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:
88,589 miles
Total Complaints:
170 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace transmission (74 reports)
  2. replaced with rebuilt transmission (48 reports)
  3. not sure (26 reports)
  4. having the whole thing overhauled (16 reports)
  5. replace torque converter (2 reports)
  6. transmission seal failure causing leak and the pump is weak (2 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 3 of 9)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #130

Mar 042013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles


I am upset. We bought this car used about 2 years ago. We finally finished paying the car completely off and, that same month, the transmission begins to have problems. I thought it was purely bad luck but now I see that this type of car has this issue and I am not the only one. You work so hard to have something nice and reliable and then you're left with crap. These cars are not cheap, therefore you expect a better quality. I guess I was dreaming.

- , Newark, NJ, USA

problem #129

Dec 272012

Explorer LX 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,087 miles

Ford Explorer 2004 have had intermittent shift problem from day 1. Because problem was minor and could not be duplicated, or it would go away for a long time, it was never reported. The shifter would not align with the drive letters, the car would not go in gear and finally reverse is completely gone.

- , Miami, Florida (FL), USA

problem #128

Jan 012012

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

FORD wanted 4 K or more to fix and wanted to rebuild on local bases, problem with the trans is the valve body is part of trans case and warps out and is none repairable(they don't make enough gaskets to make up the difference). Purchased a FORD BLACK BOX(rebuilt by or for FORD with warranty) had installed by repair shop total cost $3000.00 not $4000.00 plus. And the best part FORD has to warranty at there cost at one of there dealer service dept.

- , Pawtucket, RI, USA

problem #127

Jan 032013

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles


After review of web I find that this is a "typical" condition of these 2004 Explorer's. A call to the phone # listed in your article resulted in them taking my info and telling me they'd do nothing to help with this. I told them I won't be buying any more Ford's and they didn't seem to care. Really sad. Steer clear everyone!!!

- , San Ramon, CA, USA

problem #126

Sep 082010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

I bought my explorer june of 2010 I absolutely loved it UNTIL ! It started to clunk when I put it into reverse. I called the dealer because I purchased the extended warranty THANK GOD ! because I did not have $1,800 to spend on rebuilding the transmission. So in it went to a approved company from the warranty company. Got it back about a week later ! NO wheels for a week. Thank about 3 months later started to slip, clunk and not the od light kept on flickering on and off. NICE here we go again. Another rebuilt transmission done under warranty ! So by the end of it I had two rebuilt transmissions put in it. If Ford knows about the problem than fricken fix it. So disappointed in FORD ! Shame on you for not taking any actions to fix this problem. Every mechanic I have spoke to said DO NOT BUY A FORD EXPLORER you will be replacing or rebuilding the transmission before it is paid for !!

- , Canadian Lakes, MI, USA

problem #125

Feb 062008

Explorer XLS 4DR 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

I purchased the vehicle as having a minor Transmission problem for 6K. I called my Transmission Shop that rebuilds Chrysler and GM Trannys for 750 installed. He told me that it was generally a good Transmission and he could fix it. I told him it wasn't shifting well, would slip and then Wham-go into gear very Hard! he told me plan on some Solenoids and a Shifter body at the most for 800-1000. I took it to him got the bill because other tings were wrong. 1650

- , Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #124

Dec 012012

Explorer Limited 4.0L 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,416 miles


i bought my 2004 explorer and with in 2 wks of owning it my alternator ,battery, serpentine belt all went out and that same wk. my transmission went out,a wk. later my left front hub bearing went bad ,i think i bought a lemon ,i wish ford would reimburse me 4 my transmission as it cost me 2,700.its a beautiful truck but has major problems, it is nickel and diming me 2 death .i owe on it and cant sell it without taking a big loss

- , Kettering, OH, USA

problem #123

Dec 132012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,000 miles

While driving my truck started to struggle to shift into 2nd gear it did but with a thud and a jolt. Then after stopping at a light upon acceleration it struggled to shift again this time the RPM's went up to 4500 O/D light came on (blinking) and my "CHECK TRANSMISSION" message came on. At this point i let off the gas hit the O/D switch and my truck shifted. I then coasted off the road in fear of totally destroying my trans if i attempted to drive any the shop now they say my 5th gear is jacked. We'll see what happens from here.

- , Hammond, IN, USA

problem #122

Mar 052012

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 113,000 miles

Had my transmission replaced 2/06/2008 I am having the same problem again at 113,00 miles! This car is crap I hate it ! I should not be going on my third transmission at 113,000 miles FORD was NO HELP AT ALL!!!!!!! I am 1 year out of my warranty 3 year 100,000 mile warranty I have only put 50,000 miles on my vehicle since the last transmission I SHOULD NOT NEED ANOTHER ONE!! Will nver buy another FORD again. Very horrible customer service!

