Notes: The NHTSA's complaint data shows potentially scary power steering problems with the 2011 Ford Explorer.

The NHTSA complaints are pretty serious - owners report the power steering cuts out while driving. The NHTSA opened an investigation in June 2012 but hasn't reached a decision about a recall yet. In the meantime, buyers beware.

It's too bad because the 2009 & 2010 Ford Explorer are solid, trouble-free model years.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
52,617 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.

2011 Ford Explorer seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2011 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #19

Dec 192016


  • 69,000 miles


Diagnose and advised that driver pretensioner is faulty. I have to pay $400 plus to have this replacement. My air bag light is always on with faulty pretensioner it may not go off in an accident.

- Paris, MI, USA

problem #18

Aug 012016


  • 78,000 miles
My airbag warning light has come on when the engine is running.

- West Linn, OR, USA

problem #17

Mar 272016


  • 125,000 miles
Air bag light stays on; dealer checked & recommends removing center console to grease connectors. They say this may fix problem; estimate $450-$500; they did check connectors under seat and did not find a problem. Also say the vehicle will not pass inspection when due (Mar 2017).

- Rockville, VA, USA

problem #16

Jul 052016


  • 82,000 miles


The airbag indicator light keeps coming on which shuts down the airbag safety system. This has been a constant problem since I purchased the vehicle in 2011. It also appears to be common problem with other owners of this vehicle. The light illuminates when the vehicle is stationary and in motion.

- Saint Peters, MO, USA

problem #15

Jan 122016


  • miles
I have my air bag light on my dash, and my emergency lights do not work. This car is too young to have such problems. My passenger back seat belt case is broken as well. The stitching on the seat belt seem to be tearing. This is only a 2011 Ford Explorer it is way to young for all these major safety issues. My mechanic cant figure it out.

- Spring Valley, CA, USA

problem #14

May 242016


  • 80,000 miles
This is the fourth time that the airbag light came on. This is a safety issue that Ford has not address this as a recall. Ford needs to think that in case of an accident the airbag may not deploy. Like if a safety belt dont work then it is a safety issue and it should be a lifetime warranty.takata airbag issue the airbag works but can kill you and when airbags does not work it can kill why does not Ford issue a safety recall on their vehicles specially 2011-2015 Ford Explorer

- Garland, TX, USA

problem #13

Jan 152016


  • 106,820 miles


Air bag light was coming on. Was told that the seat belt pretensioner is bad. Was quoted $450 to repair. After refusing to have the work done I went online to see if anyone else is having the same problem. Many owners have complained on some have suggested that I have the connections checked under the seat and I have now found there is a service bulletin on this issue. My dealer never suggested trying to grease the connections, this is an issue that Ford should have made their owners aware of, since while the light is on my airbag will not deploy if I am involved in an accident.

- Avondale, PA, USA

problem #12

Sep 012015


  • 60,000 miles
I have an air bag light that stays on most of the time, but will sometimes go away. It has been on for at least a month now. The cause is a loose connector under the seat that needs addressed. Apparently the Ford fix according to tsb (attached) is apply grease to the connectors. This is a well documented problem across the internet. There is a 12 page thread on Explorer forums specifically related to it. My dealer refuses to fix it because I am out of warranty even though it is a safety issue. This is something that should be under recall. How can a loose connector that many owners have reported not be" two to three hours of labor is a small price for Ford to provide safety to their owners. Here is a link to thread describing the problem"T=349429

- Coshocton, OH, USA

problem #11

Oct 262015


  • 43,000 miles
I began experiencing problems with the steering wheel mounted controls while driving, which were intermittent. First, the volume button failed and then cruise control functions failed. The cruise control would sometimes cancel on its own, causing a sudden unexplained loss of speed while I thought it was engaged. The "resume" and "cancel" button functions also swapped. "resume" would cancel the cruise control and "cancel" would resume cruise. I only figured this out after pressing cancel while in cruise control to slow the car for traffic ahead of me and it did not respond or slow the car. The car continued at its set speed until I hit the brakes to slow it. The diagnosis for the problem was that the clock spring had failed and it was replaced. I feel this is a serious safety concern, especially since the driver air bag may have also been affected. This car has only 43,000 miles on it. The first time I took the car in for service, they reinstalled software which did not fix the problem. I do not yet have the invoice from the replacement of the clock spring because it has not yet been paid while I test the repair. The clock spring did appear to fix the problem. The car was repaired at perry Ford in san luis obispo, ca.

- San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

problem #10

Jun 012014


  • 40,000 miles
When I start my car the airbag light is coming on. I had it checked out at a Ford dealership and their diagnosis is that the pressure in an airbag is not accurate. My concern is that this is a safety concern and the dealership wants to charge me $300 to fix this problem. This sounds like a manufacture problem and not a ware and tear problem that I should be paying for. Along with that the possibility of the airbags deploying or not deploying due to the pressure not being correct in the airbags.

- Lebanon, TN, USA

problem #9

Dec 052014


  • 20,000 miles


The airbag light is constantly on with no dealer able to fix. Was told that the airbags will not deploy with the light

- Azusa, CA, USA

problem #8

Jun 032015


  • 63,000 miles
The dash "check air bag" light is on. Its my understanding that while the "check air bag" light is on, the airbags will not deploy in the event of a crash. Out of regular warranty, do have extended warranty plan from Ford, but I don't think I should pay for the repair deductible.

- Rochester Hills, MI, USA

problem #7

Apr 062015


  • 40,000 miles
Vehicle SRS warning light illuminated and extinguished sporadically for several days before staying illuminated permanently. The diagnostic codes indicate failure of the supplemental restraint system. Troubleshooting, research, and diagnostics have revealed poor electrical connections at various connectors throughout the vehicle for the SRS system. Dealer service has indicated potential failure of the entire safety system to perform its function (pre-tensioners, airbag deployment, etc) if this light is illuminated.

