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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2002 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 3 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #66

Sep 012010


  • 70,000 miles


Air bag warning light came on, pulled plug apart under drivers, seat sprayed cleaner on it put it back together, took care of that problem. Gear shift lever sheared off. Ford says you need to replace steering column. Went online found a man in sweden that made a replacement part, ordered it, put it on, works great. (why couldn't Ford supply one?) the transmission is starting to act up, you shift in to drive it hesitates and leaps forward, quite hard, same in reverse. Ford should recall this before someone gets hurt.

- Fortuna, CA, USA

problem #65

Dec 052010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 78,000 miles
While picking up my pastor at the dulles airport, I shifted my 2002 Ford Explorer into park. Before I could even reach park, the shift handle detached itself from the steering column and was limp in hand. The only thing left attached, was the wiring cable. I couldn't get the keys in or out of the ignition, most likely because it wasn't in park nor in reverse. Of note, because of that, it was very hard to get a tow truck guy to accept the responsibility for dragging it onto the flat bed truck. The piece that broke was just a small aluminum cast pin. When the Ford dealership called me the next day with a quote for repair, I was shocked at the price, $2145. I was told I needed a whole new steering column because the part that's broken couldn't be repaired with in the column itself. That's when I went on line and searched for similar problems. I was aghast to find hundreds with similar or exact same problems I had. My question is, why isn't there a re-call for this particular defect since so many people are having problems with this small pin" if no recall, why can't Ford help financially or at least, partially to help offset this high expense for such a small fix? I am on a fixed income and a several thousand dollar repair sets us back significantly. Does anybody have a solution" does anybody have any other options to get Ford to help with this problem, I'm desperate. Thank you all.

- Ashburn, VA, USA

problem #64

Nov 252010


  • 124,817 miles
The gear shift lever fell off the steering column while putting the car into park. It is held on only by the electrical connection.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #63

Aug 202005


  • 80,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that she had issues shifting gears and when she would turn corners, the vehicle would shift out of gear. Other times, she had issues shifting into drive and moving forward. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that there were no related recalls. The transmission was replaced in 2008 at a repair shop. However, the failure continued. When the contact placed the vehicle in park (with the engine on) and went into a store, the vehicle shifted into drive and hit a building and then moved back and hit another vehicle. There were no injuries. A police report was filed. The vehicle was taken back to a repair shop where the contact was informed that a component of the steering column would not allow the vehicle to lock into gear. The steering column was repaired. However, after the repair, the transmission slipped. The vehicle had not been repaired. The manufacturer had not been notified. The current mileage was approximately 140,000. The failure mileage was approximately 80,000. Updated 10/21/11

- Fairland, OK, USA

problem #62

Oct 182010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 189,000 miles
I was picking up a family friend, an while waiting for her to come to my 2002 Ford Explorer, I put my truck into park, when she got in, I then attempted to put it back into drive, an the gear shift handle broke off into my hand, it basically dangled there an I had no choice but to call a two truck driver. I got an estimate for over $600 for a used column, cause apparently Ford doesn't make the little piece that broke off. I have been online for awhile to find another way of getting this fixed an I have seen hundreds an hundreds of complaints for the very same thing, why hasn't this been recalled yet" what do I or we have to do to get Ford on the ball with this continuing problem" thank god it is stuck in park, an unfortunately so are my keys.

- Middle River, MD, USA

problem #61

Aug 132010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 108,334 miles
My wife and I and our 8 year old twin boys were on vacation this summer driving through the rocky mountains in a rain storm. It was August 13th, 2010. There was a huge single lane traffic jam because of an accident. We pulled over to the side of the road because my wife needed to get out and stretch. When I put the 2002 Ford Explorer back into drive, the shift lever broke off in my hand like it was made of butter. Needless to say, we were in shock and scared because we were stuck at the top of the rocky mountains in a rainstorm. The Ford was stuck in drive so I decided to drive it all the way to our hotel in rife, Colorado. We were very scared the whole way. We made it to our hotel. The local Ford dealer could not get a part until the following week. A local mechanic rigged it so we could get home to California in time for jobs and school. We felt very unsafe the whole way. When we got home to California, the local Ford dealership replaced the entire steering column and shift lever for $1,300. I have a 2nd 2002 Ford Explorer eddie bauer edition. When I got home from work today, I parked my Ford Explorer in the driveway, put the shift lever into drive and it broke off! again, like it was made of butter. This is exactly two months after the other one broke. Today is October 13, 2010. I am very careful with my vehicles. My wife and I are both teachers in our mid 40's. now, I am left with the same make and model with the exact same defect and I will be calling Ford and asking them to treat me fairly and repair this defect at their cost. Can you help me?

- Murieta, CA, USA

problem #60

Aug 272010


  • 75,000 miles


While putting my 2002 Ford Explorer into park at a drive up atm machine, my gear shift just feel into my hands. I was stuck blocking the drive way and had to be towed to a shop where they say the Ford dealership wanted about $1500 to replace steering column. The shop told me that was too much for just a small part that was broken. The dealership said it could not replace just the small part that was broken. My shop told me that it could not find the small part and they see it they can get certified welder to weld the part and it would cost way less then $1500. As I researched this problem on line I came across many complaints about the same problems I am having; the same year model, make and same problem. I am still waiting to hear from the shop about how much it will be and how soon I can get my car repaired and back to me.

