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2011 Ford Explorer under investigation for power steering failures

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a preliminary investigation into the electronic power assist steering system in the 2011 Ford Explorer over a handful of complaints about the steering system failing to provide proper assistance to the driver.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to open the investigation into the electronic power assist steering system of the 2011 Ford Explorer after the federal agency received 15 complaints of the steering system randomly failing while being driven. In some of these 15 cases, the power steering system began working as expected when the driver shut the vehicle off and restarted it but in other cases; once the power steering system stopped working, it would not regain normal function. This investigation includes roughly 83,000 units from the 2011 model year Explorer.

The 15 owners who filed complaints about their electronic power assist steering failures in the 2011 Ford Explorer stated that when the assist system stopped working properly, it got very difficult to turn the steering wheel. One owner went so far as to say that when the EPAS system failed, the steering wheel pulled away from her husband’s hands and it was impossible for him to move the turn the vehicle. That failure came at low speed so no other damage was done. In addition to the steering wheel becoming impossible to move, the particular owner stated that the warning message “Power Assist Failure” appeared in the driver information center.

Luckily, in the 15 complaints filed with the NHTSA with the problematic power steering system in the 2011 Ford Explorer, there have been no reports of accidents or injuries resulting from the steering system failure.

Like many modern vehicles, the 2011 Ford Explorer is equipped with the high tech electronic power assist steering system rather than a fluid driven system that is run off of the engine via a drive (or serpentine) belt. The main advantage of the electronic power steering system is that it does not present the draw on the engine that the traditional power steering system does so when removing this addition effort from the engine – vehicles equipped with this system can put more power to the wheels while also offering better fuel economy. The other big advantage of the electronic power assist steering system is that it allows more adjustments and tuning, features which are especially helpful in the higher performance models that pack a similar system like the 2013 Ford Mustang.

The downside to the electronic power assist steering system in the 2011 Ford Explorer (as it displayed by this new NHTSA investigation) is that this system is fairly new and new technology always has a greater potential for “bugs”. A great many vehicles sold in the US offer electronic power steering rather than the traditional belt driven system and there have been very few complaints across the industry as a whole. With just 15 complaints out of more than 83,000 units sold, this is clearly a very small sample section of the 2011 Explorer SUVs but with the possibility of a vehicle suddenly becoming impossible to control – it leaves to question as to why the NHTSA is looking more closely to see if there is an issue with the electronic power assist system.

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Anonymous (not verified)    August 21, 2012 - 9:52PM

The other day my EPAS system failed causing my steering wheel to lock as I was turning left in the middle on an intersection. I was able to pull my wheel as hard as possible and get to the side of the road. I turned the vehicle off and restarted it and the vehicle was operable again. The next day, I took it to the dealership where not one person had heard about this problem. I then got a call today being told that it could take 2 weeks to 3 months for an entirely new assembly rack to be received from Ford! Needless to say, I'm kind of concerned for anyone else out there that may have the potential for the same problem. Ford needs to act immediately on this problem!

Sam Messina (not verified)    May 3, 2021 - 2:53PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm having the same intermittent problem with my electronic power steering shouldn't the vehicle off starting a backup seems to correct it but this is the second third time it's happened. Is anybody know is this something that Ford is correcting at no cost?

Brian (not verified)    June 12, 2021 - 6:45AM

In reply to by Sam Messina (not verified)

I'm having the same problem with my 2011 ford explorer had it replaced less then a year ago and it went again and I called Ford they said I have to pay $2100.00 to have it fixed

Richard Bardos (not verified)    May 21, 2022 - 12:01PM

In reply to by Sam Messina (not verified)

I am just starting to get the problem with my 2011. It only has 42k miles on it, Depending rather I have it in 4WD and
in sand, mud or snow position changes the problems. Best is if I have it in sand position, less steering wheel preasure. I hope their is a safety recall soon

Ricardo (not verified)    August 27, 2015 - 6:28PM

Driving down the highway and my steering system just locked up while turning left of an exit. It took all my strength to make the turn and pull off the road.

Tracy (not verified)    December 1, 2015 - 10:54PM

I have also lost steering in my Explorer a number of times !! I have been on major highways but thank god neither myself or my children have been injured! ! I will never purchase a ford again!! Nothing but problems!!!!

Justin (not verified)    February 26, 2016 - 12:54AM

Our 2011 Ford exploder... Lol has done the same thing to my wife. Just to let everyone know , at almost 100,000 miles on it and it's the p/s has been making a errrrrr sound when turning the wheel. Now with that said with the power steering being electronic if the alternator starts to go bad it will adversley affect the p/s. I am in process of replacing the alternator and already ordered the e/p/s hard ware. All relatively easy to change. Oh and I'm a GMC guy all the way but this explorer has been great it loves the snow and ice handles like a sports car and seets an entire 7 person family comfterbly great on gas and love the features loaded of corse. So all and all I'll fix these two problems cause it's not that hard too and do a software update. New things have bugs to work out and those two things are a lot better than the GMC Chevrolet recalls with the ignition systems and what not.

Felicia Cardenas (not verified)    September 12, 2016 - 11:15AM

I have a 2011 Ford Explorer and am having problems with my power steering. At times it male functions and I am unable to drive my vehicle.

Roger Black (not verified)    September 12, 2016 - 5:53PM

In reply to by Felicia Cardenas (not verified)

I had the same problem with my 2011 Explorer. I took it to the local Ford Dealershipand they repaired it at NO COST, to me. Suggest you take and see if they are willing to do the same for your problem.

