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CarComplaints.com Notes: The 2004 Ford Explorer one of our worst vehicles 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 2002-2005 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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
82,984 miles
Total Complaints:
21 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (12 reports)
  2. replace steering column (8 reports)
  3. replace defective parts with better upgrade (1 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer steering problems

steering problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #21

Jul 292013

Explorer XLY V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles


I bought this 2004 Ford Explorer approximately 1 year ago for $9,000.00. I live on social security disability which does not allow for a car payment of any sort. I was having problems with moving the gear shift out of park to the other gears for about a month, but did not have the funds for an evaluation or repair. One morning on my way to a doctor's appointment I got in the car with my ever-present oxygen (COPD) and the gear shift refused to budge from park. I tried to finesse and finagle, but nothing worked. I tried a little pressure and the whole gear shift gave way, allowing a lot of play and finally, a break. My son works on car maintenance and easy-to-medium fixes. I bought the $30.00 Haynes repair book, referenced the internet and he wisely decided that this fix was out of his league. Now I have no car. No resources to get another car. No vehicle for my outrage and anger except for this site.I cannot afford the $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 to have a dealership fix this problem. I cannot even afford a tow.

After reading about the problems that are continuing to occur in this model of Ford, I believe all owners that have experienced this problem deserve a rebate, a free fix, monies for inconvenience, maybe even a free car. At least in my case that would seem just.

I have owned Fords all of my long life (62 years). I have put a lot of money in Ford's pockets over the years. This is more than a disappointment to me. This is a disaster. In the '70s I marched on Washington. Maybe the '13s are a time to march on Ford?

- , Parker, Douglas, USA

problem #20

Jul 262012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Just like the rest of the people on here my gear shift broke. I was lucky to be leaving my home when I go to put the car in drive and the gear shift broke right into my hand. I couldn't believe it, well now that I've ready what all the other folks said I can believe it.

- , Fullerton, CA, USA

problem #19

Jan 142012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles

Get into my car to go back out after having been out twenty minutes prior...went to put car in reverse and handle broke off! Saturday afternoon at 3:30! What do I do with this? Car has to be towed and not sure where to take it. Ford dealer? order part off internet? Any help would be appreciated!

- , Malden, MA, USA

problem #18

Jan 142012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles


Get into my car to go back out after having been out twenty minutes prior...went to put car in reverse and handle broke off! Saturday afternoon at 3:30! What do I do with this? Car has to be towed and not sure where to take it. Ford dealer? order part off internet? Any help would be appreciated!

- , Malden, MA, USA

problem #17

Sep 022011

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

Have a 2004 Eddie Bauer that I keep in pristine shape with only 45,000 miles. My gearshift came off in my hand putting the car in reverse. When I looked at the stress points and the breakage, I realized it is not made of metal, but a metalized "Resin", why would Ford build a gear shift, which gets a lot of use, out of resin. Then....charge 2K to repair. This is beyond unbelievable. If you are going to build cheap components out of metalized resin, do the things that get little wear and are inexpensive to repair. This is the first and last time I will ever own an American made car. I never had these problems with my Acura, and it fritz out at 250,000 miles. Shame, Shame on Ford for making such inferior AMERICAN MADE PRODUCTS!

Update from Sep 5, 2011: I read everything I could on this problem, and have gone out to e-bay and purchased the "steering column shift linkage coupler lever bracket", per the posts here. There are a few companies on the internet selling this part. I paid $44.00 with shipping. I am going to take the part to my mechanic and see how much in labor to replace. It has to be cheaper than the $ 2,000 Ford dealership wants to replace the part. Thank God for the internet super highway of information!

Will update the cost and if the part worked. If so, lets all get the word out about this part and prevent Ford and their dealerships from continuing to rip us off over their shoddy parts.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #16

Mar 162011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I got up today and was going about my normal routine and I pulled into a place of business, put my truck in park and turned the ignition off. When I returned to my vehicle, cranked my truck, and went to put it in reverse the gear shift fell off in my hands. I was in disbelief. I had to have it towed to the newest Ford Dealership. I was told that it was going to cost me 1200.00 just for the part. I have been reading all of the complaints on this website and realized that this is definitely a problem and Ford needs to definitely address this issue. I have children and I am just so thankful that we were not on the road with my children in the car when this happened. Once or when I definitely get rid of this Ford, I Will Never Own or Buy Another FORD. Ford I see that you do not value your customer complaints and you are putting peoples lives at risk.