- , Cornelius, NC, USA

problem #121

Aug 242012

Explorer Limited 4.0L 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

i just bought my 04 explorer limited a mth ago 2day and it has 76,000 miles on it now i have 2 replace the transmission what the hell im very disgusted

- , Kettering, OH, USA

problem #120

Jun 012012

Explorer 6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles


Bought car new. Was happy with it Minor problems, but nothing to be so disgusted with.

At approx 65, 000 transmission blew. Was under warranty, but they still charged me $700.00 for who knows what. In June, 2012, driving my father to doctor, car making horrible noises. Got to my driveway, took my son's car, and guess what????????????? Transmission went again. Cant afford to fix it, need car, can not afford to buy another car. So, my dead car still remains in my driveway. Tried Better Business Bureau, they only deal with Ford Explorer owners WHO ARE UNDER WARRANTY AND CANT GET FORD MOTOR COMPANY TO FIX THEIR TRANSMISSIONS!!!!!!!!Now am filing under New Jersey Consumer Protection Agency to see if they can intervene.

So today is September 29, 2012, my dead, Ford Explorer sits while I beg agencies to help get the Ford Motor Company to take care of my lemon. Here is my new mantra, FORD means FOUND ON ROAD DEAD!!!!!

- , Livingston, NJ, USA

problem #119

Aug 052012

Explorer LTD V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles

Transmissions should last longer than 87,000 miles on any vehicle. This was my first Ford and it will be last! Really disappointed and upset. I've had many other vehicles from other manufactures never had to replace a transmission on any of them.

- , Des Plaines, IL, USA

problem #118

Aug 242012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 178,000 miles

First off I would like to say I am a single mother of four all under the age of 6. I researched the Ford Explorer before purchasing and I was given proof that the transmission had already been replaced 2 years before I purchased it. So I thought I was in the clear... I am not an auto technician, never would claim to be. I am lucky I know how to change a tire and check the oil level.

So.... I went to work on Friday like any other day (it is only 7 miles from my home). When backing out and putting my Exploder (yes I did that on purpose) into Drive I noticed a hesitation/slippage of gears. I contacted my dad and asked him about it and he was unsure what could have caused it so he told me to check the transmission fluid. So I called my ex husband who is/was a mechanic and asked him to meet me so he could check it for me because I have no clue where that would be. So he met up with me and said you have no transmission dipstick in this. I was like oh great so I have to take it to a shop and get it checked and he said yes. So I said ok no problem it just started I'll be fine until they open tomorrow. So I took my four children to the store a couple miles down the road (8 miles from home). When I parked the car I noticed it had a mild burnt smell which I was then told by my dad to park it because I was burning transmission fluid. So I went in bought what needed to be bought since I was already there came out, put the kids in their seats, started to back out of my spot and BAM! No transmission. Here I am half in, half out of a parking spot, blocking 3/4 of the driving area in the parking lot I have my youngest that is crying because she is hungry for her milk, my older three whining because they are hungry for food. And here I am stuck... no real warning that it was going, just GONE! So I contacted Ford and they told me “Oh well there are no recalls on the transmission because we are unaware of any problems”. I found this site and emailed them and said if you have no known complaints what the H%$* is this? So I was then contacted and told to bring it to the ford dealership. They would check the fluids etc... So I contacted my local dealership... Oh they will check it and add it if it needs added for $45 to check and $6.99 per quart to fill and I will need at least 10 quarts... ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?!?! So I called my dad and he contacted the ford dealer that he deals with 45 minutes away and they said bring it out we will check and fill with up to 5 quarts for free... NICE! BUT I am still stuck without a vehicle until I can come up with the money for a new one approximately $1400 for just the transmission PLUS approximately $500-$700 for labor.... So a total of $1900-$2100! I bought this car because I thought hey, it’s already had the transmission replaced recently, I am not going to drive it like an idiot it should last me... Boy was I wrong! Oh and I should mention the guy I bought it from had it repaired AT A FORD DEALERSHIP for almost $3000! There is NO REASON why Ford should not have ALREADY RECALLED this Transmission! Lord only knows how long I can keep pestering people to give me and my kids a ride to the sitters, then my work, then pick me up at work, then pick my kids up, then take us home.... and grocery shopping... uggghhh…. I dread that day…. Oye!

