Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. 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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
42,773 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2002 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #18

May 152003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,078 miles


ABS light came on at 19,518 miles, 22,071 miles, and 27,078 miles. More importantly, however, are my issues with the 2002 Explorer rear end. 10/1/03: 27,078 miles ABS light came on, the dealer replaced the assembly. Rear differential was leaking, dealer replaced the seals. 7/28/04: 40,541 miles rear end leaking again. Half shafts were worn. Rear locking diff was slipping. The dealer had to replace both halfshafts, seals, and clutch packs. 9/22/04: 43,203 miles rear axle chattering. Replaced whole rear axle assembly. 2/25/05: 54,960 miles rear diff making more noise. Left rear axle bearing was noisy. Replaced left rear axle hub and assembly. On test drive, the dealer found that the bearing they just installed was bad, so they had to replace it again. 8/11/05: 68,000 miles leaking fluid from rear end. The dealer performed the following maintenance: Replaced diff seals, replaced timing chain, replaced right front hub assembly, replaced ring and pinion, replaced front end tie rods, replaced both lower ball joints, performed front end alignment. All told, I have had my Explorer in the shop at least 10 times. My warranty is about to expire (7,000 more miles) and I'm going to try to get Ford to buy the vehicle back. From what I've heard, this is not an easy process and apparently doesn't happen often with such 'high mileage' vehicles. If they don't buy it back I will be forced to take a huge loss on the vehicle. I will then purchase anything but a Ford.

- Mason, MI, USA

problem #17

Jul 082005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles
Two instances of whining noise at 50+ mph and fluid leakage from rear axle seal 2002 Ford Explorer limited. The first one caused loss of control when accelerating on highway; resulting in coming to rest within inches of concrete barrier after jerking across several lanes. Difficult to determine since rear transaxle fluid leaks down drive shaft to brake assembly. I only notice because I perform a monthly inspection of the undercarriage. Noticed significant corrosion of brake assembly where fluid is running into the wheel assembly. Only when leak is significant will fluid drip onto surface below rear axle. Dealer noted Ford engineers are aware of problem but expect the consumer to pay for repairs. First replacement of rear axle seals at 39000 miles; second at 50000 miles. These seals should last longer. Second instance had vibration when engaging the vehicle in reverse and oud whining noise/ vibration from rear; then fluid leakage. This is a major safety issue for the Ford Explorer. Several work colleagues had the rear axle sieze due to lubricant loss with similiar symptoms, almost causing serious accident. My dealer acknowledges (bill estes, brownsburg, in) that many Explorer (2002-2005) have this problem and Ford Motor Company engineers are evaluating; as a dealer there is nothing they can do. Ford has not indicated a fix other than to check fluid level, replace rear axle seals, and/or the rear unit. This is a significant hazard since in most cases the vehicle owner will not know there is a pending failure due to the fluid leaking down the rear axle drive shaft toward the brake/wheel assembly. The whining noise will increase as fluid level decreases with risk failure and loss of control. This problem is far more common than reported due to the difficult nature of observation of leakage. One has to crawl under the rear transaxle and carefully inspect the two axle seals to look for signs of corrosion and fluid leakage.

- Brownsburg, IN, USA

problem #16

Aug 042004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Drive train and rear axle have persistent shudder and binding when shifting gears 2-3 and upon acceleration dealership has been notified and will not resolve problems that have been id'd w/ service bulletins for the 5355-rw assembly and the rear-gear lubricant ratio mix-up inthe sealed rear housing even though they have rec'd protocal from mfg. On the procedure and/or replacement partsas being available since Mar 2001 this has been noted in other complaints that have resulted in severe damage done to the rear axle and wheel components but they do not see this as a problem when in fact it can result in vehicle failurethat may result in injury or evem death. I personally see this as blatant negligence on the dealerand mfg. Part of resolving this issue. My Explorer exhibited trouble since July'04 and was mfgd. In the time frame that a defect was brought to Ford's attention in this matter. What do they want a certain number of deaths or injuries?

- Covington, GA, USA

problem #15

Jul 282003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 21,000 miles


Problem with back end, took vehicle to the dealer, and dealer said they fixed axle, then, took back vehicle to the dealer, and they fixed hub, and replaced the rear wheel bearings. In last 3 months vehicle has been in shop 3 times. Currently, in the shop. Went to get oil change last Friday, and mechanic noticed oil was leaking from the axle. Currently vehicle in shop trying to figure out what was wrong with it. This happened before. They gave consumer an extra 5 yr warranty because of the transmission, and this was 8 months after purchasing the vehicle. Dealership kept saying vehicle was safe even though didn't know what was wrong with it.

- Versailles, KY, USA

problem #14

May 312005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70 miles
Loud thumping noises coming from front end of 2002 Ford Explorer. Ford says they are normal. It didn't do this when we bought it. Also there is a loud whining noise coming from the rear end. Rear end has been replaced onced. Problem disappeared for about 10K miles after it was replaced. Wife is afraid to drive the car as we have three newborn babies.

- Murfreesboro, TN, USA

problem #13

Aug 252003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Rear end noise (grinding) in our 2002 Ford Explorer during de-acceleration. First time to dealer 8/25/03 mileage 30,901, nothing done, 2nd time to dealer for the same problem 11/03/03, mileage 36,930 could not find problem. Problem seems to go away, came back around 75,000 miles. Took vehicle to another dealer and complete rear end was replaced at a cost of $2600. Not sure why it was not detected with the first time to the dealer?

