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 5 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #26

Jan 022005


  • 68,000 miles


It started very early after buying the 2002 Ford Explorer...electrical prob..couldn't get veh started...100 miles away from home dealership....towed to closest Ford dealership...fixed; or so we thought. Same thing happened a week later. Home dealership advised us that the other dealership installed the wrong part and it could have caused life-threatening problems....we contacted the other dealership and advised them what our home dealership said...of course the dealership denied this...anyway...home dealership installed new part...veh ok....then wheel bearings had to be replaced in front 1st left side-then right. (this was after the rear end was replaced) boy, was that a major fight with the home dealership! now! the transmission is gone!!!!! isn't there something we can do" Ford has been using defective parts!!!!and now asking for government money??"!!!!Ford should be paying for this!

- Hamptonville, NC, USA

problem #25

Dec 202008


  • 132,150 miles
Gear shifter broke off steering column in 2002 Ford Explorer. When putting vehicle in park the gear shifter broke off, leaving the vehicle inoperable. It was towed to the dealer and then driven to our home. Learned form internet search of at least 26 similar complaints regarding 2002 Ford Explorer automatic.

- Alhambra, CA, USA

problem #24

Nov 182008


  • 85,000 miles
The gear shifter broke away from the steering column on my 2002 Ford Explorer. The shifter itself did not break, but rather a piece of metal attached to the column, requiring the entire steering column be replaced at $1100. The required cost to get your vehicle fixed is extreme and caused by a design flaw. I googled broken gear shift on '02 Explorer and found an unlimited number of people who have experienced this same issue. Ford clearly should recall this part and cover expenses incurred to repair their problem. This happened in my driveway, but the owners manual suggests switching gears while driving which could clearly be dangerous and possibly cause injury or death to the driver.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #23

Oct 062008


  • 78,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer shifter broke off in hand while at gas pump. The part that broke is what the shift handle connects to and is not replaceable. Ford says I must purchase the entire steering column in the amount of $871.70. I have read all over the internet that thousands of other Explorer owners have experience that same problem. Ford list the part number. 3C529.

- Bridgewater, MA, USA

problem #22

Sep 182008


  • 57,361 miles
Shifter broke off.

- Conyers, GA, USA

problem #21

Sep 302008


  • 86,000 miles
Went to put my 2002 Ford Explorer in reverse and the shift level broke off from the steering column, leaving the vehicle unable to be driven. This apparently has happened to many others and the only repair is to replace the entire steering column which costs over $1,000.

- Napa, CA, USA

problem #20

Sep 152008


  • 112,000 miles


Was putting vehicle into drive when gear shift broke off of steering column, later found that cheap aluminum connecting piece broke not the shift handle.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #19

Jul 282008


  • 100,000 miles
The steering wheel lever broke off my Ford Explorer 2002. This occurs often on Ford Explorer because it is made of aluminum. The repair is to change the whole steering column and that costs between $800-1300 dollars.

- Plymouth, MI, USA

problem #18

Jun 212008


  • 113,000 miles
When attempting to shift from drive to park, the gear shift lever broke from the steering column, making it impossible to change gears. The engine remained running with it in drive. I turned the ignition off & it could not be restarted (ie, ignition/interlock system). The steering wheel wouldn't turn either. The entire steering column (not just small broken piece) had to be replaced (cost=$1372, $897 for parts). As of 7/2/08, 61 exactly the same incidents have been reported via complaints filed with NHTSA website. Some vehicles complained about have experienced this part failure twice. These complaints have been filed under the components - steering: Column, power train: Automatic transmission, power train: Automatic transmission: Gear position indication (prndl), power train: Automatic transmission: Lever and linkage: Column shift, steering: Gear box (other than rack and pinion), steering: Gear box: Shaft sector, steering: Wheel and handle bar, other or unknown this is an obvious design and/or mfg/material defect & it correlates (in many other complaints) with another defect - very difficult shifting of gear lever to or from "park? & ?reverse". 61 reported incidents of the parts failure are significant, but there are obviously far more than have been reported via NHTSA complaints. The defective gear shift part poses serious safety concerns. If the gear shift lever breaks while the vehicle is on a street or expressway (but stopped momentarily by necessity), the driver would be unable to change gears or push and/or steer it to safety, thereby creating a dangerous traffic situation with a high potential for bodily injury. NHTSA has more than adequate data to initiate a defect investigation & should immediately require Ford to provide a full disclosure of the number of steering columns that it has sold as a result of this defect. I have the old steering column (and the broken piece) as well as several pictures of them.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #17