- Rogersville, AL, USA

problem #6

May 152014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 3,500 miles
I purchased a "certified" used 2011 Explorer base with 3500 miles in March 2014 from Ford dealer. Air bag light illuminated in may and stayed on replaced master module (under warranty) after a week of working on the vehicle. At the time, they told me when the light was on, it indicated the air bags would not deploy in a crash and they would not let me have the vehicle back while they waited for the part, a clear indication of how serious they considered the problem. Light has come back on three more times since (every 6-8 weeks). Each time since, dealer has "greased" electrical connections which causes the light to go off only temporarily. When the light comes back on, we are usually driving on the highway and not protected by this critical safety system. Aside from the extremely unsafe condition this poses to my family, it is becoming more and more difficult to bring the car back to the dealer every several weeks to have them only temporarily fix the issue. Based on other similar complaints, I expect this will continue for me until the warranty expires and I can't afford to fix the problem any longer. I approached the dealer's general manager and my regional Ford rep about buying the vehicle back but they both told me they would only give me what the vehicle was worth (which would put me in a large financial hole)...

- South Plainfield, NJ, USA

problem #5

Mar 142013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 39,350 miles
Air bag light has been on several times. Each time I have taken the vehicle in for service and they tell me each time they fixed it. I drive it some and the light comes back on. It is back in the shop for the tenth time I have paper trails and pictures to prove it. I ended up making an appointment the last time but before I got there I hit a deer end of March at 60 mph and the air bag didn't go off once the body work got done I took it into the Ford shop and they said there was a faulty sensor were the deer hit. They replaced it the I drove it eight miles and the light came back on so I turned around and they are telling me that there are no codes this time I have tried to get them to buy it back and they will not. The rear brakes have locked up four time and they have replace them each time and it continues to do the same with them also.

- Loudonville , OH, USA

problem #4

Sep 102013


  • 54,000 miles
A seat belt/air bag warning light has been coming on intermittently. I was told that the service dealers could only investigate this when the light was on. As it comes and goes, I have not been able to take the vehicle into the dealer for a couple of months. When I did, I was told that it was no longer in warranty and I would be charged about $450. The representative said if I did not get is corrected that the air bag would not work properly thereby exposing me to risk. It seems that a situation such as this should be covered by the manufacturer indefinitely or are they willing to take the chance that their customers will not be injured for an error on their part in manufacture. I had the defect repaired at my expense but would like to have an investigation opened and possible charges against Ford Motor Company and possibly even their dealership network.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #3

Jan 232014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
I was driving down the street at 55 mph when the 'power steering assist fault' displayed on the dashboard interior display. The steering wheel immediately locked up & I lost complete control of the vehicle & drifted to the right. I stepped on the brakes to avoid crashing & turned the car off. Once I turned the car back on the fault was no longer there & I drove home. I called the Ford dealership & made an appointment to get the vehicle checked the next day. Later on that same day, my wife & I had an appointment. However, when we started the vehicle up, the same fault was immediately displayed & the steering wheel locked up. I kept turning the car off & trying to restart, but the fault would not go away. I had to get my vehicle towed to the Ford dealership. I did some research online only to discover that I was not the only Ford owner that had this problem. Several others had the same issue. This finding prompted me to look on the Ford website to see if there was any recall but there is none. The Ford dealership quoted me for an 'air bag safety fault', electrical & valve malfunction, after running a diagnostic test on my vehicle. I was deeply concerned because the 'air bag fault' never displayed due to the other fault. The estimated cost was over $3,000. Also, I had to rent a vehicle in the interim. I asked about recalled parts & legal action when I was at the dealership but no one had any information. When I went to pick up my vehicle, the Ford dealership said they would pay for the rental & they made contact with Ford company. The Ford company allegedly emailed the Ford dealership & took $1,000 off the total cost. I have a wife & a baby. This is our only mode of transportation. I fear for the safety of my family in this make of vehicle & I would like for Ford to investigate this electrical issue further & recall its parts. Please help us & all others with this issue.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #2

Oct 182012


  • miles
The airbag indicator illuminated on my 2011 Ford Explorer limited so I took it to my local Ford dealer. They informed me that when this light is on, the SRS is deactivated as it is a closed system. The repair was done and in Jan 2013 the problem arose again. It was fixed after a couple of days and returned to me, since then I have had it back 7 additional times. Had I been in an accident I would not have had any of the protective equipment to help prevent serious injury or death. To date at least one pre-tensioner, a module, and a wiring harness have all been replaced.

- Abilene, TX, USA

problem #1

Jul 152011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 6,059 miles
I pulled into my driveway at a slow rate of speed, as I was braking the car was not stopping, as I pressed on the brake pedal it collapsed all the way to the floor but the brakes did not engage, just before the car hit the garage door which was directly in front of me the right front brake engaged, fully, stopping the right front tire only, the car pulled to the right and instead of hitting the garage door it struck a concrete column to the immediate right of the garage door. The air bags did not deploy and the seat belts automatic locking retractor did not engage so I was thrown forward into the steering wheel. The vehicle was towed to the dealership it was purchased from. We contacted Ford, filled out and returned the paperwork they requested, after almost four months of the vehicle sitting at the dealership waiting on Ford they decided that the problem was not caused by a manufacturer's defect. I am not sure how they could come up with that assumption as the vehicle was not in drivable condition and according to the dealership Ford never checked it. We have pictures showing the one skid mark from the right front tire and none from the other three tires.

- Marathon, FL, USA

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