- Summerville, SC, USA

problem #12

Mar 052005

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


Loud whining noise in the rear differential.. the bearings are bad and the seals are leaking

- Texas City, TX, USA

problem #11

Mar 202005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Hello, I own a 2002 Ford explore XLT with 50,000 miles V-6. in the rear end of the vehicle there is a grinding noise that is in a rythmic patteren. I have scheduled an appointment next Tuesday but was wondering if there is any recalls that I should know about. After reading several forms from other Ford Explorer owners it sounds as if there is a reoccouring problem.

- Moberly, MO, USA

problem #10

Mar 182004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,488 miles
1st time was the rear howling noise at highway speeds, primarily during acceleration. It was remedied once foot was off the gas pedal. Inner/outer axle bearings, racers, pinion seal were replaced. 2nd incident occured less than 30 days, and 3000 miles later, when the truck decided to pull me from 75 mph to 25 mph in seconds. There was a major leak under the rear axle, and the truck required towing. There was a major replacement to the rear end, do not have the documentation at hand, but it was expensive. Now, 2 years later, 30000 miles later, the rear end needs an expensive part for replacement. When I made sharp right/left handed turns, there was a shudder, a grind, that was coming from the rear. Ford service notified me same day that a pack needs to be replaced for $725, about the same region where original problems have occurred. Should I expect to see similar problems continuing during the next 30K miles" I feel that I have been pretty caring to the vehicle by having it serviced every 3K miles. Didn't see this coming. How many more complaints until recall"

- Pikeville, KY, USA

problem #9

Mar 022005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Prior to purchase 6/03 @ 40K miles, trans fluid 2 qts low, nothing else addressed. April '04 @ 50K miles replaced leaks in transmissions, charged $200 deductible. Sept '04 replaced rear differential, Jan '05 replaced rear diff clutch assembly, now need whole new transmission at 68000 miles.

- Lees Summit, MO, USA

problem #8

Jan 082004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles


I am the fleet manager of the buffalo grove park district and we own four Ford Explorer two of the four a 2002, and a 2003, Explorer 4X4 XLT have had numerous expensive problems such as wheel bearing failures three failures on the 02 Explorer and one on the 03, rear strut failure, seals leaking converter clutch failure, rear axle noise gear whine, clutch pack noise, all these problems on vehicles that are out of warranty by mileage but only a couple two or three years old. This year Jan 04 to Jan 05 3,500 in repairs for these two vehicles, not including the rear axle problems on the 03, this is "not acceptable" P.S. the mileage 72,000 on the 02, and 51,000 on the

- Buffalo Grove, IL, USA

problem #7

Jan 052005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Multiple wheel bearing failure on 2002 Ford Explorer 4X4, 42,000 miles. Loud noise prompted action before complete failure. Complete failure may have resulted in wheel lock-up and possible crash. Despite complaint and resquest for the repair to be covered given limited mileage, no assistance from Ford Motor Company. Dealer did replace one unit at no charge. Ford provided no assistance. Personal knowledge of another owner with similar problem, had to replace all four wheel bearings. This is certain to become a major safety problem as these cars age if Ford is not held responsible for the defect and forced to take preimptive action to save lives.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #6

Aug 172004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles
ABS light was on. Also, back axle was replaced. Currently, the ABS light was on again. The ABS light was on a total of 3 times.

- Port Barre, LA, USA

problem #5

Apr 042003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,750 miles
Ford Explorer rear end had high pitch noise: Mechanic had to place a new rear end in the vehicle: Four wheel drive locked into low gear and would not release: Replaced control switch but 4X4 high light blinks.

- Carbon Hill, AL, USA

problem #4

Oct 172003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 18,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer XLT has expierenced all the power train problems that I ahve found on this dealer ahs been admirable in trying to resolve these problems but it seems we get one fixed and another starts.the firs was the transfer casr had a shutter in it between first and second gear, then the rear end had a bad bearing, then the left rear axle had a bad wheel bearing, then the vehilce was staying in four wheel drive all the time, this happened on a trip this fall bare ground. Then the latest is the transmision is going to neutral at stop signs and red lights by itself. The vehile then sits and revs until with a bang the transmisson engages again.

- West Glover,Vt, VT, USA

problem #3

Aug 012003

(reported on)

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 17,000 miles
The rear axle leaked. Which was caused by the rubber seal eating into the metal of the axle per mechanic. The rear axle failed between 17K miles and 30K miles and had to be replaced 3 times.

- Kodak, TN, USA

problem #2

Jun 202003

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,755 miles
4 failures of the transmission. Common problems have been miss shifts from 2-3 and 3-4, delayed shifts from 2-3 and 3-4, and severely hard shifts in all gears. Transmission has been rebuilt twice and replaced once. Ford has bought the vehicle back after arbitration under the lemon law. The vehicle also has severe problems with the rear differential and right half shaft. I have had 6 total failures of the rear end. Warning signs have been a whine from the right rear the grows louder over time and then a vibration in the right rear. Ford knows of these problems as they have issued maintenance instructions to the servicing dealers of the order of repair attempts to be made. A recall may in order.

- Athens, AL, USA

problem #1

Jun 112002


  • miles
While traveling 55 - 65 mph a high pitched whinning noise would develop in the rear portion of the vehicle. The noise would subside as the pedal was released. However the noise would increase as the gas pedal was slightly pressed to advance speed. Took to dealer on 6/11/02. Mechanic claims to know what is causing noise. Truck is sitting up on rack apart and the tool to remove axles is on national backorder. Needless to say the loaner vehicle I am currently using has the same sound, but is not as severe at the moment. I feel this may be a design problem that may not be fixed as easilly as hoped.

- Cooper City, FL, USA

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