Print this page 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.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
109,500 miles
Total Complaints:
163 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (67 reports)
  2. replace / rebuild entire steering column (54 reports)
  3. repair / replace shift lever (19 reports)
  4. rigged it so I could drive (4 reports)
  5. goodwill repair and upgrade manufacture of part (3 reports)
  6. new steering column (3 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 9)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #143

Dec 082011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 141,032 miles


FYI: I called the number to the Road & Safety Commission, listed on this website, and reported my complaint. They said this problem is under investigation. Be sure if you have this problem to do the same. If they get enough people it could lead to a recall. You can also go to their website. It is important that you have your VIN #

I was pulling out of a parking space and I no more than pulled the gear shift lever back and it broke off. I could not shift at all. I can't even imagine what could have happened if I was able to shift it. Would I be stuck in reverse? The keys got stuck in the ignition, too. I had to leave my car there over night, loaded with "stuff", because my son is in process of moving and I didn't have the option to move the stuff to another car. I wasn't too comfortable leaving it there overnight. I do not know how much this is going to cost or how long my car will be "out of commission" yet. I will keep you posted.

- Carla O., Fennville, MI, US

problem #142

Sep 142011

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

When I came out of work ( in the middle of the night) I found the battery was dead. No big deal. Called for a jump but we needed to back it out of space to reach. Tried to put it in neutral and push it that is when the geer shift just fell down and hung there. No way to drive it, no other car to drive, no way to get to work cause I dont live near city transport. Feel let down by Ford Company. I keet up on maintenance, watched for things that needed fixing so I could budget for it. There was no warning on this, and when I googled the issue it seems to be a very common issue with Ford. They should have recalled it and been honest. I won't buy one again.

- Gwen S., Buckeye Lake, OH, US

problem #141

Aug 152011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

I was backing out of my driveway, shifting from park to reverse when the shifter broke off in my hand. the gear was half way between park and reverse, I had to have the car flatbedded to the dealership. I complained to ford about this since it's A SAFTEY ISSUE, they said they never heard of such a thing happening I was told by ford there was nothing they can do. MY MESSAGE TO FORD MOTOR CO. PREVENT AN ACCIDENT HAPPENING -ISSUE A RECALL ON THIS PROBLEM !!!!!!!!

- Jason F., Levittown, NY, US

problem #140

Aug 132009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,234 miles


My wife broke it off and we had to have it towed to the hotel we were staying at. figured out i could shift it by reaching inside the hole and moving the cable and shifter with my fingers. I modified the old shift lever and installed. Works, but who should have to do this. My other option was to replace the entire steering column and just for the parts from ford was going to cost me $900.00.

- Thad S., Natoma, KS, US

problem #139

Jul 182011

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 155,000 miles

OK folks, sorry to say it has happened a 2nd time. Back in March 2007 I ended up with my gear shift lever in my hand and forked out $950 to get it fixed (new steering column was $550 of that). Last week my wife and I had just gone to dinner when it snapped off again. This time the steering column is running around $1200 which leaves me with a total bill of about $1800. Nobody I know has ever had a gear shift lever break off. The Ford people are absolutely worthless in explaining how this happens. I asked the people at the dealership if ANYONE OF THEM could look me in the eye and tell me $1800 was fair and reasonable to reattach the lever....and none of them could.

- rbradb, Orange, CA, US

problem #138

Mar 292007

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,700 miles

Had gone to the local hardware store. As I'm leaving I end up with my gear shift lever in my hand. Can't replace the broken part, got to replace the whole steering column. It basically cost me $950 to re-attach my shifting lever. The folks at Ford were ABSOLUTELY no help in explaining any of this.

- rbradb, Orange, CA, US

problem #137

Nov 012011

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles


This morning I was starting my car on my way to work, went to shift into R and the shifter just snapped in half!!!! I couldn't even get the car back into park (it is stuck in between P and R) or get my keys out! It is at the mechanic now but they can't even look at it until tomorrow...and tomorrow I close on my new house! How does ford expect me to buy a new steering column now! Guess I just have a giant paper weight!!!!!

- Michelle E., Keller, TX, US

problem #136

Jul 262011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

OMG... Was just out buying some groceries, returned to my 2002 Eddie Bauer Explorer, went to put the truck in gear and the handle broke off. Visually, it is exactly like the other pictures from the many other poor individuals with the same freakin problem. Am presently waiting to have vehicle towed but and hear from the dealership. Can't believe that this is going to involve total replacement on the steering column for a piece-of-sh!t die cast aluminum crap!! WHAT A CROCK OF SH*T!! Going to call Ford to vent but sure this will get me nowhere.

