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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
72,554 miles
Total Complaints:
388 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (197 reports)
  2. rebuild transmission (58 reports)
  3. replace shift solenoid (58 reports)
  4. replace transmission (56 reports)
  5. replace shift solenoid and bands (9 reports)
  6. had transmission rebuilt $2012 (3 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 4 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #328

Nov 022011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


Purchased this vehicle in September of 2011 and have had problems ever since. I took it back to the dealer to have them look at it, but they said they could not recreate the problem. I need to get it fixed before it leaves me sitting.

- , Hagerstown, MD, USA

problem #327

Mar 122013

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

just purchased a few weeks ago ~ transmission is shifting hard and RPM's go from low to high all the time. Worse when going up a hill.... out of warranty of course ~ from what I can tell ford knows of the problem and will not stand behind the product ~ really? no wonder people are going with foreign jobs... I am thinking of selling it already!!! sucks!!!

- , Pittsburgh, PA, US

problem #326

Sep 232012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,690 miles

I have owned 5 Explorers before this one. This car has been nothing but problems! The transmission has been slipping since approximately 70,000 miles. My father was an automatic transmission mechanic so he trained me to take care of the transmission by coming to a complete stop before transferring gears. Along with regular servicing...etc... Nothing worked with this one. I tried to baby it and it lasted another 10,000 miles before it became unbearable. The transmission mechanic told me to drive it until the ABS light came on a stayed. He was right...the week that it happened, the overdrive kicked off and the transmission started to seize!!!!! This is the same model that my best friend has and hers did the same thing! What's the deal FORD!!!!! The only help that I got from Ford is like always...this isn't covered!!! It should have been a recalled item...Especially after being a loyal Explorer owner! I am looking at an Acura MDX now....Your loss Ford!!!

- , Clarkesville, GA, US

problem #325

May 012012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles


I have talked with several other ford explorer owners who have told me that they have the same problems. i have also read online where thousands of ford explorer owners have reported to ford and nothing has been done about this problem. They are aware of the problem because i have read reviews about this problem. so why don't they do a recall?

- , Gilbert, SC, USA

problem #324

Nov 112012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,000 miles

Well, I guess I was waiting for the inevitable... Had very sporadic slipping of gears over the past three years, usually going uphill in cruise control. Just in the past month, the car seemed to be making more noise (which I thought were the new tires) and now a slight vibration. Today, the car began slipping when in overdrive on the freeway on a flat section and again multiple times when going up a mountain pass before making it home. After the first slip years ago, I researched online and found 1000's of complaints on the 2004 explorer with transmission problems. I should have known when Ford issued a recall for the car within the first month of owning saying I must take the suv to a local dealer to get new fluid for the transmission??? I was skeptical at the time and should have asked more questions. I think the mechanics said "Ford put the wrong fluid in that doesn't run at the right temperature"... I'm sure they knew there was a problem and were trying to put a bandaid on their flawed transmissions to make the cars last through their already crummy drive train warranty. Now I'm going to go to my mechanic tomorrow (who I trust) and see what he advises to do. The most frustrating thing I've read is that many people have had their transmissions replaced- only to have them fail within 6 months to two years after? I want to know if it is even worth fixing if I have to spend 1000's of $. I meticulously care for my cars like my dad and he NEVER has had to replace a transmission in any of his Fords (still has his 1985 F350 crew cab for work). SOOO frustrated. Hope something can be done to make Ford liable for this mess.

- , Talent, OR, USA

problem #323

May 012012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I just wanted to offer some hope to all the 2004 explorer owners that are experiencing the hard shifting problems so prominently mentioned on this site. I started having the problem in 2011 with aprox 85,000 miles on the vehicle. It originally started out as a LONG time to shift into reverse, especially so if you turned into a parking space and then immediately put it into reverse to back up and straighten out. It could pause for 2-3 seconds and then clunk hard into reverse. This was very scary as it could have been very dangerous if you were applying too much gas and it not being engaged in reverse yet. The problem was intermittent at best and might not show up for weeks . I eventually took it to a mechanic who suggested changing the fluid. I had him do it as well as change the filter (cost approx. $125 ) . That helped a little but it still happened. Then the problem started appearing when shifting from 1st to 2nd. but only if on a slight incline. Once again you would get the pause and then clunk. Finally in the spring when the car had 100,000 miles on it , I went to use it and it wouldn't shift into any gear period. Had it towed to a transmission shop (No name local garage that my son had dealings with) He tore apart the tranny and found metal pieces in the pan from all that clunking. He changed out the necessary damaged parts changed out the solenoid pack and it has worked flawlessly for the past 5,000 miles. Total cost $1500. Did I enjoy spending the money NO! but I think the vehicle will perform for another 50,000 + miles and it will be worth it. I read a lot about how bad this tranny is but the bottom line is it's probably only the solenoid pack that's bad and if you take it to a trusted mechanic before the clunking causes more serious problems you may get by for $500 bucks. Hope this helps

