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
Crashes / Fires:
7 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
88,059 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 2 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #86

Nov 102012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 127,875 miles


I just purchased the vehicle in a private sale on 11/09/12 and on 11/10/12 went to shift from park into reverse on a flat surface and my shift lever broke off and I am not able to shift my vehicle.

- Front Royal, VA, USA

problem #85

Oct 222012


  • miles
On the afternoon of October 22nd 2012 my pregnant wife was leaving the speech therapist with my son went to put the car in reverse and the shifter snapped off in her hand. The car every since we had it when U put it in park as a delay and rolls for ward a bit I feel that this is a recall that Ford should issue for this car. Its just not fair to have to pay over 1200 dollars to fix something that is not my fault.what if this would have happened in the street luckily my wife knew to shut the car off and apply the emergency brake. This problem really could end up in serious injury or even fatality to an individual.

- Live Oak, FL, USA

problem #84

Sep 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 195,000 miles
Went to put car in drive from the park position and the shifter completely broke and was hanging. Also, I was not able to get my key out of the ignition. We were planning to make an out of town trip the following day, however, had to change plans due to this situation. After searching online, I have discovered there has been numerous complaints for this exact defect for the exact type of vehicle. It seems that since there has already been so many same situations, that a recall would have taken place by now. Not has it only been inconvenient, but could also be potentially dangerous!

- Valdosta, GA, USA

problem #83

Jul 192012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 203,000 miles


When accelerating on a start, car doesn't shift into 2nd and 3rd gear....unless there is a push or jump into it.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #82

Jun 172012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
I was backing up in a costco parking lot and the steering column where you shift gears broke in half. There was no way to drive or shift the car. The car was in neutral and there were pedestrians in front of me and cars behind me. I yelled for everyone to stay clear, had a few men help push me back to a parking bin and pulled the emergency break. The engine would not shut off, I had to have car towed to my house. I checked on line and this has happened to over 1,000 Ford 2002 owners. It is due to a faulty manufacturer part in the column shift, a metal piece that broke off.

- Fort Myers, FL, USA

problem #81

May 152012


  • 135,000 miles
As I was driving home from work my fuel gauge went from full to empty and the check gauge light came on then the vehicle died and I lost power steering and the power brakes.

- West Bend, IA, USA

problem #80

Dec 052011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 110,000 miles


Shifter broke off while shifting from park to drive, cannot shift vehicle. I read online there are numerous people that have had the same problem, they were all wondering why there hasn't been a recall on this problem. Has there?

- Glens Falls, NY, USA

problem #79

Jun 102010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 85,032 miles
I was driving in town at approximately 30 mph when I drove over a crack and it felt like a large pothole. I heard a grinding noise and pulled over. My rear springs were both broken. The driver side one at the top and the passenger side one at the top in 3 places. When I turn now it feels like my vehicle is going to roll over. This is a common problem as stated by many others on many internet sites. This is going to cause a serious if not deadly accident. Ford needs to do a recall on this part and replace them for free, since they were the ones who used bad parts in their vehicles. This is a manufacturing defect and should be treated as such.

- Ovid, NY, USA

problem #78

Sep 272011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
[xxx] got behind the wheel of her 2002 Ford Explorer, intending to pick up her son from school. When she tried to shift the car into reverse, she says the entire gear selector broke off and fell in her lap. It turns out she's not alone. Team 4 investigator jim parsons reported that the national highway transportation safety administration has been investigating similar complaints around the country -- some of which involved vehicles slipping into gear and crashing -- for more than two years. NHTSA's Office Of Defects Investigation says it has identified 200 alleged incidents of unintended vehicle movement after consumers believed they had shifted the SUVS into park, resulting in 85 alleged crashes and 32 alleged injuries. Earlier this year, NHTSA upgraded its investigation to an engineering analysis for 2002-2005 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. [xxx] says Ford told her she would need to replace her entire steering column to fix the broken gear selector at a cost of more than $1,500. Instead, she worked with her local mechanic to find an after-market replacement part that retails for $30. So far, Ford Motor Company has not issued a recall on the gear selector. More information: NHTSA website details on Explorer investigation (type in action number EA09013) read more: information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Monaca, PA, USA

problem #77

Sep 012011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 151,000 miles
In the evening, I was about half an hour from home when I pulled up to a gas pump at a station and attempted to put the vehicle into park. I did not do anything different than normal. The steering gear shift broke off into my hand. It was attached by a wire. I could not tell what happened except that it was broken off the steering column. The service department of the dealership was closed but the receptionist said that the vehicle could be left at the service department lot overnight and they would take a look at it the next day. I drove to the dealership holding the piece in my right hand as I did not know what would happen if it became unattached from that wire. I felt scared that something was going to happen such as a fire, turn completely off in traffic, etc. I didn't know what was going to happen next. I got to the dealership, set the emergency brake and turned off the ignition. I couldn't get the key out of the ignition. I had no choice but to leave my vehicle there with key in the ignition. I emptied as much of my stuff from the car as I could as I was worried that there could be some type of criminal activity overnight. Thankfully, it was there the next morning but unfortunately the cost of repair is over $1,500. The service advisor said the only way to fix this is to replace the entire steering column. This is all out of pocket costs. I am thankful that the dealership does provide free loaners and that this happened in a place where I could exit the location and make it to the dealership. The cost to repair, the stress that this caused, the fact that this is a known defective part, and the possibility of this happening again are all not good.

