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:
3 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
34,586 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 1 of 2)

problem #28

Nov 072009


  • 100,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer XLT 4 wheel drive does not actuate anymore. Mechanic says it is a defective 4X4 control module. Seems to be a common problem with Ford. Safety issue when expecting traction in winter and not having it.

- Ramsey, MN, USA

problem #27

Jun 012007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles
I have an 2002 Ford Explorer and it only has 81,000 miles and I have had problems with the transmission since it hit 77,000 miles. It has been in shop, a transmission specialist, at least 10 times for the same problem. I have had the entire transmission overhauled and the same parts keep wearing down. This is causing the tranny to slip and slam into gear. I am now taking it back into the shop after 6 months. Ford needs to do something to help the american people if they still want us to buy american.

- Lancaster, NY, USA

problem #26

Jan 072008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Currently own a 2002 Explorer XLT with only 65K miles on it. The transmission is in need of a rebuild because is slip from time to time. The rear differential seals are leaking. The entire rear of the vehicle makes a humming noise so I suspect that a rear bearing is going bad. Not to mention the 4wheel drive system has not worked since I bought it a little over a year ago. I've had intermittent issues with the air bag control module and also the backup alarm system. There is nothing but poor write-ups about this truck all over the internet. All the same problems I'm experiencing are problems many other drivers have also had.

- Norton, OH, USA

problem #25

May 012006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 37,000 miles


After owning for a week and a half, had to have the G ears in the rear end replaced. Later informed that the tires were not evenly worn which was causing the rear end to pop. After replacing the tires, the four wheel drive would not work. The 4 X 4 module and the wiring need to be replaced, costing $1000. That is not including the driver window switch needing to be replaced as well as the window regulator. Now there is an electrical problem coming from the dash. Unable to figure out what it is yet.

- Garfield Heights, OH, USA

problem #24

Jan 012007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles
Drive train problems, holing noise from under vehicle, rear differential problems and transfer case noises, rough shifting from 2wd to 4WD. Have checked on line for a long time and heard nothing but the same problems, why wasn't anything done to Ford to get these things put on a recall. We buy their product and now they didn't care about any of our problems. Something has got to be done.

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #23

Jan 202007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,600 miles
In January, 2006, my car stopped dead on the highway. After it was towed to the dealership, we were told that a valve had broken and had been sucked into the engine, causing engine failure. Our only alternative was to have the engine replaced - which we did for over $5000. The following January, (2007), after the first measurable snow fall of the year (since our engine had been replaced), the car went into a huge fishtail skid on a snowy road and after the first skid, was caught by the cable guard rail on the side of the road - causing another $5000+ repair. When brought to the dealership after the accident, we were told that the 4 wheel drive electronic monitor had failed and we had no 4 wheel drive. My concern - besides the cost and inconvenience and scare of the accident is that there were no warning lights to let me know that the car's 4 wheel drive had failed. I had gotten into the car assuming that the 4 wheel drive was working (as the car goes into 4 wheel drive automatically and there are no indicator lights normally to let you know that the 4 wheel drive is working). With no indicator lights that the 4 wheel drive is working and no indicator lights that it is not working, Ford put me in a very unsafe situation. Had the cable guard rail not been there to catch the car, we would have gone over the embankment and been more seriously injured.

- Manlius, NY, USA

problem #22

Feb 062007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,258 miles


I have a 2002 Ford Explorer. When it started to get very cold, my Explorer, that I just bought, started to not want to go into gear. It would grind and slip. There was a clicking sound coming from under the dash. It was from the computer that runs the 4 wheel drive. The 4 low button would just kick in by its self. Then it would not go into gear. After a while of trying to get it into gear it would go. It would only act up when it was very cold out (10 to -5 degrees) it did this to me for about a week and then it just stuck into 4 low and now won't come out. There was a smell this last time of burning electrical wire and smoke. Now my Explorer won't drive and has a electrical smoke smell stuck in it. I now have to have it towed to a Ford dealer to get it fixed. It also makes a really loud popping sound when I go to turn or hit a bump. Sound comes from the front of the Explorer drivers side.

- Maxwell , IA, USA

problem #21

Feb 222005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles
My four wheel drive failed, while electronic light showed car in 4 wheel drive. Car slid backwards into a ravine. On snowy road. Local Ford dealer did not know how to fix it, but problem was eventually tracked to a faulty electronic module that Ford knew about. This caused the solenoid that engages 4 wheel drive to fail/ this was an extremely dangerous situation. I was driving over a snowy mountain road previous day and could have slipped off road if it failed one day earlier. I see numerous examples of the same problem. Why doesn't Ford respond?

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #20

Aug 312006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles
: the contact stated when the vehicle was started it would be in 4-wheel drive high. Sometimes when the vehicle was backed up and/or making right or left turns the vehicle would go into 4-wheel drive high on its own. While driving at various speeds the vehicle kicked into 4-wheel drive high on its own. The dealership has not been contacted but the contact plans to call them soon. The 4X4 high light illuminated each time.