Jun 202008


  • 94,000 miles
The gear shift on my 2002 Ford Explorer broke off the steering column. There were no warning signs before this occurred. I was in the car with my 3 year old son & my wife who is 8 months pregnant. I pulled out of a driveway at a friend's house in reverse, when I proceeded to put the car in drive, the gear shift broke off the steering column. My car was stuck in the middle of the road on reverse. I had to turn of the engine to be able to push it out of harms way and could no longer turn it on because it was stuck on the reverse gear. I had to get the car towed to my house, find a mechanic that could help me because my car is no longer under warranty and then have it towed to the mechanic. The mechanic had to change the steering column because Ford does not sell the single part to fix the gear shift, they only sell the entire column. The mechanic got me a good deal on the column and the total cost of the repair was $360 as opposed to the $850 that Ford wanted to charge for the part. There is a database online of numerous Ford Explorer 2002 owners who have experienced the same problem. Here is the link: this is a defect that threatens the safety of drivers and their families and should be addressed, recalled and the victims of this dilemma should be reimbursed by Ford for their expenses.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #16

May 132008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 48,752 miles


Gear stick broke off in my hand when shifting to reverse in my 2002 Ford Explorer, it has not been repaired as it happened today, but will probably require a new steering column.

- Natick, MA, USA

problem #15

May 122008


  • 86,000 miles
The gear shift lever broke away from the steering column when I tried to put it in park from drive. It just snapped very easy. The broke component is the piece that connects the lever to the rod and the whole steering column component had to be replace because the lever and rod is a single piece.

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #14

Apr 292008


  • 61,109 miles
We are in the process of replacing the left rear outer tie rod and which the mechanic says displays excessive wear and movement. Also replacing rear gas charged struts (displays excessive wear and movement), rear coil springs (bent, cracked, and loose), and rear strut mounts. $1100 on a car with 61109 miles on it. This vehicle is never used to haul or tow anything. We have trucks for that. I'm sick to see all of these complaints on the same problem - it can't be a coincidence.

- Elyria, OH, USA

problem #13

Dec 152007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the shift gear detached from the steering column when being shifted out of park. In addition, the key would not turn. The vehicle was towed to the dealer and they stated that the steering column needed to be replaced. As of January 2, 2008, the dealer had not repaired the vehicle. The VIN and engine size were unavailable. The current and failure mileages were 69,000. Updated 01-29-08. The consumer stated contacted Ford customer relations several times and informed to bring to a Ford dealership in turn Ford informed the consumer there was nothing they could do due to the fact the vehicle's warranty had expired. Updated 01/29/08

- Adams, MA, USA

problem #12

May 312005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles
At a complete stop vehicle surges (accelerates). Have to place in neutral at standing stops to prevent an accident. Driver's side power window switch failed, had replaced, also the window whines when rolling up. Passenger's side power window regulator(cable) snapped?? when rear windows are down at a speed of 20 mph+ it sounds like a helicopter is in the back seat(actually physically hurts your ears!!!) <<<auto and auto>high. Can not pin point problem. That about wraps up my lovely experience with this vehicle. I am a married father of two and the only one working on a limited income. I bought this truck with very low miles thinking it would be dependable not unaffordable.

- Pelham, NH, USA

problem #11

Sep 062005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the rear bearing went out on 9-6-05. The consumer is unsure if it was on the right or the left. She did not hear a noise prior to this but reported that the vehicle felt sluggish. The contact said that the vehicle was not steering properly and it was pulling all over the road. She reported that steering was very sloppy and she could not control the vehicle. She called Ford Motor Company and they took a complaint from her and said they would evaluate it within 3-5 days.

- Akron, OH, USA

problem #10

Nov 012004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,456 miles
Upon parking the vehicle and returning back to start it up lever which changed the gears broke inside the steering column. Took vehicle to the dealer, and was told there was nothing they could do about it. The key became stuck in the ignition and the shifter broke at the column because the steering shaft broke.

- Medford, NY, USA

problem #9

Mar 302004

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
While driving 70 mph consumer lost control of the vehicle, dealer notified.

- Royal Palm Beach, FL, USA

problem #8

Apr 122003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 19,000 miles
While pulling into parking space (right) in parking garage my Explorer experienced a sudden accleration-at full throttle (snapping the steering wheel to the right) (extremely loud revving, whining and another sound like a bad belt screech all at the same time) before the crash. No brakes (pedal went to the floor). Crashed into steel I-beam bending it and cracking concrete pillars. No airbag on impact.

- Rocky Hill, CT, USA

problem #7

Feb 122002

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While pulling into parking space (right) in parking garage my Explorer experienced a sudden accleration-at full throttle (snapping the steering wheel to the right) (extremely loud revving, whining and another sound like a bad belt screech all at the same time) before the crash. No brakes (pedal went to the floor). Crashed into steel I-beam bending it and cracking concrete pillars. No airbag on impact.

- Rocky Hill, CT, USA

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