- Dickinson, TX, USA

problem #76

May 242011


  • 148,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 65 mph, the front and rear end of the vehicle began to shake violently. In addition, there was severe vibration in the steering wheel which caused difficulty in steering the vehicle normally. The vehicle had not been diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 148,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #75

Aug 152011


  • 86,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While moving the gear shifter from park to reverse, the gear shifter fractured and detached from the vehicle. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. The technicians stated the steering column had to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 86,000.

- Levittown, NY, USA

problem #74

Jul 162011


  • 183,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that upon shifting the vehicle into reverse, the gear shifter separated from the steering column. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer to be diagnosed. The manufacturer denied assistance with the repair. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileages were 183,000.

- West Warwick , RI, USA

problem #73

Jun 182011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer (automatic transmission) was parked in my driveway. I attempted to shift out of park when the gear shift broke off in my hand. I now have to pay $1360 for a replacement (used) steering column. After doing research, I have discovered that this problem is very common with 2002 Ford Explorer. Ford Motor Company should voluntarily do a recall, before a class action law suit is brought against them.

- Parker, CO, USA

problem #72

Jun 122011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
While my wife was backing up in my son's driveway, the gear shift broke on my 2002 Ford Explorer. The charge to repair by a Ford dealer was roughly $2,000 (including tow charges). After doing research on this issue, it apparently is way too common, however Ford refuses to acknowledge responsibility or issue a recall.

- Irving, TX, USA

problem #71

May 222011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
After starting the car (leaving my son's baseball game with my 2 year old daughter in car!), I attempted to put the car in reverse and the gear shift broke off in my hands. The key was stuck in the ignition and could not be removed. It required a special tow truck to get this to the dealership. They quoted me $1600 to replace the entire steering column. If you search online there are literally hundreds of complaints like this. Why has a recall not been issued" this is ridiculous, and extremely unsafe. What if you were going in reverse and tried to shift to drive and the gear shift broke off" you could case major accidents. Not to mention getting stranded with small children in the car and no way to remove the key from the ignition! Ford should be ashamed - this part that broke is made of cheap pot metal, and Ford does not manufacture or sell a replacement part for the small piece that broke, instead they make you buy a $1200 steering column! shame on Ford!

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #70

Mar 162011


  • miles
When putting car into park or reverse, car would sometime still be in drive for seconds after putting car in gear. Several times now, occasionally car will simply shut off. Recently, the car would not go into park and shifter separated from steering column.

- Chula Vista, CA, USA

problem #69

Feb 162011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 97,000 miles
While backing up, the gear shift broke on my 2002 Ford Explorer. It was good that I was not in traffic because I could not get the car back in gear and could have gotten hit and or caused an accident. The steering column was replaced and the parts were in my opinion over priced. My fear is that it may happen again because it may have been replaced with the same defective part.

- Bluffton, OH, USA

problem #68

Apr 132011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Please do something about this !!!! the Explorer gear shifter is defective and unsafe. There is a common thread with gearshift selector breakage on Ford Explorer which indicates that recall is urgently needed. After parking, I tried to move the gear shifter from drive to park to exit the vehicle. To my absolute astonishment the gear shifter broke like a dangling broken arm in the reverse position. The vehicle was rendered useless and me optionless. I work at a secure gov't facility and it was no picnic trying to get a tow truck driver access. I finally got the truck towed to the nearest dealership at $85. The dealer then informed me that the entire steering column would have to be replaced at $1,690. They didn't have the part and needed a day to get the truck back to me. I had to rent a car which was another $102 bucks. Make Ford take care of this safety hazard. I asked for the part and can show you what broke inside which is literally a weak metal housing that the gear shift handle fits in....

- Southaven, MS, USA

problem #67

Mar 012011


  • 68,000 miles
My husband was driving our 2002 Ford Explorer when he went to back out of a parking spot and the entire gear shift fell off the steering column. The vehicle will not shift gears and the key can not be removed from the vehicle. Luckily he was in a parking spot. Had he backed out and this happened as he was trying to put the car in drive her could have in a major accident. It is very very very unsafe. The car is getting towed to the dealership. At this time it is unknown what will be done to correct the problem.

- Orange, CA, USA

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