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 4 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #46

Oct 222009


  • 92,300 miles


There is a common thread with gearshift selector breakage on Ford Explorer which indicates that recall is urgently needed. In the driveway of my house, with car in park, I tried to shift into reverse to back out. The gearshift selector on the steering column broke off and just dangled. I removed the rubber cover on the steering column to have a look, and I could see rough metal where end of gearshift selector rod meets with joint inside the steering column, indicating that the metal simply broke there. Called service at Ford dealer in henderson nv, was told that entire steering column needs to be replaced at parts + labor cost of $1920. Had I been parked on a hilly street in san francisco, e.g., a serious accident might have occurred with the car out of control. Recall is urgently needed before people are injured due to this obvious defect!!!

- Henderson, NV, USA

problem #45

Sep 112009


  • 107,912 miles
Have a 2002 Ford Explorer have had several problems, but while I was out driving today my car began to pop as I turned the wheel. I have gotten my tie rods replaced and there seems to continue to be a problem with my vehicle. My husband drove the car home for me slowly but will not drive for fear that the wheel may pop off. Contacted Ford and am waiting on a response, this problem has been noted on the internet by several owners of this model and year. This is a suspension problem and I would like this further investigated so that noone is riding down the highway with their children in vehicle and the wheel pop off. I was very lucky that my child was not in the truck with me at the time this incident happened.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #44

Aug 102009


  • 65,000 miles
The gear shift is hard to get into park. Sometimes after in park the SUV stills moves. No damage or crash yet. But I make sure to put on emergency brake.

- Payson, AZ, USA

problem #43

Aug 172009


  • 173,711 miles


I am sorry I am not a good speller I was pulling out of the gas station pulled up a little so I could see then a little more and seen a car so I went to put it in reverse but the gear shift stick broke right in my hand I almost got hit but thank god there was someone with me that put his life on the line got under the car and changed it manually the used part I have to get is $250 dollars and labor is like $300 I have to have a hole new steering column put in the clip that makes it change broke I just don't think it is right to have something as week as that part on there we could have been killed and when I looked it up on the internet there are hundreds of people this same thing has happened.

- Haleyville, AL, USA

problem #42

Jun 102009


  • 90,000 miles
I was having trouble placing my car in park. The gear shift would not work unless I forced it. Many of times I would place in park and it would roll. I thought it was my fault. On June 10, 2009 I placed my car in park and the gear shift broke. I was told that "it happens"with this truck and that there had not been a recall even though there was thousands of complaints. I am a single mother and I cannot afford to pay $700-1200 dollars to get this replaced. It is a disgrace that Ford does not stand behind their trucks. I will never buy a Ford again.

- Collingdale, PA, USA

problem #41

Aug 022009


  • 113,000 miles
Started car and when I put car in drive, shift gear on 2002 Explorer just fell off this is happening all over the usa I could have been driving and this could have happen. My wife and child could have been driving. Do people have to die to make this a recall why isn't this a recall.

- Dover, NH, USA

problem #40

Jul 042009


  • 77,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer approx.77,000 miles shifting from park to drive gear shifter broke of at the base causing the vehicle to be stuck in reverse. After contacting Ford headquarters was informed there was nothing they could do even though there are several complaints on the internet. The dealership charges several hundred dollars to repair because the whole steering column has to be replaced. Part is currently on order.

- Birmingham, AL, USA

problem #39

Jun 142009


  • 135,000 miles
Our 2002 Ford Explorer gear shift lever broke off in my hand while trying to shift from park to reverse. We had some trouble with the lockout in the past, but this left us stranded and required a tow.

- Kitty Hawk, NC, USA

problem #38

Oct 012008


  • 86,000 miles
About a year ago, the gear shifter in my 2002 Ford Explorer started getting harder to shift out of park especially on inclines. After a short period of time, I took it to our local Ford dealer for them to look at it. They said they could find nothing wrong but that it did stick a little. Gradually over several months it got worse. Eventually, it got stuck in park and I actually broke off the gear shifter trying to go from park to reverse. We had to pay almost $1,200 to replace the steering column and shifter. We were then told that we might put on the emergency break before shifting into park on hills. I told them that it didn't matter if you were on a hill or not, it still would get stuck. After first replacing the column, it was easier to shift out of park. Then, over a few months it became increasingly harder to shift out of park again, unless I put on the emergency brake. I did use the brake on hills and inclines mostly but then sometimes it would get hard to shift on just flat surfaces. I contacted the Ford dealer and asked them to look at it again. They said that I would always just have to use the emergency brake before shifting into park. I asked them why - it doesn't seem right. They said, "that is just normal operating procedure". I, of course, argued that was not normal and they said there was nothing they could do about it. I asked the Ford company website and they said they consulted with our dealer and that they concur with them.

- Tahlequah, OK, USA

problem #37

May 302009


  • 86,000 miles
I turned into my driveway and put my Explorer into park the shifter broke off and the car was not in park. Thankfully I was home and it is now sitting with the key still in the ignition and emergency brakes on. Tried to buy the gear shift plunger on steering column and the Ford dealer said I can only buy the entire steering column. $1200 they showed me the column it has a different plunger that reinforced this suggest that they are aware of the problem.

- Ledgewood, NJ, USA

problem #36

May 292009


  • 90,081 miles


When I tried to put my 2002 Ford Explorer into reverse the gear shifter snapped off in my hands. I have never seen this happen before but have been researching this on the internet and it seems to be a real issue with the Ford Explorer design of the shifter mechanism. My vehicle has 90,000 miles on it. This also seems to be consistent as to when most break.