There needs to be a class action suit created. These corporate a$$-holes that make these cost cutting decisions at the expense of safety need to be hung-up by their toenails!!! BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- hercule08, South Bend, IN, US

problem #135

Jul 202011

Explorer XL 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,526 miles

pulled into the driveway shifted into park handle come off in my hand attached to a wire, looks like the cast metal seperated from the rest of the housing. of course its not the kind of metal that's meant to last a lifetime or at least more than 10 years. I agree with the other complaints it should be replaced by ford at no charge. things like this is why people make fun of ford you know "fixed or repaired daily". My grandpa swore by ford preferrred it over chevy he'd roll over in his grave at the cheesiness of the part. thanks for allowing me to vent

- llesllie1961, Hesperia, CA, US

problem #134

Jul 162011

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 183,000 miles

To everyone who has had this problem did you call anyone other that the dealer? I called the Ford Motor Corp. National Highway Traffic & Safety 1-800-424-9393,local attorney generals office, also the Federal Trade Commission 1-877-382-4357.

I was informed that there really hasnt been other reports or at least not please call both National Highway Traffic and Safety as well as the Federal Trade Commnission. I was informed if enough people take the time to call they MUST issue a recall and as long as we have our receipts they will have to reimburse us once the recall is put into PLEASE CALL

- dcorey, West Warwick, RI, US

problem #133

Jul 182011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles


We have a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT automatic with column gears shift and tonight as I was shifting into gear the handle snapped off in my hand. Looking at this site has convinced me that this is an inherent problem that Ford should be held accountable for. This seems to be a very common problem and one that needs to be dealt with as a "recall issue". What can we do to impress upon Ford that this matter needs to be addressed. Especially considering that there is apparently no reasonable or cost effective means of dealing with the problem. it is apparently very expensive to repair. This is a safety issue as well.

- mikeut, Park City, UT, US

problem #132

Jul 162011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,112 miles

It was early Saturday morning. I drove to my sister's house to pick her and the kids up to go to a family funeral. Our mother was waiting for us to pick her up from her home. After everyone was in the car, I proceeded to put my 2002 Ford Explorer into drive and that's when the damn gear shift broke! Just SNAPPED! Dangling! I was not only frustarted and mad, I was even more upset that this is yet another problem with this darn Explorer. Not to mention that of course we missed our cousin's funeral! Does anyone know how to make a formal complaint to FORD. This problem should be an official recall issue.

- Bill F., Philadelphia, PA, US

problem #131

May 282011

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,600 miles

2002 Ford Explorer. Ford wants to sell me a $1500 new steering column because they will not install a $10 item which is the cast metal rotating sleeve that transmits the torque from the automatic shift lever that pushes / pulls the cable that places the transmission in Park, Neutral, Drive, Reverse. The item is not steel but cheap cast so naturally the sleeve cylinder broke dropping the automatic shift lever in the floor. I had to take off the steering column cover and push and pull the cable manually to shift the transmission to get home. What a piece of crap. Ford dealer wants to install a new steering column because they do not sell the cast iron sleeve cylinder hooked to the automatic shift lever that works the cable to shift the automatic transmission. I decided to junk the truck. I reported this failure to the D.O.T. and hope that there will be a recall. It is a safety issue. And the transmission would slip out of park before this failure almost cutting my legs offf when the 2002 Ford Explorer rolled backward into another vehicle that I was standing in front of.

- saharafoxhunter, Edmond, OK, US

problem #130

Oct 112011

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles

Started to back out of the garage and shifter fell off in my hand. I looked on line and found out how to shift it in gear manually with my hand. So got on the phone with ford, man that was a joke they said I would have to buy a complete steering column for around $1500 plus labor, I told them It only needs the part that holds the shifter on they said it couldn't be done. I found the part that I need on e-bay for $40 dollars so I ordered it and when it comes in I'll try and put it on myself. Although I am having trouble getting the broken one out, they say on line that there is a snap ring on it but I can't find or see it. I don't need to be putting any more money in this lemon. Yea Lemon, four coil springs broke, 7 wheel bearings , four wheel drive modual, last year transmission all under 100000 miles , now this at 108000. Fords better idea is going to be sold when I get this fixed.

