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2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right

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New User

Jan 31, 2016, 11:26 PM

Post #1 of 9 (1193 views)
2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

Hi, I recently starting having problems with my old Ford Explorer. (2001, Ford Explorer Sport, 4L V6, 84K miles)

This winter my area was hit with some pretty heavy snowfall and I had to put the car in a 4 wheel drive. I don't do this often maybe once a year during snow season. So I just had to get out of my parking space and put it into 4wd for maybe a minute. But as soon as I got on the road and started driving straight I felt a weird pull on the wheel to the right, it almost felt like the tires were hitting something because the car was vibrating and just making noises. I let go of the gas and the car just grinded to a stand still, like it didn't have any forward motion even with break released. It felt like the tires were being held by something, or something was acting as a break/obsticle for it. So I pulled over and switched it back into 2wd, and it was completely fine again.

But I was curious as to why it happened, so I switched it back into 4wd again after work just to see if it'd happen again, and it did, but this time when I switched back to 2wd it didn't fix the problem! So I was driving with all the creaking and vibration, ready to just give in and go to a repair shop, but then I drove over this road speed bump and I guess it nudged something and the steering was back to normal and vibration went away. That was a week ago, I'm afraid to even switch back in to 4wd now, but so far it's good, I've had to drive on rough road after that and it was fine.

But I'd like some advice on what it could be. I really don't want to
go to a mechanic as I know he's going to just charge me for a bunch of other stuff that needs to be "repaired", and I just don't have the money for a full repair job right now. But I could get a hold of a car jack and I'm pretty handy so as long as I can get a right diagnosis I'm fairly certain I can switch a few parts myself. Any advice? Thanks.

(This post was edited by VanillaSnake21 on Jan 31, 2016, 11:27 PM)

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Feb 1, 2016, 12:39 AM

Post #2 of 9 (1184 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

OK - I'm one of the snow belt people here but missed that last monster storm about totally. If you needed 4X4 just to get out of your parking spot, piles of plowed or shoveled snow and or was windy too driven at the thing it no surprise to have harmed something or sometimes just ice built up or got stuck in wheel(s) all wrong and should be melted out now a while ago.
It plain needs to be checked out for damage but include tires, brakes and that it is OUT of 4X4 now too as most do NOT like driving along with it on unless the type intended to and doubt this is that type they feel like crap.
Awful hard to say without this being look at up in the air for what might have happened just from pulling out of spot, ice damage up to maybe a ticked off other vehicle doing something or road crews trying to tow it or who knows?

New User

Feb 1, 2016, 1:58 AM

Post #3 of 9 (1181 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

Thanks for fast reply. At first I also though it was ice, since as soon as went out of my spot I felt the shuddering and pulled over to look under the car to check, and when I got back in and put it back in 2wd the problem went away. But I also tested it on the way back home from work, I've been driving for some time and on my street decided to put it into 4wd with the same issue. So at that time the car was already hot so I can say it definitely wasn't the snow. I'm no car expert by far but it just seems like something is going on with the front axle. I did some research while waiting for replies and some things like vibration, trouble turning are symptoms for broken U-joint? Is that something possible?