- , Jamestown, NY, USA

problem #117

Aug 152012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 194,000 miles

click to see larger images

transmission failure transmission failure

We loved this car, it got us from New York City to Washington state and has been an everyday commuter for us for the last year and is our only vehicle. Now we have to resort to asking someone to come pick us up and drop us off for work and we don't live close to anyone. We also have four children so trying to get someone to take us to drop them off at daycare and pick them up as well as drive us to and from work has not been easy. Currently our poor car is parked in the parking lot of our job waiting for us to get enough money, over $3000, to get it fixed.

- , Rochester, WA, USA

problem #116

Jun 032009

Explorer XLT 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

2004 XLT 80,000 miles - transmission #1 fails. $3,000

120,000 (40,000 later) - transmission #2 fails. $3,000 (37 days past warranty)

Totally upset Ford is 'hands-off'. My impression of 'Ford Tough' was longer than three years. I completely am mislead by Ford.

- , Detroit, MI, USA

problem #115

Jan 172011

Explorer Limited 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,248 miles

Purchased a brand new 2004 Ford Explorer 16 Aug 2004. From day one had numerous problems on of which was transmission issues. Hard backups after a delay of the transmission engaging when put in reverse. Took the vehicle to the dealership repeatedly and they said there was no problem. At one point they replaced a solenoid which appeared to fix the problem for a very short time at which point it started again. I purchased the extended warranty when the manufacturer warranty expired because I feared the transmission would fail at some point. It did, but not until the extended warranty expired so had to pay to have the transmission replaced at my cost. This makes me very angry because I tried to get Ford to take responsibility for the problems with my vehicle since I purchased it. I spoke with the maintenance supervisor at the dealership and was told they found nothing. They told me it might be something that is in the process of going out but until whatever it is fails they could not identify it. Well they were right about that and it was the transmission. I also wrote a letter to the Ford Motor Corporation and received a phone call from a Ford Motor Customer Relations Representative who told me they trust the dealership and if they do not identify a problem they have to stand behind their evaluation even though what they were doing never fixed the problem. I felt totally helpless in getting my vehicle roadworthy and trustworthy.

Update from Jul 6, 2012: Additional information on transmission breakdown history. 29 Oct 04 took vehicle to dealer - transmission shifts hard from park to reverse (Not reflected on work order) 8 Aug 05 took vehicle to dealer - hard reverse (occurs intermittelntly) lower gears don't shift smoothly on acceleration. Hard transition into lower gears (Not reflected on work order ) 17 Sep 05 - took car to dealer for transmission leak - dealer said repair was made. 4 Nov 05 dealer replaced TSP, which apparently controls the throttle, and was told this device causes odd problems and it was possible several of my concerns were due to this TSP. After replacement of TSP the car still idled rough and intermittently respnded sluggish on acceleration.

Update from Jul 6, 2012: 17 Jan 2010 - Had to have the transmission replaced at my own expense after manufacturer warranty and extended warranty had expired.

Update from Oct 2, 2013: Sold vehicle tired of the unwillingness for Ford Motor Company to stand behind its product.

- , Niceville, FL, USA

problem #114

May 082012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

After numerous other steering and suspension repairs over last two years, now the transmission is dead.

My. Last. Ford. Ever. EVER.

What a hunk of junk. Too bad Ford didn't go bankrupt.

- , Stoneham, MA, USA

problem #113

May 052012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

About 25,000 miles after a transmission overhaul it failed again. Similar symptoms as the first time: O/D OFF light flashed, hard shifts, next day it wouldn't go into any gear. Had it towed to a local shop and had the entire thing rebuilt with all new parts. Ford needs to own up to the problem and recall this transmission.

- , Denver, CO, US

problem #112

Nov 112008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

Bought the car used in 2008 - the vehicle was only 4 years old and had only 85,000 miles on it so I thought it would be a good, reliable car. My dad has had incredible luck with a 1994 Taurus, and another friend had a 1999 Ranger which was also low on maintenance. I've never owned a Ford product before, but because of others' experiences and the great shape the vehicle was in I bought it. Almost exactly one year later the transmission had to be rebuilt. The O/D Off light began to flash, shifting was hard, and the next day it wouldn't get out of second gear. The vehicle had about 97,000 on the odometer when the tranny failed. It would have cost me $2,000 to fix had I not been friends with the owner of the Aamco shop that did the work, instead he only charged me $1,200.00.

- , Denver, CO, US

problem #111

Apr 252012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

Searched the internet to find that this is a common problem. Called Ford Customer Relations line but to no avail. Hoping that is enough of us complain we can have Ford do what's right and fix this obvious defect.

- , East Hampton, CT, USA

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