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CarComplaints.com Notes: The 2002 Ford Explorer is hands-down our worst vehicle on record. "Avoid like the plague" is putting it lightly.

The 2002-2005 Explorer has a very well-established record of expensive transmission failure at under 100k miles. The Explorer has an enclosed transmission which is typically replaced with a rebuilt transmission at a cost of almost $3,000.

Another common problem for the 2002-2003 Explorer is wheel bearing failure at around 90k miles, with a typical repair bill of $500 to $1000 depending on how many wheel bearings failed.

Adding insult to injury, the 2002-2005 Explorer also has a massive problem with the rear panel cracking. While it's a minor annoyance compared to transmission failure, ironically the crack usually goes right through the Ford logo.

10.0

really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
58,443 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2002 Ford Explorer steering problems

steering problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #25

May 152011

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,957 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while shifting into park, the gear shifter fractured. The contact was unable to maneuver the shifter so the contact towed the vehicle to the dealer where the dealer replaced the entire steering column. The failure mileage was 151,957. Updated 11/03/11 the consumer stated the shift lever broke off. The dealer stated the steering column where the shifter attached and ignition lock cylinder came apart. The steering column had to be replaced. Updated 03/08/12

- Carlsbad, CA, USA

problem #24

Oct 112010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer eddie bauer. While driving in reverse 5 mph the gear shift came apart from the column and fell in his lap while the engine was running. The vehicle was towed to the dealer who stated that it would cost $1,500 to replace the steering column. There were no warranties related to the failure. The VIN was unavailable. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 77,000. Updated 02/07/11 updated 04/20/11

- Boise, ID, USA

problem #23

Feb 102010

Explorer

  • 89,930 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while shifting into reverse, the gear shift broke off. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealership where the dealer repaired the steering column. The current and failure mileages were 89,930.

- West Chester, CA, USA

problem #22

Apr 152010

Explorer

  • 92,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The vehicle was parked when the gear shift suddenly broke off in the contacts hand and the vehicle became stuck between park and reverse. The vehicle was towed to his residence. The dealer informed the contact that the gear shift lever replacement kit would repair the failure or the steering column would have to be replaced. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic who confirmed that the steering column needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was notified and did not offer any assistance. The vehicle had not been repaired when the complaint was filed. The VIN was not available. The current and failure mileages were approximately 92,000.

- Santa Barbara, CA, USA

problem #21

Nov 042009

Explorer

  • miles
2002 Ford Explorer ball crank broke the consumer stated the ball crank broke when he attempted to shift from park to reverse. The consumer's mechanic made numerous calls in search of the part needed, only to discover the entire steering column had to be purchased at a cost of $1,395.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #20

Oct 062009

Explorer

  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. When he attempted to turn the ignition switch, the steering column fractured. Secondly, the rear lift-gates panel split in half. Thirdly, the transmission intermittently slipped out of gear. None of the failures have been remedied. He previously filed a complaint. The failure and current mileages were 80,000.

- Dover, OH, USA

problem #19

May 062009

Explorer

  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

2002 Ford Explorer gear shift lever broke when attempting to place truck in gear. I have heard through blogs that this is now becoming a common problem. My truck was placed in park with emergency brake on prior to shifting the lever into park, when I attempted to put the truck in reverse the lever snapped and I was unable to move the truck nor remove the key from the ignition. The tow truck driver showed me how to place the truck in drive manually underneath the truck in order to move the vehicle. This is not safe considering the fact that one is underneath a running vehicle and the probablity of being ran over is high. I would like to know if Ford is being pressured in recalling this part considering the fact that the piece that breaks is not sold individual, the customer is obligated to buy a complete steering column just to obtain the piece that breaks.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #18

Jun 072008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 93,000 miles
My steering column shifter broke while trying to put the vehicle in park. It was stuck in reverse so I had to take the column apart and figure how to change gears and get my keys out. Found out this has happened to numerous people with this steering column/gear shift. Why make two things that have nothing to do with each other be together on the same hardware is beyond me. This part should've been bolted on so it can be replaced easily.

- Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #17

Apr 102008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,182 miles
I went to put my 2002 Ford Explorer into park and the gear shift broke off. I had to call a wrecker and had the vehicle towed to my mechanic. The total cost was $1100 because the entire steering column had to be replaced. This appears to be a defect in the metal based on the broken part and also poor design that you have to replace the entire steering column for.

- Arvada, CO, USA

problem #16

Aug 222007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles
Shifter broke from the steering column when my truck was in park and I went to put it in reverse and it snapped. After only six months and one week it happened again on 03-04-2008.

