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:
109,492 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 7 of 9)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #43

Jan 022009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 143,000 miles


The same thing happened to me. My wife was putting it in park and what the hell the gear shift lever fell off. I have never heard of that before and I have been a mech for 40 years. The problem is it's made out of cheap pot aluminum and the hole with the spring in it was not centered when it was drilled. So it is thin on one side and thicker on the other. I can't believe it*))&$#E(&^(*_. Never if my life... You should see the funky way this is engineered. And as you found out you have to buy the whole steering column to replace this piece called the plunger. That's what breaks"The Plunger". They could have easily made it so the plunger is held in by four screws and splits in half for replacement. I am lucky I work in a shipyard because the machinist saw it and made me a new piece out of a solid , that's right"SOLID" piece of aluminum and I am just fine tuning it now. It's beautiful and you can get the old one out despite what ford says. Good Luck and pray....Anyone want a new piece made?????

- , Seattle, WA, USA

problem #42

Dec 222008

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

The shifter plunger on the steering column broke and you have to buy the whole steering column to replace this cheap little piece of S*$$(*&T. What a piece of crap made of the cheapest pot metal aluminum I have seen in 25 years of being a Boilermaker/Welder.

I could have designed this so it would come off the side with a couple of screws to take half off to get to the plunger. I got it off but it won't weld because of the cheap metal. I tried tigging it twice and it broke in a different place both times so now I have to buy a whole steering column because nobody will sell just the plunger. No wonder no body wants to buy an American car anymore and that's why they are going broke. You get ZIP for support from dealers and Ford. Remember when we used to say Jap-Crap well they fixed it but we are so arrogant we don't admit the Japanese are humble enough to fix their problem. America better wake up.

Got it fixed by making a new piece from a block of aluminum. Machinests make good friends sometimes.

Terry can you send me your phone number and I can call you on my cell. Your email did not go through

for some reason??????

- , Seattle, WA, USA

problem #41

Dec 212008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

My Explorer has broke down again. This time the gear shift lever fell off . I had parked the explorer and was getting out of the truck when I heard a snap, after getting back in I grabbed the gear shift lever and it was just hanging by the boot that covers the ignition switch. I have had it with ford!!!! I have had 5 Ford Vehicles since 1992 but this is the last one. I have spent over $4000.00 on several repairs. Enough is Enough never again! American car makers wonder why they have a hard time selling cars well this complaint is just another one they just tun a blind eye to. At first glance it looks like cheap metal and or bad casting.

- , Warren, MI, USA

problem #40

Jan 152009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles


This is the vehicle my wife uses to take two of our three children to school. The third attends developmental play groups two days a week. I bought what I believed to be a reliable and safe vehicle. Luckily I was the one on the coldest day of the year in Chicago leaving home when the gear shifter just broke off. I can imagine how pissed she would have been if it had been her with the kids when it had happened. I work a swing shift and we are now borrowing cars from relatives so the kids can get around while I try to scrape up the $900 that the dealer said it will cost (the dealer actually had the cheapest price). Thanks Ford.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #39

Jan 012009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Today I tried to put my car in Park and the gear shift snapped off. I wasn't trying to jam it in Park, just simply tried to put it in Park. After reading all the other complaints, I am wondering if it is worth the time to type this out, but here goes! I NEED A BAILOUT!!!!!!!!!!! Can the government help me pay for this approximately $1200? Or maybe Ford could simply do a recall and help us all out! We pay alot of money each month on a car payment for 5 years and when that's just about up, the gear shift breaks off. What can I do? I sure don't have that kind of money laying around especially just after Christmas. So please if anyone from Ford Motor Company reads this. HOW ABOUT A BAILOUT FOR YOUR LOYAL CUSTOMERS!!!!!!! I really love my Explorer, but I'm not sure I would buy another Ford if there is nothing they will do to help in this matter. I really don't like to complain but, what can I say? This wasn't my fault at all!

- , Mineral Springs, PA, USA

problem #38

Dec 202008

Explorer Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

My graduate student son, his wife and three kids were borrowing my vehicle over Xmas holiday to visit his in-laws. When returning from a party and pulling into in-law's driveway, he stopped vehicle and tried to put into park. The gearshifter broke off inside the column. The car was stuck in neutral. He couldn't find a dealer who could work on it before Christmas so he had it towed 90 miles back to our hometown's dealer. They quoted me nearly $800 for a new steering column and another $550 for labor. They insisted that it could not be repaired without replacing the entire column. I then had towed to another mechanic who is a little more reasonable. Am trying to get official Ford steering column through a discount online for $523 which should reduce entire repair by $500.

