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CarComplaints.com 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:
1 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
124,963 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #33

Apr 142015


  • 119,000 miles


My truck began to shake when I stop at stop signs and lights. The service engine soon light came on and would not go out. I got a code reading, there were many fuel ejection issues. I got a diagnostic test today, and was told it could be the fuel pump. When I put gas in, the gas pump gets stuck inside sometimes. Does not come out smoothly. What is going on?

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #32

Jul 112009


  • 80,000 miles
In 2009 on the way to our family vacation our transmission failed. We had it towed and the transmission replaced with a Ford rebuilt transmission with a warranty purchase. In 2012 this rebuilt transmission failed and we had it taken to a Ford dealer and the transmission replaced with another transmission. This current transmission is exhibiting the same symptoms as the last two did prior to failure.

- Mclean, VA, USA

problem #31

Jan 202015


  • 191,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated while driving approximately 70 mph, the temperature gauge displayed signs that the vehicle was overheating. The contact shut the vehicle off, and restarted it but the failure persisted. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that there was a crack on the intake manifold. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure was 191,000.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #30

Dec 182013


  • 105,000 miles


My 2002 Ford Explorer, since 2013 have blew out sparks plugs three times. The threats of the head are damage.

- Spring Glen, NY, USA

problem #29

Dec 212014


  • miles
Bought an Explorer we thought was a private owner on craiglist in Chicago, and found out he was a dealer from Indiana. He signed the title as first auto Inc. 2620 165th in hammond in 46323. The name of seller is jose perez. The dmv file a complaint on our behalf and stated what he did was illegal. We did not know he was a dealer til when we tried to transfer our plates the next day. We took the truck in for service and my mechanic stated that carfax has the miles almost 80,000 more than what is on the odometer. The odometer listed 110,000 and carfax was far past that amount. The dealer rolled back the miles of Explorer.

- Round Lake Beach, IL, USA

problem #28

Nov 162014


  • 80,000 miles
Overdrive light came on. Check transmission light came on. The truck suddenly started screeching loudly, nearly caused an accident while going to the airport on an expressway.

- Copiague, NY, USA

problem #27

Oct 292014


  • 183,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer Sport. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the engine light illuminated as the vehicle started to overheat and stalled. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that the water pump and heating core needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 183,000. Updated 1/16/15

- Mobile, AL, USA

problem #26

Jun 112014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 134,000 miles
Timing chain problems; back chain 'plastic' tensor broke and affected critically entire engine. Many people with the same problem. Transmission solenoid problems; shift rough from 1st to 2nd. Put new solenoid block, problem still there. Ford does not know what the problem is. Many people with the same problem.

- Bayamon, PR, USA

problem #25

Mar 082014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
" check engine soon" sign is on. " O/D" sign is on.

- Middletown, NY, USA

problem #24

Apr 102014


  • 128,000 miles
Explorer O/D light blinks and shifts rough from 1st to 2nd.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #23

Apr 012014


  • 135,500 miles


I was driving home from work thank god I was almost home at this time, my Ford explore was driving fine all of a sudden I herd a pop and a bang and then the motor started stumbling and shaking. As it was running the motor kept on popping I got out and seen a spark plug next to driver side fender under the hood also the coil that was plugged on to the plug was there too.I tried to grab the coil but got shocked because the rubber on the coil was broke from the plug flying out like a bullet and hitting the coil braking it in four or five places thats Y I got shocked so much.the hole point is that the plug striped out of the head and did all this damage. Now I have no way to fix this issue one of the ways to fix it can be to replace the heads on the motor witch will cost lots of money.what can I do im desperate so it would be nice to have a helping hand by the dealer but they claim it's not there fault but this has happened to so many Ford because of the heads they have used on this motor please make a recall for this issue it is a defect I do believe it is. I found over 50 people online having trouble with the same issues as me. Please help us.....

- New Haven, CT, USA

problem #22

Apr 042014


  • 136,000 miles
When driving to work three blocks away from my house I stopped at a stop light. I started to take off again once the light turned green and a sound from the engine scared me. The truck started to sound like a lawn mower. I then had the truck towed and taken to the garage where the mechanic showed me that the spark plug blow out the engine. He said that with Ford it happens alot and if you search online there are so many people that it happens to. He then told me once he fixes it I should sell it right away unless I am willing to spend what the car is worth on replacing heads. If Ford knows about the problem why isn't there a recall on this already.