- , Clermont, FL, USA

problem #322

Oct 262012

Explorer LTD 4,6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles


After experiencing slippage last year I had the fluid changed at 85000 and now it is starting again. Last year I looked for problems on the web and found hundreds of Explorer owners disgruntled at Ford for not even making an attempt to address the problem or at least offer a better discount. Now I have a car that is beautiful inside and out and that has given me no problems up until now that I really like driving but want to upgrade because its getting old. Resale value is down because everyone knows there's a problem with these vehicles and the trade in value is affected. You make a good product Ford but you need to stand behind them when there's a problem. Toyota spent millions on a minor problem that might not even be of their making but they did it anyway. time for a Toyota I guess.

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #321

Jun 012006

Explorer XTL 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles


I found out that Ford was aware of the transmission problem before I purchased my Ford Explorer in Sept. 2004. Solenoid becomes damages from the transmission fluid Ford chose to put into the 04' Explorer and other models as well. If only I would have investigated this truck on the net before purchasing it, we would not be stuck with a LEMON NOW!! PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK BY USING THE NET TO EVALUATE ANYTHING YOU ARE PLANNING TO PURCHASE BEFORE YOU PURCHASE IT. I WILL NEVER BUY A FORD AGAIN. I give an explanation to the complete circumstance to my situation below if you care to read so that you will see how easily one can be RIPPED-OFF by all these so called transmission shops also. I did have problem fixed immediately and my Explorer now has 105k miles 6 yrs later and O.G.problem is back but with two more gears issues as well which I am filing another report here & w/Ford by phone on those issues after this one.

We purchased Explorer in Sept. 2004. 1k miles after the warranty ended (31k or 36k miles of June 06'), the trans started having problems. When we would shift from park to reverse, it would take 3-5 seconds for the trans to engage and it would engage with a hard kick and loud bang/thud along with a slight jerking motion.

I took the Ford to 6 tranny shops to make sure we were as sure as possible as to the problem. The first two independent tranny neighborhood shops claimed we needed a partial trans rebuild to a full rebuilt trans and they would not know until they had opened the transmission. They both drove my truck around the block and then gave me their so called professional opinion as to what the problem was. RIDICULOUS RIGHT!! Their pricing was $1600 for a partial rebuilt trans and $2200 for the full rebuilt trans. The warranty was 90 days at 1st shop to 6 months at the 2nd shop. They did not charge for evaluation.

I then took my Ford to two different AAMCO shops where they both evaluated my truck by driving it once around their parking lot. They both gave a free evaluation. They both gave me similar opinions as the first two independent shops but their pricing was a bit more and they offered different warranties depending on the cost of the warranty I would have to select/purchase. Basically, it would cost us $2100 for a partial rebuilt trans which broke down to $1800 for the work and $300 more for a 1 year warranty or $2500 for a full rebuilt trans and $500 for a lifetime warranty.

I then took my Ford to two different Ford dealerships. The 1st Ford dealer in Norwalk, Ca. charged me $90 to hook up my Explorer to their diagnostic machine to evaluate the problem. The final report in writing stated that the solenoid was bad and needed to be replaced. They said that it would cost me $800 to replace the solenoid and they would reduce the cost by $90 which was the first evaluation fee. The warranty was only 90 days. I then took my Ford to the Lake Elsinore Ford Dealership where we purchased the Explorer. I paid them $90 for their diagnostic evaluation which reported exactly the same problem reported at the Norwalk Ford dealership. I showed them my report from the Norwalk dealership hoping they would credit me both $90 evaluation fees explaining that I just wanted to be certain as to the problem. They credited me on $90 only which they deducted it from the $800 cost to do the repair which I had it done their. They would not reduce both evaluation fees as I reiterated that I just wanted to be as certain as possible as to what the problem was and that most tranny repair shops seem to be a COMPLETE RIP-OFF!! They still refused to reduce the first fee.