This is not the result of abuse or misuse. It is a poor design with poor quality parts. There is no reason that the column could not have been designed to tolerate a break in the shifter stick and its replacement only. Ford should take care of this kind of problem. I have had a relatively good track record with this vehicle until this unexpected problem. Because it renders the car inoperable, it is a major pain in the neck. I am a real estate lawyer and represent a home building company in California. We are liable for latent defects in a house for 10 years after its sale. It is pathetic that a car manufacturer can avoid responsibility for this kind of design and materials defect.

- , Alhambra, CA, USA

problem #37

Dec 012008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles


"Ford Tough"??? I got 4 kids (6),(4),(3),(2mo) my 2 oldest are in school. My wife just started back to work today.(new baby and all) And yes we drive a ford, not because we always dreamed about it as kids or because they are so"Tough" but because we are regular working people, like most of you just getting by.and by that I mean we don't fly corporate jets or anything. So on my day off I gotta drop off & pick up the two oldest kids at school. As im leaving to pick them up 10 minutes early so I can good parking spot. the key will not turn, the steering wheel locks up and the gear shifter breaks off in my hand. "Tough" right. I have my 3 year old & my infant in car seats.and (15 long minutes later )my 6 and 4 year old standing in front of the school. With dad no where to be found. "Tough"

Anyway I figured it out. (not the truck) Just the picking up of the kids part. So I stumble across (not surprised) more than a few people with similar problems .Oh yeah the high quality and brilliantly designed cheap piece of plastic below the back window is cracked just like yours (or is that just on mine? yeah right.) and the hinge thing also will not stay up (i use a piece of lumber how about you). my passenger side window made a cracking noise from inside the door and quit working (?) a while back. I replaced my transmission. because It goes into 4wd low on the highway(which I dont think is safe but what do I know)

With Ford making such high end pieces of "Tough" I think the reason they need a government bail out is that their high quality vehicles are just so ...well..."Tough" (or is that what they are on the vehicle owners). GO FORD ??????

- , Denver, CO, USA

problem #36

Dec 012008

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

We are LIVID! This truck has been nothing but trouble since we bought it new. I will NEVER buy another Ford! I hope we can unload this pretty fast! It was a paid-off vehicle that we used when our Hybrid was gone (we have a teenager), and when we didn't want to use our 4 WD Suburban (trip vehicle). Now the Ford is the biggest problem we own. GRRRRRRR.

- , Longmont, CO, USA

problem #35

Nov 212008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

The gear shifter on my 2002 Explorer (AT) completely broke while it was in park. It's sad that the little round aluminum piecing was made to hold the assembly together and that the only way to fix it is to replace the entire steering column costing the average hard earned american $1200. Just when things cant get any worse, this happens. I dont know about you but I dont have an $1200 just lying around. My vehicle is my lifeline and without it, life will be tough, its a damn shame what these automakers are doing, maybe not intentionally, but this kind of problem should not be overlooked.

- , Hurricane, WV, USA

problem #34

Oct 302008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles

Just snapped off when parking and going from Drive into Park. Well, it never got to Park, ended up in reverse. Had to tow it for $70.00, dealer charging $1300 for a new column. They never heard about that problem before, but I see 23 other complaints on here about it so I can't believe they 'want to know' about all the problems. ABsolutely ridiculous design, less than an 1/8" cast aluminum part snaps and ends up costing that much money!!!

- , Carrollton, TX, US

problem #33

May 062006

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,268 miles


Big PITA!!!!!! I was leaving the house and the vehicle was in the driveway. I went to take it out of Park to go to reverse and the gear shift broke. Could not get it out of PARK. We had a very, very, very, very hard time trying to find a USED STEERING COLUMN to replace the one that was in the vehicle. THANK GOD - my husband is a mechanic but it took him just about all day to remove the old one and put the used one in.

- , Galway, NY, USA

problem #32

Oct 222008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,040 miles

YET ONCE AGAIN----as you can see from my complaint in 2006---luckily I have gotten ALMOST 2 years out of a USED STEERING COLUMN. This time I was on the side of the road and I went to put the car in PARK from REVERSE and the gear shift broke off in my F'in hand!!!! WTF!!!!! this is the SECOND TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED SINCE I HAVE OWNED THE VEHICLE!!!!!! THANK GOD----my husband was right there to try and get it into park......YES I AM DRIVING THE VEHICLE AND SHIFTING IT WITH MY FINGERS.....NOT VERY EASY WHEN TRYING TO GET IT OUT OF PARK BUT WHAT THE HELL......I don't have a spare vehicle and this day in one has any extra money to do anything with this SUCKY I am stuck shifting with my hand.

otherwise than that--it has been running fine.

- , Galway, NY, USA

problem #31

Oct 202008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

Holly s$&t!!!! I pull into my mom's driveway to pick up my kids and the gear shift falls off!!!! I thought I was in a bad dream, a dream that quickly became a nightmare!!!! I realized I couldn't get my keys out, couldn't get the car in park, and couldn't stop tha freaking dinging noise when I opened the door. What a piece of crap! I love the car and talked to a couple of people who had similar experiences. Well kinda, their actual shifter broke and it cost 200.00 bucks. Not me! I need a whole new column and it is going to be 1200.00 clams!!!!!! Buy American? My wife's Honda is older and in way better shape! What's the expression? Burn me once......burn me twice....... you get the picture!

