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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:
53,899 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

problem #18

Jun 072008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 93,000 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

problem #5

Mar 042006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
: the contact stated while the vehicle was parked the contact attempted to put the vehicle shifter into the drive position however, the steering column completely fell apart. The vehicle was driven home and then to an independent repair shop and repairs have been made.

- Oakley, CA, USA

problem #4

Feb 142006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Backed my 2002 Ford Explorer out of the garage and put it in park for a moment and went to put the car in drive and the gear shifter broke off. The steering column had to be dismantled to allow for towing and mechanic having trouble getting the parts to fix it.

- Jefferson, MD, USA

problem #3

Apr 112005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,666 miles
Began backing out of garage but noticed "door ajar" light on; a frequent occurrence in this car, and light doesn't indicate which door is the problem. So, finished backing car out of garage and parked it in driveway, placing car in park and applying emergency brake. Left car running. Exited car, left driver door open, and had some time to stand, turn around and look at back door behind driver's side first. Determined it was closed by visual check. Began to move toward rear of car to check hatch next (hatch problematic; had it fixed after bought the car then it was just recently recalled again. But much to my shock the car slipped out of park and ran over me. Tried to dive out of way; car ran over me at both knees. Suffered crush injury. Had car examined; forensic specialist thought it was a design flaw with lots of gap in steering column between reverse and park and some play in where it would groove in.

- Centennial, CO, USA

problem #2

Jan 102005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Steering column broke while driving. Consumer applied the brakes, and the pedal went to the floor. Consumer lost control of the vehicle, and it crashed into a guard rail. Upon impact, both air bags failed to deploy. Driver sustained minor injuries, and went to the doctor on her own. Vehicle was towed, and totaled out by the insurance company.

- Centereach, NY, USA

problem #1

Dec 232004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles
When shifting from drive to park column shift lever would get stuck. Upon a stalling, , when shifting from drive into park to restart the car, column shift lever broke off resulting in being unable use the vehicle while in a parking lot at night with small children in the car. Vehicle towed to dealer, where we were told the whole steering column needed to be replaced at an estimate of $747 for a three year old vehicle.

- Huffman, TX, USA

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