Michelle Hendricks (not verified)    November 1, 2016 - 12:29PM

I was driving on frwy and power steering svc light came on at same time trac adv lightcame on i was closer to a jiffy lube (within minutes it was completely impossible to turn the wheel) than dealership and pulled in to have them check it they said it had to be done by dealership as it was electronic. It took two grown men and myself to turn the steering wheel just enough to back it out of the bay and into the lot. My concern is what if i had been driving with grandbabies in the car and it went out at a higher rate of speed. It couldve been disastrous . and eat about this trac adv light ?? How does that affect the steering as well?

Christopher Cothren (not verified)    September 27, 2017 - 12:07PM

My 2011 explorer started experiencing power steering problems that would not allow the wheel to turn at all when leaving the parking lot. Had to turn the car on and off a few times to get it to work. Over time it happened more frequently and while the car was in motion. Last one was when pulling into driveway and had to pull in sideways. Nothing I do no fixes the issues the power steering and advanced steering control lights are on. It's unusable I'll have to have it towed. It's dangerous what if I were on the highway with my kids?

Jacob Jihnson (not verified)    November 28, 2017 - 11:23AM

Same thing as everyone else commented. Pulling off of the highway and got a power steering fault and trac failure alert and could not move the steering wheel. Called my local ford dealer and they installed all recalled parts and service free of charge.

Larry Grass (not verified)    August 31, 2019 - 7:20PM

August 28, 2019 at12 noon my 2011Ford Explore experienced the same thing. I had just moved from a stop sign and all steering was lost. I finally coasted off road and in a few minutes restarted the car and it was as if nothing had happened. I purchased the car new and it has never given trouble. I am afraid to drive. The dealer indicated it would cost $2,300 to fix.

Carla Martens (not verified)    September 21, 2020 - 2:12PM

My power steering has stopped working! It happened a few times before, and after turning off the vehicle and waiting a couple of minutes, it would be ok. But now it doesn’t work at all!!

Omar b. (not verified)    November 8, 2020 - 6:02PM

I see a lot of these comments are old but I have this same issue with my 2011 ford explorer limited I purchased it from a used dealer out of Harrisburg (four stars auto exchange) north shamokin autoplex) 9/28/20 on 9/29/20 coming off the highway I lost control wheel got extremely stiff I immediately contacted the dealer (dustin) and told him what just happened he tops me turn the vehicle off then back on so HE DEFINITELY knew about the situation so I took it to the ford dealership they checked it gave me a est of $2240 and said it had a recall that was repaired back in 2014 so they cant replace it for free now Im out of a vehicle cause ford wont fix it and I have to take legal action towards the dealer I bought it from now Im 37 days without a vehicle.

Rich Willson (not verified)    January 7, 2021 - 4:41PM

The Electronic Power Assist System went out on my 2011 Ford Exploer today. It only has 42,000 on it. Does it have a fuse?
What is to be done?

Andrew Castro (not verified)    September 12, 2021 - 8:26AM

I’ve been using my daughter’s 2011 explorer and yesterday the EPAS went out on me and steering became very hard to turn. I tried restarting process but it didn’t recover. I just replaced the idler arms, lower control arms in the front, sway bar links in front and I wonder if it needs an alignment? Any ideas?

Thomas Clark (not verified)    February 28, 2022 - 4:13PM

Has there been any movement on this, Twice now at start up I've had the PW steering fault making it impossible to turn the wheel. Flasher, stop shut down the car and restart it. This second time I had to do this twice before I could turn.

Richard Bardos (not verified)    May 17, 2022 - 2:27PM

Has Ford came out with a recall. Mine just started getting hard to turn in normal range at 40 K miles

Bobby P (not verified)    October 9, 2022 - 12:23PM

This just happened to my 2011 Ford Explorer. Bought new has 98K miles on it. For the most part car hasn’t had problems. I was pulling out of my garage when the failure happen. Next day when I tried again it worked fine but after reading the comments I am nervous this can happen again on the highway. I will call my dealer tomorrow and see if there is a recall covering this scope of work.

Judith Garcia (not verified)    October 17, 2022 - 5:34PM

I been having this problem with my truck I done took it to different places and say they can't fine the problem and I show them pics of the code that comes up its was a recall on this but it's over 10years so ford can't fix it car been parked for 2 months

Timothy Jackson (not verified)    November 7, 2022 - 10:50AM

Looks like there's more than 15 complaints about this electronic pump. Ford should have tested this for atleast a few years under harsh conditions,just because of the fact that it's new technology (at the time). Ours just went out in the ride home. 70K on the odometer, and now this BS. I'll never have a Ford in my garage again!!!

Betty Hodges (not verified)    December 21, 2022 - 10:47PM

In September, 2022 my EPAS suddenly went out while myself and my two daughters ages 8 and 10 were existing off the interstate. I couldn't control my steering and my Explorer went down the guardrail causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. Lucky we weren't hurt.

Timothy Jackson (not verified)    January 3, 2023 - 3:55AM

The dealership would not fix it, and wanted to charge $3000 cash to fix it. We stopped paying for it, if that's the best they can do. So they came and got it, and couldn't even get it down the driveway without a tow truck. Told them it was completely out, and would not turn at all. So now we have another vehicle, no thanks to the ford dealership