- , Fayette, Alabama, USA

problem #15

Dec 212010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


Unbelievable...family packed, car loaded and on our way to vacation. All of a sudden SNAP, my gear shifter lever breaks. Was able to salvage vacation by removing the steering cover and manually changing gears. Could not get the key out though, so I ran the risk for a week. Anyway, thought I would be able to replace the part but reading that it will require a complete swap out of my steering column. Is this accurate? Has anyone had success with an alternative repair....better yet has anyone gotten anywhere with Ford picking up the cost. Not sure how Ford can chose to ignore as this is a safety issue that will undoubtedly cause injury or death to someone in the future. I for one will make sure Ford understands their irresponsibility.

- , upland, CA, USA

problem #14

Jan 112011

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 153,000 miles

I woke up went down to my SUV this morning to go to work at 5:30am and after I warmed up my truck for 10 minutes I was putting it in reverse and my GEAR SHIFT BROKE OFF! After I was late to work I had to take my mom's car to work, I called my mechanic he came out and took a look at it and said he has never seen anything like this. Also yesterday I let my one of my co workers borrow my truck to take something to another location for catering and I've had my truck for over 2 and a half years with no problems and all of a sudden this morning the gear shift breaks! wow! just my luck right! Damn FORD I think they should recall these SUV'S back after reading everyone's comments.

- , Hayward, CA, USA

problem #13

Dec 042010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

Went out to get our christmas tree yesturday, had our 2 week old baby with us. Got the tree ontop of the car and went to leave but it wouldnt move out of park. My husband tried a few times only to have the gear shifter snap off. found hundreds of reports online and ford wont do anything about it. how ridiculous. 3 weeks before christmas and this costs $1500+ to fix??

- , Haverhill, MA, USA

problem #12

Nov 132010

Explorer XLS4 v6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I was trying to shift from Drive to Park and my gear shift lever broke off in my hand on my 2004 Ford Explorer. I have never heard of such a thing until reading this website. I had to have my car towed to Ford where it is now being held hostage because they want over $1,700 to replace the steering column. This is wrong!!! Sounds like a recall issue to me. Many complaints I am reading about are all centered around 2004, 2003, and 2002 cars. What materials was Ford using during these model years??? What can we do? My next call is to Ford customer service, but I am not hopeful. If Ford doesn't help me out on this one I will never buy another Ford and I will definitely be spreading the word. The internet is a powerful tool.

- , DesPlaines, IL, USA

problem #11

Sep 292010

Explorer 3.3L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,654 miles


With all the bail outs the U.S. taxpayers gave to these billion dollar companies, what do we get in return? Faulty, shoudy, inferior materials. We pay $30,000 plus for these vehicles and get nothing but headaches in return. I was getting ready to leave an appointment and started the truck, tried to put into gear and the shift lever broke right off. Ford purposely ignores the problems and puts thousands of peoples life in danger and does nothing.

Is our life not important to the fat cats at Ford. You would think that the safety of the ALL people would be something that is important to them. Good old fashioned american greed at work. Ford needs to start taking resposibility for their actions. I don't know what else to say, Fords unaction just leaves me speechless. Needless to say this is the last Ford I ever buy.

- , Saint Francis, Wisconsin, USA

problem #10

May 092010

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Got in my truck today to run a few errands, started it up and tried to put it in reverse and the gear shift fell off in my hand. The key will not release from ignition because my truck is not in park (it's in between park and reverse). I have never heard of anything like this ever happening to any one, so I started to do some research on line. I was hoping that this was a possible recall prior to my purchase of my truck. After reading the other complaints, I see that I am one among many. This clearly is not an issue of abuse but rather a consistent use of faulty products by Ford. This should be a re-call issue! Not only was I stranded today but now I am anticipating the cost of towing my vehicle to a dealer, where I could be told it's not their problem.

- , Chester, VA, USA

problem #9

Jan 062010

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

While sitting at a red light, my Explorer started idling funny so I went to shift into park. When that happened, my gear shift handle broke off in my hand! The car died and had to be towed to a mechanic. The key is still stuck in the ignition and the steering wheel is now barely connected. Does anyone know whether Ford is willing to admit that there is a manufacturing issue with this problem? I broke a bolt when the gear shift handle came loose! I'm strong but don't think this should be something that happens at all!