- New Haven, CT, USA

problem #21

Feb 202014


  • 166,000 miles
It is having trouble shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. Engine revs up to and over 4,000rpms and slams into the gears.

- Ringwood , NJ, USA

problem #20

Jun 092003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 25,000 miles
The engine overheated without any warning from the dashboard. I bought this car with 18,000 miles. The engine overheated when it had approximately 25,000 miles.

- Fair Lawn, NJ, USA

problem #19

Dec 262012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 122,000 miles
Was driving car along local road when the engine started to make noise and the car would not go over 5 miles and hour. Many cars severed to avoid truck and was lucky there was no accident. Truck was towed to local facility and had Ford tech look at vehicle. The timing chain tension broke. Tech and dealerships( called two for quotes ) said this was a common problem. After finding out the engine needed to be pulled for repair I had to junk the vehicle could not afford repair. This is certainly a safety issue any time a vehicle breaks without warning in the middle of traffic. It is also a know common problem. Dealer says the design of the tension is poorly produced and they had extended the warranty for the repair. Ford should fix/ replace the tensioner on these truck before someone is killed.

- Geneva, IL, USA

problem #18

Sep 052013


  • 189,294 miles
I bought a used 2002 Ford Explorer in April of this year at a used car lot. It was a beautiful blue SUV in remarkable good condition. I had it four months, and it caught on fire while at a stop sight on my way home from a shopping strip twenty miles from my home. It started smoking and while I was fumbling for my purse to get my cell phone to call for help, it caught fire and bystanders on the thoroughfare pulled me forcefully from the car, and then called the fire department. It was a total loss when the entire hood caught fire and melted. My garage mechanic, who had just seen the car, told me that he could see no reason why it would have caught fire. Can you help me?

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #17

Aug 202013


  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 45 mph, the vehicle burst into flames and the contact crashed into an embankment. The contact suffered injuries to the back. The vehicle was destroyed during the crash. The fire department was called to extinguish the fire. The fire department stated that the fire had started from the engine. The contact did not call the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 180,000. The VIN was not available.

- Maryville, TN, USA

problem #16

Aug 182013

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the engine intake manifold failed due to defective plastic that fractured and caused fluid to leak. The vehicle was taken to a mechanic for inspection where the intake manifold was replaced with a steel manifold. In addition, the spark plugs rubber and gasket was replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure and current mileage was 180,000. Updated 10/17/13 the consumer stated when he returned to the dealer, he learned when the five spark plugs were flooded they ruined two coils that sent electricity to the spark plugs. Updated the consumer believed Ford hid the plastic intake manifold problem, re-engineered the part to include 1/3 metal and then equipped all subsequent models with 1/3 metal as standard equipment in an effort to avoid responsibility for their defective design. Updated 04/17/14

- Niles , MI, USA

problem #15

Aug 272013


  • 89,000 miles
August 27,2012. Huaband driving howm from work. Going down hill to traffic light. Car suddenly, with no warning, stalls out completely. Loss of power steering, power brakes.etc. A/S contuinued to work. Engine ligh came on. Wrestled car to verge of road. Turned car off and it restarted on forst try. Stated that the following day as he attempted to pull away from stop sign, car would not initally take gas but then suddenly accelerated ( " I peeled rubber!") recalled that thatsame incident had had happened approx. 2 weeks before at a diffeent stop. Car taken to repair shop, somputer shows no issues. Believe car unsafe to drive if affected with sudden, unexplained stalling with no apparent cause. Bought car as "certified, pre-owned" used car from Ford dealership in Dec. 2012. They have no answer, no suggestions as to problem cause. Internet search shows multiple complaints for this same problem with the Ford Explorer.

- New Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #14

Mar 152011


  • 69,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the engine temperature gauge fluctuated intermittently. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnosis where it was stated that the thermostat needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 69,000.

- Las Angeles, CA, USA

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