- University Place , WA, USA

problem #35

May 232009


  • 144,342 miles
Saturday I tried to put my 2002 Ford Explorer XLT 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. It is right now stuck in reverse with the key stuck in the ignition. I had my children with me and no clue that there was anything wrong with the car. Please note that while I was trying to figure out what was going on, the car rolled backwards a bit. After, doing some research on the internet to see if Ford had any recalls for this I found that many more people just like me had experienced the same thing. The pictures that the others have uploaded of the metal/aluminum piece is the same exact piece that is broken on mine. Please believe me I am not an extra strong person as to where I could have done this myself (broke the piece of metal). Please look into this for it is a very costly repair that should be looked into and taken care of by Ford.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #34

May 012009


  • 91,247 miles
I went to put vehicle in park and shift lever broke off inside steering column. Had to replace entire steering column for 1 little piece of cast white metal which I found out is a common problem with this particular vehicle. After repair was complete, od off light started blinking and service engine soon light came on. Code PO755 on engine scanner which according to carcomplaint web site and my mechanic is also a very common problem with this vehicle.

- Macedon, NY, USA

problem #33

Apr 142002


  • miles
Went to shift vehicle to drive from park position, shift lever went down without shifting vehicle into gear., upon inspection the bottom of the case where the shift lever is held by a pin had broken off, the only way to repair this situation is to change the entire steering column according to two (2) Ford dealers I visited. Upon searching this problem on the internet, I find it amazing of how many other people have the same problem. It cost $1265 to replace the unit not including labor cost. I believe that this is fatigue on that piece of metal. Ford should be made aware of this as a defective product and a recall should take place.

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #32

Dec 292007


  • 107,123 miles
Complainant has had difficulty shifting into park since the vehicle was purchased used in December 2007. December 2008 just after christmas vehicle rolled backwards down a slight inclined driveway. The complainant parked the vehicle and was in the home for approximately 35-45 minutes when the complainants wife asked where was the vehicle why wasn't it in the driveway. The consumer went outside and found the vehicle rolled backwards down the driveway and came to rest in the yard (grass). The complainant also noted and additional incident where the vehicle stalled and the complainant could not get the vehicle in park.

- Mount Airy , MD, USA

problem #31

Feb 282009


  • 90,000 miles
Gear shift broke off the steering column of my 2002 Ford Explorer. Truck was rendered inoperable, but could have the potential of being stuck in gear if the shift breaks off at anything other than park or neutral.

- Bensalem, PA, USA

problem #30

Feb 122009


  • 165,000 miles
As I was putting my 2002 Ford Explorer in reverse the shift handle broke off the steering column and is now just hanging by the cruise control wiring. Unlike other Explorer owners I was "lucky" enough to get stuck on park and not drive or reverse where there's a potential of someone getting hurt. As many others have stated before me, this is obviously a manufacturer's defect which if not taken seriously will eventually lead to injuries and/or deaths. Please don't wait until reports start coming in with numbers other than zeros on the "number of deaths" & "number of persons injured" fields for you to hold Ford accountable for their actions. Thank you.

- Garden Grove, CA, USA

problem #29

Jan 182009


  • 88,000 miles
As I was putting my 2002 Ford Explorer in park the column shift handle came off in my hand. I could not move the vehicle. I had to have the entire steering column replaced. I have done research and this is not an unusual problem. In fact in some case it has happened more than once tot he same vehicle so there is no guaranteed permanent solution. This is a potentially dangerous situation and I think something should be done before some gets seriously injured or killed. Some people's cars have been stuck in drive or reverse. I was lucky. My repair place told me this was the second Ford Lincoln Mercury within a month they saw this happen in. The other vehicle was a Mercury Mountaineer. This is an unacceptable situation and you have many complaints on your site about this specific issue. I would some action taken now. It is not only inconvenient and expensive, it is dangerous.

- Norfolk, VA, USA

problem #28

Dec 072008


  • 54,000 miles
After pulling into a parking lot, the gear shift lever fell off into my hands while trying to put the car into park. I was unable to drive the car; therefore, it needed to be towed to a Ford dealer. The service technician said he had never seen this problem before and proceeded to tell me that I would need to have the entire steering column replaced. The estimate for this job was $1200. The technician located a used part and was able to replace the column for a few dollars cheaper. I was without a car for nine days. There were no previous indications that this problem would occur. The car (which is 6 years old) only has 50,000 miles on it.

- Warrington, PA, USA

problem #27

Jun 182008


  • 80,000 miles
As my wife was shifting from park to reverse in our 2002 eddie bauer Ford Explorer the gear shift prndl just fell off in her hand. Ford dealership in asheville nc tells me there is a six(6) month back order for this part. After having to replace the transmission at 80,000 miles and replacing both rear clutch packs at 72,000 I was livid. Six months to get a part"???" are you kidding me. Ford is lucky this thing didn't fall off while my wife was driving down the road. Ford says "we're sorry" and "we understand your frustration" hogwash. Where this goes from here I don't really know. They beat me down with their inaction and stalling and turned me against them all together. I finally found a part in Texas from a junked Explorer (no help from the dealership or manufacturer) and had it fixed for around $1500. The transmission bill came in at $2000 and the clutch packs came in at $800. All on a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.

- Leicester, NC, USA

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