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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi, I have been driving this Explorer for the last year. It has 120k miles on it. Recently, it began feeling a “little floaty” at speeds 65mph and over. The sensation is that the tires are not 100% in contact with the road which gives the vehicle a “floaty” feeling…like any small turn of the wheel would make the vehicle spin or grab to the right or left. When I take my hands off the wheel, it says straight on the road and when I turn the wheel slightly to see where it reacts, it's a very slight turn of the wheel. No vibration. No unusual tread wear. No problem with turns or driving at lower speeds or on sider roads.

I took it to the shop to see what they may find. Nothing. Alignment and pressure was fine. No fluids or loose connections in the steering. Nothing obvious and while the service tech did feel a slight “floaty" like a boat sensation, they could find nothing to repair.

Now, I’m thinking that there’s something that just hasn’t failed yet that if addressed proactively might resolve the “floaty” feeling and return my Explorer to a more solid, grounded drive. So, where do I start? Struts? Shocks? Additional front-end steering stabilizer???

Any and all experiences and suggestion are appreciated. Thank you! 02ExplorerGirl
 

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That it reacts to slight steering wheel changes means your tie rod ends are probably fine, but you could go ahead and check those along with other things.

It is most likely that your struts are worn, if they've not been replaced in the last few dozen thousands of miles, or if one or more have leaked.

You could have one or more sway bar (check both the front and rear sway bars) links that lost the nut or rusted through, though usually you would hear a bumping sound. One or more might have lose the rubber bushing, or the sway bar mount might have a failed bushing, but again you'd usually hear a bump sound when changing direction or going over a road bump.

For a while (I don't know what year it ended) Ford was specifying a low tire pressure on the door stickers to make Explorers ride smoother. I would disregard that and have at least 32 lbs pressure, and really closer to 35 lbs, or if you have high load tires with a max above 35lbs, closer to that max but not necessarily at it unless you are hauling heavy loads, otherwise you could get wear on the center of the tire.

There might also be a 5th, stabilizer shock absorber, sometimes called a steering stabilizer but it's in the rear so a better term would be axle damper. If yours is original (it did not come on the low end Explorer trim so you may not even have one or the bracket for it), after 120K mi. it is due to be replaced.

The part #'s I'm seeing for that 5th shock are Gabriel 14077 or Monroe SC2958. I believe KYB also makes one but I don't know their part #.

Otherwise you might have worn spring bushings.

I'd definitely start with new struts if they are old, as they are a wear item that needs replaced periodically anyway, especially on a high center of gravity SUV.

I wrote struts but two types of Explorers, Postal and Sports stayed with the older 2nd gen design that uses shocks instead of struts. A normal XLS/XL/XLT/Eddie Bauer/Limited uses struts for '02.

If you can DIY the struts, or have someone (or a shop that allows customers to supply their own parts) do it for you, you may be in luck in that Rock Auto currently has struts for your vehicle heavily discounted as Wholesaler Closeouts. If buying these Monroe 71322 and Monroe 71321, don't forget to use the Rock Auto 5% off coupon code floating around the internet.

https://www.rockauto.com/en/catalog/ford,2002,explorer,4.0l+v6,1377660,suspension,strut,7584

I would also carefully inspect the tires in case you have one with a belt failure or shift, and if nothing is found, rotate the tires to see if this makes the floating sensation change, but I would just replace the struts first if they're old, before bothering with anything else.
 

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Check body mounts. They deteriorate. My 2003 mounts were shot at 110K. Ford wants over 3K to fix. I did it for $155 using a replacement kit from on line company.
 
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