- , Bell, CA, US

problem #320

Nov 012011

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

I bought this car used. About 1 day after I had it I noticed the car was shifting hard. Also, after you put it in reverse the transmission takes a little bit to engage. Then you almost get whiplash when it finally does. It hesitates when you put it in drive too. I am so frustrated! You know all my family buys are fords but at the price of these cars nowadays FORD needs to put on their big girl panties and fix this. If not I think I will start to buy something else. I will let all my family and friends know this is what is happening. If this transmission would ever slip out of gear while driving it could cause a serious accident. I wonder if they would like to be sued over this.

- , Bethalto, IL, USA

problem #319

Jul 282012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 176,000 miles

I had saved $5,000.00 dollars. We needed a more reliable 2nd car. So the search began. One guy agreed to sell us his 04' Explorer then turned around & relisted it for way more & never did return my calls or texts. So, I figured I'd go to dealerships thinking that would be my best bet as they check their trade ins & fix them, etc... Or so I thought. Called Mike Castrucci Ford of Alexandria, Kentucky about a 2002 Ford Explorer they had listed. Jeremy Huffman salesman said OH NO, you don't want that, every time we start it, it makes all kinds of noises. Then he told me about the 04' Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer they had for $7,999.00. I told him I ONLY have $5,000.00 period. I said if you'd take $5,000? He told me to come in & look at it & he'd talk to his boss to see if he'd be willing to take my offer. So, I did. Salesman brought the car for me to test drive of course the a/c wasn't working so couldn't hear a thing as I was driving the truck. All the windows were down because it was soooo hot! Not only that the vehicle was sitting on empty. So I couldn't even drive it that far. Got back from test drive. He said, so what do you think? I said I like it but, couldn't drive it that far it's on empty. The a/c isn't working. He assured me all it needed was recharged. My friend that was with me asked if they could check it to be sure, Jeremy says, well if we do that then the cost will go to her & then we'd have to keep the price at $7,999.00! My friend went out to check to see if it had freon. He said it did. They were discussing if it only needed charged it wouldn't cost that much. Jeremy was saying if that's all it winds up being then you got a steal! Then said even if it turns out that the compressor or clutch for a/c needs replaced you still got a steal seeing how we dropped it down to $5,000.00 for you OUT the door! So, I called my fiance' & he said go ahead & buy it we need a car asap. They put a little bit of gas enough for me to get home or to a gas station. Thoughtful of em huh? Right! So, next day I went to my daughters & her driveway is kind of steep so upon backing out it rolled backwards, had to push on accelerator give it gas to keep it from rolling then it would jerk really hard like a bucking bronco! Did that every time I went to her place. Took it to get oil change (which by the way it was 4 qts LOW!!!!) Changed oil filter. Had to rotate tires & re-balance them. It has oil leaks! But, when I was driving it there to have this work done, the o/d light came on, it was shifting strange, revved up to 4000 rpm's, had to let off the gas to get it to shift. Midas wanted to charge us over $800.00 just to check the leaks, transmission flush. NO WAY! Oh and to put 2 new back tie rod ends on. So, I called Mike Castrucci, they wouldn't return my calls. So I called Ford Customer Service to see about a Goodwill Repair. I had searched the internet about the way the truck was acting & there were sooo many complaints about the transmission! Ford Customer service said they'd consider doing a Goodwill Repair but, I'd need to have a dealership diagnose it. They will not accept Mida's. So, I got David Green from Mike Castrucci's Service Dept. to do a free diagnostics (to which he added, "I'll do the free diagnostics but, I am NOT going to fix it!). I told him about the salesman & how he did me, & said Had I known this vehicle had transmission problems & all these leaks, I would NOT have purchased it! He said, well bring it in & we'll see what we come up with. I did. Mechanic got these codes: p0733 & p0745 & said the transmission needed re-manufactured, oh & said the leak is from the Oil Filer Gasket or he may have said oil pan gasket, not sure now. I was so angry at them! I am on a fixed income. That $5,000.00 was all that I had & they basically STOLE it from me! Selling me a car they probably knew had these problems & don't even have the decency to fix it for me. Oh they'll fix it. For $4,275.00!!!!! Oh & I contacted Ford Customer Service & keep getting the run around. They keep saying they're not Recalls or other fixes that they could do to help me out financially! I told them they why tell me to have it diagnosed & then you'd consider the Goodwill Repair. Mr. Ford would be really PISSED I think about how they've done me. I own a 04' Ford Mustang that we actually wound up paying $27,000.00 for after financing & it was paid off! It's ONLY a V6 standard Mustang for Christ's sake. But, because of the way my soon to be EX was handling finances after I left him he screwed up my credit a little so in turn we didn't get a really good deal on the interest rate. (We meaning myself & my fiance'). So, now I'm stuck with a truck that just the other day, I drove to my daughter's & on the way back home, the CHECK TRANSMISSION light comes on along with the o/d light!!! Ford Mechanic also said the ATF was very dirty & had metal in it!!! So here I sit with a piece of junk that right at the moment I cannot afford to fix!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will NEVER buy a FORD again. NEVER!!!!!!!

