission fluid change$80 - $250
BrownTransmission flush$100 - $200
BrownOil filter replacement$250 - $340
Brown, blackTransmission rebuild$1,200 - $5,000

OBD2 scanner – Best treatment for the flashing overdrive light

If there is no issue with transmission fluid, then you may have a bigger problem.

Now, it’s time for an OBD2 scanner to enter the game. This device will show the Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC), which tells you the issues causing the flashing overdrive light.

Bad news, a cheap OBD2 scanner can only pull codes from the engine module. However, the flashing “O/D off” light indicates problems with the transmission system. So, you will need a scanner that is able to access data from the transmission module. Of course, this kind of tool will be a little bit more expensive. But compared to the amount of money this tool helps you to save, it’s never a bad option.

Here’s my recommendation for OBD2 scanners that read transmission codes in all Ford vehicles.

How to use an OBD2 scan tool on your Ford Explorer (or any other cars)

If this is the first time you’ve seen this tool, don’t worry. It’s much easier than using an iPhone for the first time.

Most common DTCs causing flashing overdrive light

There are hundreds of transmission DTCs you may encounter. In this specific case, you should expect to receive one (or sometimes more) of the DTCs in the list below.

P0218: This refers to an overheated transmission system. However, if the transmission fluid is okay, there must be an issue with the temperature sensor.

P0613: There is something wrong within the circuitry or the Transmission Control Module (TCM) processor. A mechanic should fix this in no time. But it’s gonna be quite expensive.

P0614: The Engine Control Module (ECM) and TCM are incompatible with each other. It could perhaps be due to a recent change in any of these components resulting in incompatibility issues.

P0700: The most common cause for this code is a faulty TCM. The check engine light will also come on when you receive this code.

P0706: An issue with the transmission range sensor will bring up this code.

P0715: This can be a corroded wire or may require input speed sensor replacement.

P0720: Your speedometer reads the speed using speed sensors. It lets the TCM know how fast the input shaft is moving. If you’re having a boggy speedometer, you may see this code. It’s time for an output speed sensor replacement.

P0729-P0736: This range of codes that report the same error: gear issues. The different code represents the gears having the problem. Usually, a simple transmission fluid top-up should fix this issue. However, if you still see these codes, there may be an issue with the torque converter. You may also see this code in junction with other codes. It can point to a corroded solenoid that helps regulate the torque converter clutch.

P0750-P0770: The TCM lets the transmission know when to shift gears by opening up solenoids. Doing so allows the transmission fluid to pass into the gear. You may see these codes in tandem with other P codes. It could be a solenoid failure. In such circumstances, your gear may not work.

>>Read on to know how much these DTCs can possibly cost you.

Things you need to know before bringing your car to a repair shop 

Call Ford directly

It is always better to have your vehicle’s parts repair and replacement covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. 

Usually, the warranty is a combination of these two, whichever expires first:

  1. Ownership period
  2. Mileage

If you’ve still got a warranty on your vehicle, then it shouldn’t be an issue.

Don’t worry if your warranty has expired. Ford Explorers manufactured in the early 2000s have had issues with transmission and Ford knows about it. 

It is best to call Ford up, talk about the issue you’re facing, and insist on getting a free repair

My article should give you enough insights into the potential problems you might be facing. It will help in describing your dilemma to the Ford representative.

Explaining your vehicle problem to a representative might result in either of the two:

  1. Get your vehicle repaired for free
  2. Pay for the repairs

My experience in the automobile industry recommends being firm. Repairs can be expensive and you need to hustle to save yourself some money.

If the Ford representative tells you that they can’t help you with free repairs, ask to speak to a manager. There is no harm in trying with someone at a senior position. Perhaps they may have the authority to help you out on this.

Sometimes you might not be so lucky and would need to carry the repairs at your own cost. In this case, avoid local dealerships as they are expensive (really expensive!).

Do your research on the best reputable local mechanic and head down there for repairs. 

How much does it cost?

If you can’t negotiate with the Ford dealer, the table below shows the estimated costs when you bring the car to the local repair shop.

Usually, one code may have different causes, and of course, different solutions. So, in the below table, it’s not 100% these solutions are musts; there may be others. But as a mechanic, I would say they are common fixes for these codes.  

CodesCost (labor included)
P0218Replace transmission temperature sensor: $230 - $310
Replace faulty TCM: $500 - $900
P0613Replace faulty TCM: $500 - $900
P0614Replace faulty ECM: $900 - $2,000
Replace faulty TCM: $500 - $900
P0700Repair valve body: $320 - $900
Replace TCM: $500 - $900
Replace transmission: $1,200 - $5,000
Replace solenoid: $150 - $400 (Single unit)
P0706Replace transmission range sensor: $249 - $285
Replace PCM (Rare): $500 - $1,500
P0715Replace transmission speed sensor: $800 - $1,000
Replace transmission valve body: $400 - $850
Replace solenoids:$150 - $400 (Single unit)
P0720Replace transmission speed sensor: $800 - $1,000
Replace PCM: $500 - $1,500
P0729-P0736Replace valve body: $320 - $900
Replace TCM: $500 - $900
Replace transmission: $1,200 - $5,000
Replace solenoids: $150 - $400 (Single unit)
P0750-P0770Replace solenoids: $150 - $400 (Single unit)
Replace transmission fluid: $80 - $250

Conclusion

A flashing overdrive is a common problem in Explorers. It’s surprising that Ford realizes the issue with their Explorers and has not had any recalls.

Do NOT ignore the flashing “O/D off” light. Leaving the problem unattended can become serious later which can then cost thousands of dollars in repairs.

Restrict your driving when the overdrive light starts flashing until necessary repairs are carried out. 

And as always, don’t forget to leave a comment below if you receive any transmission fault code. I’m here to help!

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