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Feb 1, 2016, 3:31 AM

Post #4 of 9 (1174 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

Was the car like "street" parked in and in the huge area that got almost 2 feet of snow? Was it possible that it was supposed to be out of there or needed to be in clearing where it was?
That was one huge storm in areas not accustomed to that nor even people ready nor plain shovels enough if on a city street where there's no place for anything like that - stuff happens.
I'm in burbs W. of Boston and fine if that happened right here not in Boston but even there much more ready than even closer to fully NYC thru Wash. D.C. it's way out of ordinary.
The problem seems to have happened right then so need to know what's possible off of plain mechanical. Just having a ton of snow on a lone vehicle doesn't harm it at all.
Front drive wheels on this are CV joint shafts as acting "U" joints. If someone pulled to tried to tow this from one or a steering part it would easily harm it is what I was thinking by description.
That or 4X4 isn't disengaging feels horrible as said on even just plain wet road while driving.
Guilty myself and own another brand of 4X4 and do NOT use that off season and should as an actuator engages fronts and might not engage or let go on request?
Possible for a brake alone to now be stuck on and just was ready to happen too or other something that was weak now gone bad?
You say "Steering Wheel Tilts." Just exactly what do you mean? Does is NOT point straight ahead when driving straight ahead or pull to one side? Is there now a very busy sound while driving coming from front wheels?
So much of this could be ruled in or out with a good look and wheels off what the scene is with driveline parts, steering parts and brakes on the list of things.
Small deal but do you have a near flat tire on the front especially? I can envision in digging out any vehicle even busting or harming a valve stem to a wheel where you put air in! If you did find one low bend or wiggle on it and listen for air escaping and be ready for a tow to fix that as that may not take air again and go totally flat.
So much could be done with it looked at you say you can't afford. You have to afford it if just a 1/2 hour's time for a shop for a mechanic to look at and then decide what you can do about it up to park it till you can afford to fix it if even you can do it.

If nothing else it isn't helping it at all continuing to use this vehicle like this,


Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Discretesignals profile image

Feb 1, 2016, 5:39 AM

Post #5 of 9 (1167 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

You should get under there and inspect the front end components. You could have an CV axle issue causing that.

Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.

New User

Feb 1, 2016, 5:57 AM

Post #6 of 9 (1163 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

I'm in NYC and the snow was pretty heavy, but my car wasn't completely covered or anything. There was no snow under it, so I didn't have to dig to get it out, it's just hard to imagine a little snow on the roof causing this.

I did have the car towed a few years ago when the battery died, but I've used 4wd since then with no problem. And I don't really drive it that much, maybe twice a week and on clear paved streets at that. So I really can't thing of any physical damage that could have been done.

What I meant by steering wheel tilting, it almost felt like the tires were hitting something, like when you hit a curb and the wheel doesn't want to turn in the other direction. It would not point straight ahead, I had to constantly apply force to the left to keep it pointing straight and it required force. There is a sound it's not lound but it sounds like the wheel is rubbing against something.

The wheels on the front are a little underpressured but they're not even close to flat.

I can post some pictures if needed of the underside of the car maybe someone can tell from those?

Now that I think about something definitely has to be touching the wheels when this happens. I don't know if I mentioned it but when this was happening letting go of gas brought the car to a quick stop, even though I didn't hit the brakes, and the contact was strong enough that it came to a complete stop, and wouldn't "roll" (as a normal car does when it's in idle with no brakes applied.) So can that narrow it down? What part can touch the wheel if loose/bent that is activated when 4 wheel drive is engaged?

(This post was edited by VanillaSnake21 on Feb 1, 2016, 6:03 AM)

New User

Feb 1, 2016, 6:29 AM

Post #7 of 9 (1161 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

I'll climb under today and post a few pictures, specificly of that cv axle part. Thanks for suggesting it.

kev2 profile image

Feb 1, 2016, 7:10 AM

Post #8 of 9 (1159 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

My 2cents- 4WD 101
sounds like the vehicle is staying in 4WD - When placeing of the selector back to 2WD the system will often stay in 4WD until the drive train is "unloaded" sometimes stopping and hifting to reverse helps... When in 4wd on pavement steering will feel very very different.
A visual inspection - have someone rock the steering wheel back and forth an inch or so as you look for those loose components. Took longer to type than do.

Icewolf 325e '85 bmw

Feb 8, 2016, 5:29 PM

Post #9 of 9 (1118 views)
Re: 2001 Ford Explorer Steering wheel tilts to the right Sign In

It could also possibly be a brake pressure problem in 4wd, as in enough pressure to stay put in park but once it gets into 4wd the system may not be responding well to the cold... I say this because you say it feels like a "pull", which brakes can cause as you drive... I've had the same problem in winter months in my 85' bmw... at any rate, make sure your brake fluid is good Smile, and best of luck!

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