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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
58,767 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 3)

problem #50

Aug 102011

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 100,105 miles


#3 cyclinder plub blew. Had towed to dealer. Dealer said they could fix easily by installing a helix coil adapter & could have car ready next day. Dealer calls back and says they fixed it but it was really running bad and that they would not recommend driving it. I asked what the solution was and they said they could pull the head and refinish it but that they would not recommend doing such. I asked about a jasper and they said they would not recommend as jasper has a poor warranty (12 months+limited mileage & no labor) while a new Ford engine would have 3 years, no mileage limit & be warranted for both labor and parts. As I needed the vehicle - as it is I had to rent a vehicle. After getting the vehicle back and talking with several other Ford dealers - it would seem that there is a strong possibility that the Ford dealer installing the helix coil may have dropped debris into the engine - as none of the other dealers said they have ever had to replace an engine for a blown spark plug. Ps: the plugs were the originals from the factory. I have tried to work with the dealer to get some sort of reduction in what I had to pay but they have been less than interested in talking with me. So am trying figure out what my next step should be. All advise would be appreciated as apparently the plug blowing problem is common! this is a serious safety hazard - there could have been a fire.

- Williamson, GA, USA

problem #49

May 132011

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer spark plug ejection issue on V8 4.6L engine. This is now the second time that I have had spark plugs eject for the engine. From what I understand Ford reduced the number of threads for the spark plugs to save machining time and costs in the manufacturing of the engine. This is clearly a safety issue. The first time I was lucky enough to get the spark plug threaded back in and was able to drive it somewhere for proper repair. I am not so lucky the second time as the threads in the head are destroyed. Now I have the extra cost of towing the truck for repair. I have read many forums on this issue yet Ford continues to ignore the safety of it's customers. It is time for them to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their design defects.

- Massillon, OH, USA

problem #48

Jul 222005


  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. Whenever the contact started the vehicle, he noticed a clunking noise from the engine compartment. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer but the cause of the failure could not be determined. The current mileage was approximately 135,000 and the failure mileage was approximately 40,000.

- Newbraunfels, TX, USA

problem #47

Mar 242010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 95,000 miles


My 2002 Ford Explorer has blown the timing chains in the engine. Plastic parts that wear out easy and caused the chains to fail. Now I am looking for a replacement engine. The engine is V6 and it only had 95,000 miles on it. This truck has been well cared for and this should never have happened. Ford is using faulty parts and causing this damage to their product and now the consumer will have to pay big bucks for repairs due to their cheap and shoty parts used by Ford. The truck started making noise and thought that it was the converter and a very short time after that first noise the engine froze and stopped running. Their really was not alot of time from noise to failure of engine. The oil was changed every 3,000 miles, so it was not from failing to change the oil, it was changed regularly. I love this truck, it drives great, comfortable and for me not bad on gas at all. I will replace the engine somehow. The cost of any new truck is out of my range, so I have no choice but to try and fix it. Does anyone have anything to offer me on this subject? thanks

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #46

May 022010

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 132,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer limited 4.6L V8. Spark plug ejected from head upon start-up. Third time this has happened.

- Hendersonville , TN, USA

problem #45

Apr 252010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 74,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer that ejected a spark plug. The spark plug was original (it came with the vehicle and had never been changed). My wife was driving to church when the spark plug was completely ejected and broke the coil mount. This allows fuel vapor to escape from the cylinder head and could result in an engine fire. Luckily, my wife didn't experience an engine fire since she was pulling into her destination when it happened and shut off the motor. The spark plug ejection stripped the threads from the cylinder head.

- Fayetteville, NC, USA

problem #44

Jan 102006


  • 92,500 miles


Engine knock in all 4.6 Ford Explorer engines-know by Ford, due to faulty cylinder heads

- Attleboro, MA, USA

problem #43

Feb 262010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Spark plug blown out of cylinder head under normal driving conditions. Threads and spark plug both blown out of top of cylinder head.

- Albion, MI, USA

problem #42

Feb 282010


  • 145,000 miles
Spark plug blew out on Ford Explorer XLT 2002 model year with 4.6L engine. Has 145,000 and original plugs (platinum). Car started to make a ticking sound and then the plug popped off.

- Pleasant Prairie, WI, USA

problem #41

Feb 022010


  • miles
Number 8 cylinder spark plug blew out of engine today on 2002 Ford Explorer 4.6L.

- Fitzwilliam, NH, USA

problem #40

Jan 072010


  • 116,400 miles


I was driving down the road and then out of no where the engine started to sound extremely loud and spitting smoke I pulled over and after inspection of the motor I found a spark plug laying ontop of the engine block and the coil laying next to it. The spark plug blew out of the threading. This has happened twice to me in the last 1.5 years the first time it was under my warranty from used car dealer and they replaced the complete motor with a new one. And the current incident happened today and per my mechanic he is going to put in a helicoil to try and resolve the issue.

- Warren, MA, USA

problem #39

Aug 122009


  • 60,000 miles
In May 2005, the car would not go into reverse. The O/D light had been going on and off for a number of days. Transmission has to be replaced at a cost of $4500. Car had approximately 60000 miles. In January of 2008, the engine had to be replaced due to because the timing belt went at a cost of $3000. Car had 75000 miles. In August 2009, both rear spring were discovered to be broken when the car was taken in for a whining in the rear, which was the rear axle bearing. The car had 94000 miles, cost of repair was $1200.

- Bethel, CT, USA

problem #38

Apr 072007


  • 136,000 miles
April 2007 1. just bringing the car up to freeway speed. 2. a popping noise emitted from the engine, passenger side. Unable to determine the problem as it was dark, the vehicle was towed to the repair shop. 3. it was determined that the 3rd plug had blown out of the engine and also destroyed the coil attached to it. A new threaded insert was installed in the spark plug hole. A new spark plug and new coil were installed.