- , Crittenden, KY, USA

problem #318

Aug 062010

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


I don't understand why Ford won't issue a recall on this!! It makes no sense why so many of us are having the same issue and there is no help in sight!!! Who has the money to rebuild their transmission in this economy! Ridiculous, never buy a Ford again that's for sure!!

- , Palm Coast, FL, USA

problem #317

May 122006


  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,000 miles

When we first got the Explorer about 1 year into it we had to have the transmission fixed because it would slide and also pause between shifting from/to park to/from drive and would make the entire car "jump" Thank goodness that was under warranty still, but now it is having the EXACT same problem again...and now it isn't under warranty...not that it much matters now that we have to have our entire engine replaced...I will never buy another FORD as long as I live.

- , Hampton, VA, USA

problem #316

Jul 272012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

I bought this as a used vehicle about a month ago. I noticed after I bought it (on my way home with it) it was shifting very hard. I turned around and took it back up to the dealer and had the mechanic look it over. He (of course) said there is nothing wrong with it. So I went home. I took a 3 hour road trip that weekend in this SUV and in reverse the jerk or slam into reverse is absolutely horrible. I am scared for my children's safety when in this vehicle. I need a reliable vehicle for my children and for me to rely on for school and work. Ford how about you step up and take care of your customers instead of sitting back and "stealing" all of our money??? It's called put out a recall for this vehicle and maybe so many people would not agree with the statement that Ford is found on the road dead!!!! Because right now that is the exact truth! I mean come one Ford brings in how much money a year???? Its not like they would be out that much to fix our lemons that they created and are well aware of it!

- , Tell City, IN, USA

problem #315

Jul 012012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I have never towed anything with this car.I have taken very good care only serviced by Ford. This transmission should last much longer.

- , Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #314

Aug 032012

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

Car rough shifts and can feel it slipping during acceleration. I am disappointed this is the first ford vehicle i ever owned pretty sure it maybe my last bad experience. Nice looking looking vehicle but seems unreliable. Had the vehicle a few days. Makes me never want to buy another one. Hopefully ford would cover the cost or least most of it.

- , Mechanicsburg, PA, USA

problem #313

Jul 022012

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

The place I took the car to said it would cost $500 just to take the transmission apart and see what else needs to be fixed before they would know how much it will cost to fix... Frustrating. Looking for new car!

- , Peoria, AZ, USA

problem #312

Jul 052011

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 175,000 miles

Ford should have to recall the transmissions for the explorers.

- , Rome, NY, US

problem #311

Apr 152012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

I understand the transmission problem is fairly common on the 2004 explorer. My dealer says that he is unaware of any problem.

- , Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

problem #310

Jul 072011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

We have the same problem so many others have with their Exploder tranny. We no longer drive the vehicle more than 25 miles from the house (expecting a tow when it dies). So, we have a $30K vehicle that should last 200,000 miles, and is now worthless. Hmmm. Would I ever buy a Ford product again? I don't think so. I was wondering if the extended warranties offered any value (they cost the same as a new transmission). I see that they don't. Ford will still stiff you. My daughter just bought a new 2012 Hyundai Tucson. Now my wife wants one to replace the Exploder (both rear windows quit working, the parking brake handle just broke, and the rear heater deflector is broken again. It goes, clunk,...clunk... clunk. What a piece of crap, and no factory support. Remember when Honda replaced/fixed every transmission for their 2003 Acura TL. Wouldn't that be nice.

The most depressing thing about this issue, is that there is not a reliable fix. So, what is the point of fixing these transmissions?

- , Garland, TX, USA

problem #309

Dec 222004

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

My problem is basically the same as mentioned before. Slamming while changing in Reverse or Drive Delay in transmission when shifting gears.

The dealer just told me today that I need a new transmission. The cost of the repairs..approx $5000. I only have 76000 miles on my clock.

I called the customer service number for ford and spoke with a rep and filed a complaint. She stated that one of the reasons why we never see a recall is that most customers head to the internet on forums to complain ...but never call to lodge a formal complain with Ford.

I urge everyone to call them and report the problem.

She also stated that for those who got the problem fixed out of warranty, they should keep the receipts just in case there is a recall.


- , Bronx, NY, USA

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