- Hoover, AL, USA

problem #15

Dec 042007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

I was leaving work..cranked my car and went to shift from park into reverse and the gear shift leaver "broke" loose from the steering column. It was just "flopping around". I called my dealership and they sent a tow truck since I couldn't shift into gear and drive it. I also could not get the key from the ignition since the car couldn't tell it was in park. The tow truck driver said in 20 years he had never seen anything like it. This morning the service department at my dealership said "you sure exerted a lot of force on the shift handle because you broke the steering column". I exerted no force...it was very easy. And my comment to the service coordinator was "I'm a 60 year old woman...I couldn't possible exert enough force to break the steering column!". they are now telling me it will cost in excess of $1700 to fix it and they can't tell me how long it will take because "we don't stock steering columns, and since you used enough force to break it, we have to have one shipped in. When we know how long it will take to get the part, we'll tell you when you can get your car back."

- Raymnd, MS, USA

problem #14

Sep 242007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,296 miles
My wife was starting the vehicle and attempted to shift into drive when the gear shifter broke off. Had vehicle towed to repair shop where mechanic stated that he had never seen this before. He attempted to find parts but Ford had no parts nationwide to repair due to change in manufacturers. Must have been a defect with the original manufacturer which forced them to find a new manufacturer for this part. Had to replace entire steering column assembly. Took over 1 month to get part and cost over $900 to repair.

- Fresno, CA, USA

problem #13

Oct 022007

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Gear shift mechanisms broke apart and seperated from the steering column leaving the vehicle in park position. Towed to dealer. Part not available for 1 month. Previously had vehicle to dealer stating there was a noise emanating form the steering column. Could not find anything. Am told the part is $700 + and $200+ to install. My contention is this was a faulty part. If this happened while driving, it could have deployed the air bag causing a serious accident. Even the dealer has never heard of the mechanisms breaking apart as this one did.

- Mariposa, CA, USA

problem #12

Jun 252007

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,310 miles
Gear shift broke while engine was running and vehicle was in park. Key could not be removed. Could this occur while vehicle is moving? replacement of entire gear shift was required. Old gear shift assembly has been kept for future reference.

- Pittsgrove, NJ, USA

problem #11

Jun 112007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,527 miles
My wife was going to work on 6/12/07 when she arrived in the parking lot. She went to put the vehicle into park when the column shifter broke off in her hands. She was not able to take the key out of the ignition. I dismantled the steering column and found that a metal piece had sheered off that attaches the shift lever to the upper steering column. This piece of metal is made out of pot metal and is of a poor quality design. The truck is sitting in my driveway as we do not have $500 to buy another steering column. This poses a safety risk in the fact that a parent could get stranded with kids and could put them in danger by not allowing the key to be removed.

- Newport News, VA, USA

problem #10

Jan 202007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles
The middle panel under the glass in the back of the car has cracked. I suspect it was due to cold weather. I have since seen other Explorer with this problem and notice that there are a lot of complaints online about this. In addition, this past summer my shifter snapped off the barrel. I had 4 kids in the car at the time. Ford responded by telling me that I had 75K miles and no warranty and I didn't typically get my car serviced there so they weren't going to be willing to "work with me" to get it resolved. When I told him I had my 'regular' mechanic look at it he said that the labor rate was probably cheaper with him than at Ford. Well - now tell me why I would service my car at a Ford dealership? oh yeah...in case I get cracks or shifters fall off and maybe they'll 'work with me' on the price. Big incentive. Oh yeah, my fuel gauge doesn't work - another common problem. My previous Explorer (about 10 years back) had the same problem. The guy up the street has an Explorer (2003) and it doesn't work either.

- Hampstead, NH, USA

problem #9

Jul 302006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
: the contact stated the steering column handle fractured and detached. Before it fractured, the steering handle seemed to have a clicking sound in it. This incident occurred when the vehicle was nearly parked therefore the contact was able to avoid any accidents. The steering handle was replaced. Updated 09/13/06.

- Chelsea, MA, USA

problem #8

Feb 142006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Steering column jammed twice. First time under the warranty, then 1 year later not covered by warranty. Father has same vehicle make and model year, he had two put in his also. Rear end went. Had to replace two axles already.

- Matawan, NJ, USA

problem #7

Jun 112005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,187 miles
: the contact stated the gear shift detached from the column while trying to put the vehicle in drive. There were no warning indicators prior to the problem. The vehicle was towed to the dealer who replaced the entire steering column. The manufacturer was also alerted of the problem. After the steering column was replaced the key would not fit in the ignition properly and the vehicle has been returned to the dealer for inspection today.

- Oakton, VA, USA

problem #6

May 182006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 72,010 miles
Tried to put the vehicle into reverse from park and the column shifter broke off. Vehicle could not be driven and was towed to a transmission business. Cost to repair is $1300. I bought this vehicle in 2004 used. I've had the rear transmission seals, shocks, tires, front window and the entire steering column replaced.

- Sunnyvale, CA, USA

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