- Sandy Hook, CT, USA

problem #37

Jul 302009


  • 110,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving 10 mph, the contact noticed smoke entering into the vehicle from the front windshield. When the contact stopped the vehicle, the smoke became darker. The fire appeared from underneath the hood of the vehicle. The fire department extinguished the fire, but they could not determine the cause. The vehicle was destroyed, but there were no injuries. A police report was filed. The failure mileage was 110,000.

- Flint, MI, USA

problem #36

Mar 102009


  • 68,000 miles
Spark plug blew out of 2002 Ford Explorer limited. I've had two Ford vehicles blow a spark plug this year.

- Belmont, OH, USA

problem #35

Jun 052009

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 102,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer - 4.6 V8 has the popular blown spark plug issue which has caused me a lot of problems on pretty much the worst weekend of my life that this could have happened in. This is apparently a very popular complaint about Ford w/ this engine and I can't believe that there has been no recall for this issue. It is an obvious design flaw w/ the aluminum and metal heating issues causing the spark plugs to break off or just shoot out of the engine. I believe that there was a small fire under my hood for a short time as well. This is a very dangerous problem that should be addressed by Ford. In my case, I did hear the infamous "clicking" noise that happens just before the plug blows and then right after, it blew, sounding like somebody was starting a harley under my truck. I was under my hood looking and hearing for the noise that I thought was a belt issue when this blew. This thing sounded like it was going to blow my head off while I was under the hood and luckily I was not hurt, or Ford would have a law suit on their hands. We were able to remove the broken plug and get a new one to thread maybe one thread deep to get me home safely. There is only one thread grabbing and I will more than likely have to have the $1500 - $2000 job done or trade this pile in before it happens to the other plugs, which I hear is inevitable, due to Ford never addressing or remedying this issue. This being my second Explorer w/ severe issues that Ford should have taken care of, this will be my last. Thanks.

- St. Joseph, IL, USA

problem #34

Mar 302009


  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the spark plugs were blowing out of the engine while driving various speeds. As a result, the engine shuts off and the vehicle loses complete power. On two occasions, the dealer repaired the vehicle at the cost of $2,000. The dealer has not explained what caused the failure. The failure mileage was 160,000.

- Stamford, CT, USA

problem #33

Jul 142008


  • 67,567 miles
My wife's 2002 Ford Explorer had a whine in the rear end since it was new and it continued to get worse with time. At about 55K miles it was so bad that we had to have the entire differential rebuilt at a cost of over $1,000. At 65K miles the engine had begun to make noise and it became much louder rapidly. The entire cam drive (timing chain, sprockets, tensioners) had been ground up. The tensioner pads had 3/8" deep grooves worn into them and there were metal shavings everywhere. The bill this time was almost $1,300. It is interesting that all the parts that were replaced were a different design than the originals. If there was nothing wrong with the original design, why spend the money to change them? of course Ford would not admit that they had a problem with the timing chain for the cams. After the timing chain was fixed there was still a noise so we took it back to the shop that did the work. With a stethoscope the noise was isolated to the bellhousing/torque converter area. We took it to a transmission shop we trust and he thought it was a cracked flex plate because that happens frequently on these vehicles and it causes that kind of noise. The flex plate was fine as was the front pump on the transmission and the starter drive. The only thing left in that area was the torque converter so we replaced that. The noise was still there. He said that the noise had to be coming from the transmission and that would be a $2,000 repair. I've had it with Ford and their "quality is job one" or whatever their current advertising lie is. This car is a lemon and they won't admit to a single thing being wrong with it. Every driveline component has had to be fixed and it only has 67K miles on it. Ford should be ashamed of the way they hang their customers out to dry. Even though I had to identify a particular date below, this car has had major problems since it was new in 2002.

- San Diego , CA, USA

problem #32

Feb 132008


  • 97,132 miles
I have 2002 Ford XLT Explorer. 102K miles now. I had issue with throttle cable sticking back in Feb 2008. Would not decelerate properly driving home in the evening, throttle stuck open. Came close to rear ending another vehicle. Traced the problem to what was that the inner liner of the throttle cable had backed out in the driver compartment apprx 2 inches and not allowing the cable to retract correctly. I removed that section of the liner. After research found that NHTSA action number : PE05037 matched my problem exactly. Please note here that my issue occurred after a longer period of time than what as noted in PE05037, you may have to open new investigation using longer period. I contacted Ford motor customer service about this and they offered no remedy for this issue.

- Clinton Township, MN, USA

problem #31

Oct 202007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,700 miles
This is to add information to a previous complaint. ODI number 10207581. There was a sudden failure of the engine that resulted in sudden lockup of the engine, resulting in complete loss of power and control. This happened on a residential street at low speed. However a very busy intersection with high speed traffic had just been navigated. If the failure had happened at that intersection, the failure would have probably resulted in severe injuries or loss of life. The engine failure was sudden and without warning. By sudden, my wife described the noise as rattle, crunch, bang with everything locking up in less than 5 seconds. The engine was running perfectly up to the time of failure. The car began smoking from the exhaust immediately after the failure and my wife feared the vehicle was catching on fire. When the vehicle was towed, a large quantity (1 to 2 quarts)of engine coolant drained from the muffler. This indicates to me that a sudden failure of an internal engine seal, gasket, manifold, etc. If a part fails this suddenly, the part was either defective, improperly designed, or improperly assembled.

- Fort Smith, AR, USA

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