Update from Oct 20, 2011: I bought the part I needed on e-bay at a cost of $40. If you have any machanical ability what so ever you can replace this yourself. Take the bottom cover off from under the steering column, then there is 1 more screw holding the top piece on, take that off. Be careful with the small micro switches above the ignition and above the shifter arm, if you can't get your key out just gently pull the little lever down on the bottom switch next to your ignition and turn your key on and then off and it will come out. the orignial shifter piece needs some coaxing, I cut the ring on the end of the shaft with a pair of cutters then just pried it off the broken piece. I installed the part I got off e- bay, then I ran into a problem, I had to grind the piece that goes into the shifting part on the steering column to get the snap ring in place, really simple. The part I had to grind looks like a ring with a ball on the end of it, it will only go on one way so just grind about 1/8" of the side facing toward the bottom of the sterring column, slide it on the new piece put the snap ring on and make sure the snap ring is seated. Mine is working just fine, at a cost of only $40 not $1500 for what ford wanted. Any shade tree mechanic can do this.

- danb1950, Grandville, MI, US

problem #129

Jun 162011

Explorer XLS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,971 miles

I was shifting from Reverse to Park and the shift lever broke off completely, inside the steering column, and no, I was not using excessive force. The AAA tow truck driver told me that he had seen 3 recent cases where shift levers broke off on Explorers but he had never seen this on any other vehicles.

On top of this, last year I had to replace the transmission and it was not due to driver misuse.

- lanternholder, Oakland, CA, US

problem #128

Jul 022011

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,125 miles

Gear shift lever broke off while trying to shift. There are hundreds of people who reported the exact same problem. I have never seen anything like this before. Just the other day on craigslist a person from Tenn. with a 2002 explorer was trying to sell his because same thing just happened to him. How many of these go unreported! Ford should be forced to cover the cost of repair.

- Paul L., Cary, NC, US

problem #127

May 152011

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,957 miles

click to see larger images

gear shift lever fell off gear shift lever fell off gear shift lever fell off

Pulled into a parking lot and went to put the car in park. That's when the gear shift broke in my hand and just hung down attached only to a cable. Had car towed to a Ford dealer and the tow truck driver told me this was his second Explorer he has towed with a broken gear shift. It cost me $1,650.00 to fix!

- Steven B., Carlsbad, CA, US

problem #126

May 132011

Explorer XLT 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

After reading all the complaints I feel Ford should recall this problem. I had a full car of groceries and went to start the car and the shifter fell off and was hanging down. I had to be towed and found out this was not covered in my extended warrenty. I did not apply force to the shifter. Everyone should report so a recall would be enforced and we could be given back out money. This is not a normal car repair and could be dangerous.

- debo, Lakehills, TX, US

problem #125

Apr 222011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Ford Service wants $2000 to install new steering column. Ford doesn't sell just the part to repair the broken off gear shift, you have to replace the entire unit. RIDICULOUS! My SUV may be a 2002, but it only has 75,000 miles on it. THIS HAS TO BE A DEFECT! Ford, are you listening?

- juliehca, Petaluma, CA, US

problem #124

Apr 202011

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 148,000 miles

I was sitting in traffic waiting for a wreck to be cleared up. Had been sitting for over 30 minutes and was tired of holding the brake down so i went to put it in park. As I was shifting the shifter just broke off! Here I was stuck in the middle of traffic on a foggy morning with little visability and i couldn't moive the vehicle. I hoped that it was close enough to park that I could take my foot off the brake but whe I did it started to go backwards! i decided to turn the car off so i could get out of it and try to get help from other motorist before everyuone started moving again. They looked at me like I was crazy until he came and looked in my car. I called 911 and asked them what to do. I spoke to a deputy and he said he would be back after the other wreck was cleared up. When they let my side of the traffic move it was scarey!! Here were big semis trying to get past my car in the middle of the fog. I left the car in the road amd moved over to the far side of the road to stand! A truck driver finally stopped and blocked traffic, he was able to get it to go into neutral so it could be pushed off the road. Never did get to work! Got it towed to our mechanic and he wanted to know if Hulk had been driving. Said he had never seen that part break it was usally the pin. I know I was in hysterics and am still shaking. Traffic on that road is horrible in the mornings, visibilty was bad because of a brush fire and fog and everyone was pissed off cause we had already been sitting for over 30 minutes! It could have been much much worse!!!

This has to be investigated!!! Everything i have seen seems to be from 2002 to 2004. Tomorrow when i can go to the mechanics I am getting the vin number and filing an offical complaint with the goverment site. So does everyone else need to!!!

- Robin N., Okeechobee, FL, US

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