- Braceville, IL, USA

problem #19

Aug 162006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,027 miles
: the contact stated the transmission slipped at variable speeds, sometimes not engaging the next higher gear or at times the engine would race, then slam into gear with a banging noise. The vehicle was taken to a service dealer where computer diagnostics would not recognize the 5th gear in the automatic transmission. The transfer case was rebuilt, but the problem continued. The vehicle has been inspected on 7 occasions. The rear lift gate window hinge was replaced, but continued to fall out of the hinge. The manufacturer was notified.

- Wildwood, MO, USA

problem #18

Jul 122006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


My 2002 Ford Explorer with only 40,000 original miles was making noise when it was going up a hill or during acceleration. Since it was no longer under warranty I took it to a transmission repair shop. It needed the transfer case to be replaced which cost me over $1600.

- Dauphin, PA, USA

problem #17

Jul 082006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles
Transfer case failure. Dealer-ted britt, fairfax, va refuses to cover under power train warranty.

- Arlington, VA, USA

problem #16

Jun 012006

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
1.) my 2002 Ford Explorer 4WD tends to surge in 1st,2nd, and 3rd gear. It feels as though there some slippage issues. 2.) no "failure", yet. 3.) nothing has been done to fix the issue yet.

- Murray, KY, USA

problem #15

Apr 252006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
: the contact stated while backing out of the driveway the vehicle automatically engaged into 4 wheel drive low. The vehicle would not disengage, it was pulled forward and parked. The contact was instructed by the dealership to slowly drive one and a half miles to the service department. The dealer was able to disengage the 4 wheel drive low however; was unable to duplicate the problem of the 4 wheel drive automatic engagement. The manufacturer was alerted.

- Havelock, NC, USA

problem #14

Feb 022006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles
: the contact stated while driving 15mph in snow the vehicles four-wheel drive would not engage. Several attempts were made to activate the four-wheel drive with no success. Therefore, no repairs have been made.

- Pine Bush, NY, USA

problem #13

Mar 052005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Drivetrain problems (rear differential, front driveshaft, transfer case). 1. rear differential making whining noise. This was worked on twice with the pinion bearings replaced. Differential still making whining noise at first between 55-60 mph and now is making this noise anywhere from 45 - 70 mph. Vehicle was referred to local Ford dealership. Was told that the pinion ring gear needed replacement. Have Ford extended warranty for powertrain, but Ford will not replace parts until they completely fail. They also consider this a update which they will not fix under a recall. 2. front driveshaft causing vibration in front at speeds around 65-70 mph. Ford considers this an update and will not repair under extended warranty until it completely fails. 3. transfer case. Ford mechanic noted that he heard a clunking noise when shifting transmission from park to reverse. Ford has a tsb on this, to update the flange on the rear of the transfer case. Ford considers this an update and will not fix it until it completely fails. The transfer case would need to be drained, refilled, and then reprogrammed again. All these things are listed as covered items in my Ford extended warranty (powertrain), but Ford will not cover them since they consider them updates. They want me to fit the bill of the amount of $2400 this is how Ford is getting by from issuing a recall. I have notified my wv attorney general office, who tried working out something. That is how I received the Ford extended warranty. They could not get any results, so asked me to contact a lawyer and take them to small claims court.

- Ballard, WV, USA

problem #12

Jan 052005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
My complaint is in regards to the transfer case selection module on my 2002 Ford Explorer. Dealership indicated that the selection module is a common problem, but still want to charge full price for a new selection module when it's just a small plastic piece inside the module that fails.

- Celina, OH, USA

problem #11

Mar 012005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Bought Ford Explorer (2002) used from Toyota dealer. Drove fine for over 6 months. Beginning in March (2005), upon acceleration (esp. On hills), vehicle lurches/shudders as it gains speed. Have taken it to 3 different Ford dealers, with no resolution (initially said that my new tires were 1/4-inch different in were replaced and problem continued). Continuous lurching finally fried the GEM module (and front/rear speed sensors). Ford still did not have an answer. Took it to reputable local mechanic who determined that it was not the tires, nor sensors, but a problem with "slop" in the transfer case. This slop made the 4X4 auto sense slippage and compensate, but more slop meant more slippage and more compensation, hence the repeated lurching feeling. Graphical electrical chart indicated that 4X4 was engaging and disengaging approximately 40X a second. After-market warranty wouldn't cover repair at local mechanic, so brought car to Ford dealer (6th time), who "think" problem is in the transfer case.

- Valparaiso, IN, USA

problem #10

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 #9

May 312005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles
Was driving on a highway when the od light started flashing then the transmission failed completely. Having new transmission installed. Many other things have failed too. Three weeks prior shift lever broke off in my hands when I shifted from park to reverse. Have changed right rear bearing which "blew out". the 4 wheel drive quit while the truck was still under warranty. When I first got the truck and complained to the dealer about the way the transmission worked he gave me a printout from Ford stating the transmission was programmed to adjust to the drvers style of driving.

- Pleasantville, NY, USA

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