- , Louisville, KY, USA

problem #8

Dec 102009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,000 miles

The gearshift lever just broke off in my hand as tried to change gear on my driveway. As a lifelong Ford owner I am thoroughly disappointed in the current quality of Ford products. This steering column problem is obviously due to faulty and inferior parts as this same problem has happened to other 2004 Ford Explorer owners. So it is not a fluke but an established fault with the parts in this product. Ford's "Customer Service" advice was to "talk to your dealer". This would make sense if the dealer made the parts but Ford made the parts. I have driven cars for many more miles than this one and never had this problem. The situation here is that if Ford does not compensate me in some way I will never buy another Ford as this is an indication of the current quality of Ford products.

- , Anacortes, WA, USA

problem #7

Nov 182009

Explorer XLT 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

The shift lever fell apart in my hand as I tried to put the car in park. It broke loose from the steering column. It took 3 tow trucks before I could get a flat bed with"skids" to pull the car from the head in parking spot. The first AAA dispatched flat bed did not have skids and to me I would have to wait until the AM when their regular tow trucks were on duty.

I waited until morning to find that the tow truck cannot tow my car and can only be towed onto a flatbed. The idiot on the first flat bed did not know this. The second tow truck operator told me I had to get a AAA truck only since he did not have skids and had the wrong type tow truck.

I had to wait until midday the next day for a tow. The Ford dealer told me it would cost me $1840 for a new part or maybe he could get me a used part for $1200.00 since the entire steering column had fallen apart !!! He said he had never seen this before.

It ended up costing me $1200.00 which includes a car rental for 5 days. My extended warranty had expired in aug 2009 and he told me it would not be covered any way. Nice timing!! (christmas etc!) I sent letter to both Ford and the US Govt hotline as I believe this is a safety issue when i realizied I lost control of the steering at the last minute as I pulled into the sport.

I am waiting to see where this issue will go


- , Hanson, MA, USA

problem #6

Dec 302008

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

What can we as consumers do? I'm a small business owner and my vehicle is essential for my plumbing company. Is there some way that we can collectively get word to Ford's Board of Directors? I just had great success reaching the board of a major well known plumbing fixture manufacturer. Got my delayed part three days later.

The real worry is this. When this broke this time I was parked in a customer's driveway two miles from my mechanic's place. What if this were at 70 MPH on I-20 here in Georgia with full load of tools and materials? Disaster and or deaths.

Ford must be brought to task on this one folks. Maybe your clout and enlarged voice is the beginning of justice. These e-mails must be sent to Congess ASAP.

- , Stone Mountain, Georgia, USA

problem #5

Jun 102009

Explorer LTD 4.7L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

this suks, i was about to back out of driveway when gear shift broke. i could not change gear and the key was stuck in the ignition. car had to be towed to dealer. stranded for the whole day. cost about 2k to have problem fix. no wonder the most number of cars traded in as clunkers were explorers!

- , Alhambra, CA, USA

problem #4

Feb 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

i don't know why this isn't showing up?? i posted 3 times?? but my gear shift fell off my ford explorer!! with my kids in car in the night at a friends house,, what a night mare this is!! ford said they will not fix, because they have never heard of this!! im livid and broke making high car payments still and dont know what to do!! is there any way we can all report to BBB??? this has got to be a defect in the metal

- , Oceanside, Calif, USA

problem #3

Feb 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

my gear shift just fell off in my hands on 2004 ford explorer!! im livid!!! this has got to be a defect with metal!! how could that just break! does anyone no how much this will cost??? ford told me they never heard of this happening before, and i will have to pay

- , Oceanside, Calif, USA

problem #2

Feb 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

I own a 2004 explorer xlt, and still making car payments, my warranty ran out at 75000 miles, i have 83000 miles,, im in the middle of driving, and stop at stop light with kids,, and went to back up a little and my gear shift came right off in my hand!!! i had to get car towed,, and my son in law looked at it, he said looks like the metal ford used was pot metal, not aluminum, and is know to crack! He said it is a defect and ford should fix and make recall on it,, but the ford manager told me he never heard of this and it would be quite expensive to fix,, i know have no car, and no money to fix this defect,, and i have seen many complaints on the internet about this!! im thinking of getting an attorney, or does anyone have anyway to get a hold of a higher up at ford?? all i get is customer relations at ford.com and they said they never heard of this! this is a very dangerous situation, and would hate to see it happen to someone else

- , Oceanside, Calif, USA

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