2011 Ford Explorer
Patrick Rall's picture

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.

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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Thankfully, I wasn’t driving mine when mine started ,went to take my daughter to school and couldn’t back out of my driveway called my mechanic he come to my house and got it to where I could drive it. The next morning I took my daughter to ball practice killed it and when I started it I couldn’t turn the steering wheel killed it and started it back and it worked.