Ford Explorer Sport Rollover Issues

I might buy a 1999 Ford Explorer Sport two-door for my son who has just gotten his license. My wife and I like it because it is a little bigger and think it might be safer. A friend of mine brought up the rollover issue and thinks we should find something else. My son seems like he is a pretty careful driver but I don’t want to put him into something that is unsafe. Early on some SUVs had really bad reputations for the rollover problems-- Should I avoid the Sport for that reason?


Quite honestly you would have to make some extremely aggressive maneuvers to roll that vehicle. If the tires are kept inflated to the proper pressure and the suspension is in good condition (no worn shocks, etc) he’ll be just fine. It’s not like you’re going to be taking an off-ramp and the car will just fall over-you really have to make some effort.

On an unrelated note I might investigate more reliable and better built vehicles than that particular car unless he has his heart set on it.

Read up on common transmission problems before buying this car. Any car can be rolled over in any type of strange circumstance. Rule of thumb the higher the roof is off the ground the easier it is to tip over.

I’m in the same situation with a new teen male driver, and I would definitly avoid that car. It’s the worst combination - high roll center with a short wheel base, combined with an inexperienced driver.

p.s. - I’m looking at either a used Altima or Forester.

Has nothing to do with the Sport edition. It’s that era of the Explorer. Besides the tires…one of the problems (according the NHSB) was the wheels should have been pushed out 4" (which Ford did in later years).

SUV’s are more prone to roll-overs then MOST cars. If you’re careful and understand the limits of your driving skills and the vehicle it’ll be fine. I don’t like the idea of a young inexperienced driver driving one. They usually don’t know their limits nor do they understand the limits of the vehicle they’re driving.

The only real safety issue is your son.  The car will not keep him safe if he drinks and drives or fails to drive responsibly.  His skill level will be a little low as well which makes any foolish action that much more dangerous.  

In this case it is all up to the boy.  If you have taught him well over the years and if he acts responsibly, he will be reasonably safe.  If not, then ....  

In my experience and opinion, the car that was bought with the hard earned money of a teenager is likely to be a safer car than one given to him.

Good Luck

As an inexperienced young driver at 16 I nearly rolled a Jeep CJ-7 due to getting caught in berm of gravel road and simply panicking and locking brakes.

I did roll my grandparents Isuzu Trooper at pretty low speed on sheer ice as it slid sideways and then caught traction on pavement. I would avoid any SUV and inexperienced driver unless it has rollover protection(called stability control these days)

Any vehicle can be rolled if it’s not kept within its limitations. Corvettes and Porsches get rolled on a regular basis also.

No vehicle rolls on its own unless a suspension part breaks, a tire goes down, or the drivers input is wrong.

Underinflation rubbing the sidewalls out of the tires is what led to some of those early rollovers.
If the owners would simply check the tire pressure every few weeks, at most, this would not happen.

The vehicle is perfectly safe as long as tires are kept up, suspension is not allowed to deteriorate, and the driver is not careless.

Any vehicle can be rolled if it’s not kept within its limitations. Corvettes and Porsches get rolled on a regular basis also.

The problem I see with this vehicle that it’s more prone then a Porsche or Vet…And an inexperienced driver may do the wrong thing and role the truck over. With another car it may NOT be as easy to role it over. Can it be done…yup…but a lot easier in a SUV then most other vehicles.

My daughter owns my old Pathfinder. I wouldn’t let her have it until I knew for a fact her ability to drive it. I never would have let her drive it when she first got her license. Only after she had a few years and miles under her did I feel comfortable enough with her having it.

IMHO, I think it would be best for the safety of your son, and for everyone else on the road if your son not get a High center of gravity SUV, as his first vehicle. A mid size car would be the safest for everyone.

The very best advice I ever encounterd came from my airplane pilot’s classes. --Train your subconscious in the emergency procedures–. As other posts have noted, a person’s gut reaction is to swerve back to their lane after getting off line but you need to make that move a shallower arc to maintain control. Tromping on the brakes is the other gut reaction that needs re-trained deep inside the base habit. Now that your son is just learning is the best time to get inside his ( and your ) driving habit. Practice getting the feel of brakes-vs-steering in a gravel lot and have him practice in his mind as he drives along, the “what if” scenarios that might occur in everyday driving. This 2-door Explorer is shorter than the 4-door and could roll easier but adjusting to the individual vehicle type is another important teaching point. The constant “what if” reminders will also stress the fact that he is not riding in the living room couch but actually operating a machine.

This vehicle is dangerous in exactly the kind of error situations tha new drivers make…entering corners too fast, following too closely (resulting in sudden evasive maneuvers), bumping granite curbs on fast corners, spinning out in bad weather, and rolling when T-boned (new drivers sometimes don’t pay as much attention as they should).

For these reasons I strongly recommend against one for a newly licensed driver.

OP, what you should keep in mind through all of this is that the Ford Explorer, every generation of them, is a perfectly safe and stable vehicle. It is only dangerous and rollover prone in the hands of a careless person.

You’re under the perception, perpetuated by TV, that an Explorer automatically means death personified and without knowing the entire story behind the alleged problem. Consider this.

Ford Explorers with Goodyear tires had no problems.
Ford Explorers with Bridgestone tires COULD be prone to rollover due to tread separation IF the tires were underinflated. Whose fault is that?

Numerous tests by various agencies including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that there is nothing wrong with the Explorer at all and almost all crashes were due to tire underinflation along with a common problem when a blowout occurs - brain freeze and/or panic on the part of the driver who slams on the brakes (a no-no) or over-corrects and goes tumbling.

There’s millions of these vehicles still on the road and notice how this “rollover issue” has disappeared?

As to perception, look no further than U-Haul. They will NOT rent a trailer to an Explorer owner but will happily rent one to a Mountaineer owner. They’re the same stinking vehicle except for trim and the badges on the back end.

“Careless person”…definition…“Male teenager”

A lot of people overload their SUVs and don’t check the tire pressure. Stupid people will die more often than not stupid people.

I drove a Ford Explorer Sport (two-door) for a year or so as a company vehicle. It was one of the worst vehicles I’ve ever driven, and I pity anyone who has to drive one.

Safer? No way!

I strongly recommend you consider something else (anything else) for your son. An Explorer Sport is not a vehicle I would put one of my children in.

An Explorer Sport won’t move on wet grass unless it’s in 4WD, and on the road, at speed, it’s a nightmare. Tall, tippy, short wheelbase; a prescription for disaster.

Rethink your position. There are MANY vehicles that will be better for your son.

Thanks to everyone for your responses. We have decide to forget the Sport as it does seem less safe than a “regular” sedan.

Rule of thumb the higher the roof is off the ground the easier it is to tip over.

Not true. I have inspected at least 200-300 cavaliers and S-10 pickup/Blazer that rolled and the neither of these vehicles are higher than the Explorer in question or any other popular SUV.