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #30

Oct 232008

Explorer XLT SUV 4D V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 138,000 miles

I was on the way to run some errands with my son and when I put the car in reverse, the handle came off in my hand. Now to some this may not seem like much but two weeks ago, I received the title to this car after paying for it for 6 years.

I have been off work since March of 08', due to breast cancer. Our only income, is my husbands. We had just purchased a home, after 4 years of looking, a year ago in May. Our house is now on "Special Forbearance" and we had just emptied our savings account, trying to bring our house note current. My son is a Senior in high school with many "Senior Fees" and we are looking into college, with no scholarships. Because of the amount suggested, that have been stated in these complaints, I know that we don't have the monies to fix this. Our other vehicle is a 1987 Toyota Supra Turbo. It's on it's last leg! I was do to go back to work, part-time on Monday, now I don't have the transportation to go back.

It was suggested, by a mechanic, not working for Ford, that we go to the salvage yard, purchase a used column and he'll replace ours for a minimal fee. I am afraid to do this because, if this is truly something that is in need of a recall, than what guarantee do I have that the salvaged one won't break? Is there a guarantee when you have it fixed at Ford?

I have given all of my personal information simply to impress upon the Ford people, how much this problem can and has effected everyday peoples' lives. It may be only 19 complaints to them but to each and every person who has filled this out, it has altered their life financially, physically and mentally.

Ford should honor their product, even if it's no longer under warranty. I am convinced that there are many others out there, who have no idea about this site but have experienced similar problems with their gear shifts.

- , Cedar Hill, TX, USA

problem #29

Oct 122008

Explorer 2wd. Limited Edition 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,698 miles

This issue has completely shocked me, due to the fact that i just recently had to have my complete transmission replaced at a cost of $4800.00, only 4000 miles ago. Along with the recent Timing set, I replaced a month ago , at a cost of $700. I cannot stand the thought of how much this is gonna cost for me to try to fix myself, to then get only 8 total miles per gallon...

- , Ontario, CA, USA

problem #28

Sep 302008

Explorer XLT

  • Manual transmission
  • 87,000 miles

On my way back to work from lunch, tried to put the car in reverse. The shifter didn't seem to hit the right groove, so I put in in park, and tried again. The shifter fell off in my hand!!!! After reading what the rest of you have to say about the cost of repair, I'm not expecting good news from the dealership.... I'll report back with how it goes. If Ford doesn't step up to the plate and pay for this repair, I'm going to raise a huge fuss. I'll let y'all know what I find works - or doesn't.

- , Gastonia, NC, USA

problem #27

Sep 242008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,300 miles

I was on my way to an important appointment. When I tried to put the car in reverse, the gear shift handle snapped off. It just dangled. Then I couldn't get the key out of the ignition. To make matters worse, the first tow truck driver that Triple AAA sent to tow my car was inexperienced. He spent over 40 minutes trying to hook up my car. Then Triple AAA sent another tow truck driver and within 10 minutes my car was on its way to the Ford dealer.

Not only is the repair going to cost me two arms and two legs ($1200.00), the dealer has to ship the part in from the continent US - I live in Hawaii - so I will be without a car for over 5 days.

I really like my Explorer, but this is my 4th Ford and I'm moving on to a non-domestic car VERY soon - just so tired of fixing it all the time.

- , Aiea, HI, USA

problem #26

Sep 052008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

only 50000 miles without heavy usage. i pulled up to the gas pump and it got stuck trying to put it into park. couldn't remove key or put it in gear, when i tried to jiggle the gear shift lever the lever broke off in my hand, hanging by the wires only. i had to have the car towed to mechanic and rent a car to use. The entire steering column has to be replaced at an estimated cost of over $1200.00, 775.00 for parts alone.

- , Key West, FL, USA

problem #25

Jul 242008

Explorer LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

The Steering lever broke off....does that happen with wear and tear? I don't think so, never heard that happen before. Anyways, it's going to cost over $900 which is crazy. Wow. I guess this is why people complain about american cars.

- , Ply, MI, USA

problem #24

Jul 092008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,000 miles

Getting ready to leave the Doctor office- car turned over nicely and then IT happened when I pulled back on the gear shift to attempted put the car into reverse- the Damn thing came off in my hand--hanging from the few wires of the cruise control like an umbilical cord--what the---?? And all I could do is smile....and say life could be worse, like when the thing is paid of...NEXT MONTH!!!!!!!!!!

Had it towed to a friends shop and this was first for him!! He installed a used column and $350.00 later, she was mine again...:)

- , Holland, MI, USA

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