- San Pablo, CA, USA

problem #59

Aug 042010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 80,525 miles
Very loud noise in tires while driving and in steering column when driving my 2002 Ford Explorer. It is most likely a wheel bearing issue. This issue in this truck should be a recall item.

- Haworth, NJ, USA

problem #58

Aug 172010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 179,000 miles
Purchased 2002 Explorer XLT V6 4.0L already transmission slipping solenoid or whatever out.. I have read reports and wonder why this transmission is not recalled? I have it in shop now having to have it rebuilt and everything changed. Also right wheel bearings bad, upper and lower ball joints bad, suspension shot. And the records show the previous owners maintained everything well. But also had transmission replaced and had problems at 99,000miles. Please doing something for all of us out here. Also coolant leak, engine leak, power seat failure, and on.

- Asheville, NC, USA

problem #57

Aug 112010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer and this morning I was going at work when the gear shift arm broke off in my hand. I had to call my wife for go at work and I was unable to remove my keys from the ignition. My car is completely un-drivable.

- Boca Raton, FL, USA

problem #56

Jun 162010


  • 95,000 miles


Went to leave a baseball game and attempted to put my car in reverse only to have the gear shift come loose from the steering column and was just dangling there. Of course customer service at Ford could not help.

- Tidioute, PA, USA

problem #55

Mar 132010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 112,568 miles
I was reversing out of a parking spot and then shifted into drive when the lever went limp. It was stuck in reverse and I had my two young kids in the backseat! I was scared out of my mind!!! I sat in the car with my foot on the brake for 45 minutes waiting for my cousin to tow the car to my dad's house. According to all the cases I've read about, and the Ford dealer parts guy, I now have to replace the whole steering column. There's only two junk yards here on guam and neither one has the part so I have no choice but to buy from the dealer and the part alone is $1500!!! I'm going to have to take out a loan just to fix the car that I'm still paying off. It's unbelievable that there has been no recall or that Ford has made it so that we have to get the whole column instead of the one little part that broke.

- Agana Heights, GU, USA

problem #54

Feb 262010


  • miles
Vehicle was westbound on Ohio turnpike when the driver lost control and the vehicle left the roadway, struck a sign and came to a rest in the gore letter updated 03/18/10 Ohio traffic crash report # 10-0076-89.

- Decatur, MI, USA

problem #53

Jan 082006


  • 130,000 miles
I am asking you consider an investigation for the 2002 Ford Explorer XLT steering column. Mine broke and rather easily and it cost me $1,400 to fix. Ford told me there was no recall on this to my surprise. After doing my own online research, I see 45+ other folks had similar or same issues as I did. See the link: please give this the attention it so desires. I called Ford yesterday 2/19/10 and they basically said, we are doing nothing unless you folks who work with them consider this a recall situation. Please let me hear from you. Len pace the failure mileage was 130,

- Brookfield, CT, USA

problem #52

Feb 252010


  • 93,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer and while trying to put my truck in park the gear shift arm broke off in my hand. I had to leave my car in reverse and I was unable to remove my keys from the ignition. My car is completely un-drivable. I have had it towed to a repair shop, but they are charging me $550 to replace the whole steering column with a used steering column.

- Champlin, MN, USA

problem #51

Feb 252010

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6) 2002 Ford Explorer [xxx] - gear shift lever broke off of steering column while shifting from park into reverse.

- Ft Myers, FL, USA

problem #50

Feb 152010


  • 143,350 miles
I was leaving a friend's house... put the key in the ignition and attempted to shift into reverse and the shifter broke off into my hand; only connected by the rubber and the wire inside. The metal connection actually just snapped in half! I was glad I wasn't stuck in drive or anything I had my 20 month old niece in the car! this could have ended really really bad! if Ford knows that this is a common problem with this model why has nothing been done!?! I got one estimate from the local Ford dealership where I had to have the car towed to; $1795+7% sales tax! I called around and found a place to get a used steering column put in for $1000+tax but I have to have it towed another 40 miles to get it to that shop... something needs to be done before someone dies from this parts failure! it's seems senseless for Ford to sit by and do nothing if they can act now and save lives!

- Galloway, NJ, USA

problem #49

Jan 092010


  • 64,500 miles
2002 Ford Explorer gear shift broke off when putting car in park. Steering column replaced by dealer with used parts. Dealer retained possession of old parts.

- Dunmore, PA, USA

problem #48

Dec 042009


  • miles
I pulled up to the gas station while on my way to work and as soon as I was about to shift into park the gear shift broke right off in my hand. It was causing some nor difficulties in the past where it would show signs of resistance when shifting gears but never something so serious as this current incident. I called a tow truck which appeared about 40 minutes later and then took me home. I have tried to find a new part but no dealer or parts manufacturer has it in stock.

- Ponce, PR, USA

problem #47

Nov 042009


  • 123,699 miles
Recently purchased 2002 Ford Explorer. Shortly after, within one to two days I attempted to exit the vehicle by shifting into park and opening the drivers side door. Although vehicle was at a complete stop when I exited it began to roll backwards causing me to fall beside alongside the driver side with lower right extremities still inside the vehicle. Immediate assistant was available so minimal damage was done. Currently requires caution when shifting into park do to additional maneuvering to shift into park.

- Temple, TX, USA

Read the next 20 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?