Notes: The 2002 Ford Explorer is hands-down our worst vehicle on record. "Avoid like the plague" is putting it lightly.

The 2002-2005 Explorer has a very well-established record of expensive transmission failure at under 100k miles. The Explorer has an enclosed transmission which is typically replaced with a rebuilt transmission at a cost of almost $3,000.

Another common problem for the 2002-2003 Explorer is wheel bearing failure at around 90k miles, with a typical repair bill of $500 to $1000 depending on how many wheel bearings failed.

Adding insult to injury, the 2002-2005 Explorer also has a massive problem with the rear panel cracking. While it's a minor annoyance compared to transmission failure, ironically the crack usually goes right through the Ford logo.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
79,067 miles
Total Complaints:
621 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should pay for it (396 reports)
  2. not sure (86 reports)
  3. paid to have rear panel replaced (48 reports)
  4. file complaint with NHTSA to get a recall issued (26 reports)
  5. start a class action suit and get damages reimbursed (17 reports)
  6. dealership replaced the entire panel (10 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 17 of 32)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #301

May 012004

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


Without any neglect on my part, a crack appeared on the rear tailgate panel directly below the tailgate glass, next to the Ford emblem. I contacted the Ford dealer where I had just purchased the car only 2 months prior to see if Ford would stand behind their product. They told me this is not covered and that I would have to pay over $350 (back in 2004) to have it fixed. I refuse to pay for something that Ford should cover. I choose to drive my Ford with the crack so that "alike" owners will see the same problem and those considering a Ford will see it, too. I see many Fords with the same problem, so it is reasonable to say that there are many of us. I am furious at Ford for not replacing the panels. I would like to see the government hold Ford accountable. As long as they do nothing about this, I will not say anything favorable about my Ford SUV and I refuse to buy a Ford in the future.

- , Estes Park, CO, US

problem #300

Dec 012008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles

Well a Google search brought me to this site.

I can't believe how many people have this issue.

I have had so many problems with this vehicle that I will never buy a Ford again!

Master Cylinder, Stereo (bad second time), Clicking noise in rear AC (fixed once under warranty and now it is bad again) driver door trim cracked and fell off door (have to replace entire door interior just to fix that issue.

I hardly drive my Ford, I only have 48,000 miles on it. And I take good care of it.

It is a shame that Ford does not care, and you know what? I don't care anymore for Ford.

- , Deerfield Beach, FL, USA

problem #299

Nov 192008

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,849 miles

Bought the vehicle and it already had a 6" crack on the right side of the tailgate. Ugly, and I'm sure it will get bigger.

- , Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

problem #298

Nov 172008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles


This is the second time I will have to replace the rear panel on the back liftgate of my Explorer because it has cracked. I paid the dealership $200.00 19 months ago and they replaced it with another defective panel. It has cracked again. I have only put 12,000 miles on the vehicle since it was replaced and it is kept under covered parking. The dealership wants another $300.00 to replace it. I pitched a fit and they suggested I call Ford Customer Service. What a joke they are! Their canned response is that the part is only warranted for 12 months so they can't help me. I swear if we spend my tax dollars to bail out the automotive companies, I am going to refuse to pay income taxes! I'd rather go to jail then pay those crooks a red cent!

- , San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #297

Nov 202008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

I think this sums it up that ford explorers are pieces of sh t , they were supposed to recall the rear on them and they didnt, im glad we had the extended3 year warranty, it probably had about $6000 done to it in that 3 yr time ,including rebuilt transmission, wheel seals , wheel bearing , i had to do 2 myself, chain tensioned for timing chain twice and its bad again, and now the hood paint is no good and all peeling, and amazingly the value of the vehicle isnt work sh*t. i cant get rid of it any how , and now i have the crack below the rear window. ford , your company will fail just like gm is currently.

- , Lancaster, PA, USA

problem #296

Nov 072006

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I'm a used dealer and we have had probably 10 Explorers on our lot since I bought the place. 9 of them have had the large cracks. 1 of those caused the back window to shatter. It is definitely a Ford Issue. They have had issues with the adhesive they used on these and their Expeditions around 2002 and 2003. It is a defect and should be fixed for free by your Ford dealer.

- , Cumming, GA, US

problem #295

Nov 172008

Explorer XL V6 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles


Same Problem as all the others. Two cracks 4 inches long on opposites sides of panel just appeared about the same day. Dealer won't touch it. Ford 800 number said they won't pay for it. No wonder your stock price is 1.80.

- , Richmond, VA, USA

problem #294

Jan 032008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

Same problem as Everyone Else. I thought this was an isolated case, until I saw another Explorer last week with an identical crack. Now I see there are hundreds of people with this problem. This will be my last Ford!!! I'll look into Dodge or Toyota.

- , Frankfort, KY, USA

problem #293

Feb 152008

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Parked my car over night at a McDondalds, came back the next afternoon to pick it up and the plastic over the ford emblem was just crack all the way down on the rear hatch. That was definitely a surprise to just have the plastic crack, there was no scratches or dents where it happened either.

- , Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #292

Jan 102007

Explorer EB V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I called Ford HQ to complain about this problem and asked for a recall.

Answer from Ford: They never heard about this problem.

Guess what my next car won't be?

- , Winter Haven, FL, USA

problem #291

Feb 152008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles


From what I have seen on various web sites, there must be thousands of cars with this problem. One web site alone had over 400 complaints. I have also been watching for 2002 Explorers, which are easy to spot because the paint on the roof rack is peeling on most of them. There are a lot of cracked rear panels here in Wisconsin. I think, it's time that Ford steps up to the plate and admits that this is more than "an isolated problem".

- , Green Bay, WI, USA

problem #290

Oct 112006

Explorer 4.8L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Same as everyone else. Defective part that should be recalled/repaired. This will be the last FORD that I or anyone else in my family purchases...

- , Yucaipa, CA, USA

problem #289

Aug 312007

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

with so many people having this same problem, something should be done to fix it!

- , Idaho Falls, ID, USA

problem #288

Dec 012003

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 15,000 miles

Ok I wouldn't have thought too much of this except that like everytime I am in a large parking lot, I see AT LEAST 1 Explorer with the exact same crack on the back panel. Why does the consumer have to pay for these kinds of things when it is clearly a defect? (compared to all the serious safety problems with this car, I guess I shouldn't even complain about this cosmetic one... but it still bugs)

- , Castle Rock, CO, USA

problem #287

Sep 282008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

Noticed several Explorers around town with same problem.

- , Dallas, TX, USA

problem #286

Aug 102008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

glad I found this web site through a friend at work, amazed that so many others had the same problem!!! WHERE IS THE RECALL??

- , Middletown, CA, USA

problem #285

Feb 062008

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,000 miles

Seeing that this is a common problem as well as my transmission, etc. I guess I really bought a lemon!

- , Ronald, WA, US

problem #284

Aug 012007

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

A long crack is visible underneath the back window of my explorer. From closing the back window the pressure (over time) created a small crack. I stopped shutting the back window when I saw the crack. But, the crack has expanded to the biggest size it could be from the constant movement of the vehicle.

- , Cincinn, OH, USA

problem #283

Feb 072008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

Add me to the list!! This real panel crack is disgusting! My brother has a body shop, and says he sees these all the time- and that they will crack again because of the defect-

My husband thought i "did something" to make it crack, and I almost believed him (although I couldn't think of anything I did that would make it crack). Then a lady approached me in a parking lot and asked me if my Explorer was a 2002, and she said hers cracked, and that she has been noticing other ones cracked and always tries to talk to the owners to see if they have complained to Ford. She said she has been complaining for a year, but nothing happens in the way of recall. We bought this used from a dealer about a year ago, but it was fine at 56,000 mileage. Can't believe we didn't look it up before purchasing! Had no idea there had been so many problems with the Explorer. We also have continuing issues with cruise control not working all the time.

My husband is a die-hard Ford guy- maybe this will open his eyes...

- , Granbury, TX, USA

problem #282

Oct 032005

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

It's irritating that I have the worst vehicle in the world. It really hurts resale!! I can't believe that Ford is OK with having this kind of reputation!! Thought I was getting a reliable well-built SUV for over $30000 new. And yes I was stupid enough to pay sticker price for the POS. I've tried to sell it for KBB value but nobody wants to buy a vehicle with the kind of reputation that the 2002 Exploder has. YES my rear panel did crack and the only reason I got it replaced was to resale the thing...AND here I am stuck with it 3 years later. I feel fortunate to have made it as long as I have on the transmission it has. The thing clunks between gears now and will only go back into park if I wiggle the shifter. It's only a matter of time and I'll be dishing out $$ for that issue. I WILL NEVER PURCHASE OR RECOMMEND A FORD TO ANYONE EVER AGAIN!

If you're considering purchasing an Explorer, consider this... Every issue in the complaint list on AutoBeef about 02 Explorers will happen to your Explorer... It's just a matter of when... And Ford isn't making an effort to rectify any of them.

Should have went with my instincts when I test drove it for the first time in 2002 - I should have purchased a Toyota 4-Runner instead. I will not make the mistake again.

Update from Nov 11, 2014: I ended up owning this vehicle from 2002 to 2014. During this time I had to replace wheel bearings 3 times on each wheel. 3 speed sensors. Rear main seal once, repaint of hood because of paint peeling, replacement of rear cracked panel 3 times, replacement of rear hatch hinges 2 times. All heat controls no longer worked, rear heat controls stopped working. AC developed a leak so needed regular recharge, dash controls stopped illuminating, cd changer jammed and no longer played cds. At 180k miles the timing chain started chattering and the transmission was slipping and clunking-still. I babied the heck out of its whole life and finally sold it at 200k. I will never buy a Ford again.

Update from Nov 11, 2014: I forgot to mention. The 2nd time my panel cracked, after about a month it actually fell off and hit a vehicle that was tailgating me... so it's not just cosmetic. This does post a safety concern to other drivers.

- , Mitchellville, IA, USA

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