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:
3 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
80,060 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 body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 5 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #20

Oct 282008


  • 75,000 miles


Ford 2002 Explorer has large crack on liftgate panel running from just of the left of the Ford insignia to the bottom of the rear window. Ford will not help with replacement despite the obvious safety concerns and the admission that this is a widespread problem with Explorer. The liftgate was recalled a few years ago for an unrelated problem with the cylinders.

- Lancaster, PA, USA

problem #19

Feb 252008


  • 103,000 miles
On the 2002 Ford Explorer I have a crack on the back panel under the lift gate. I have done some researching and find that this is not uncommon. I believe it has to do with the liftgate hinge recall. I am afraid that the panel being broken may cause it to come off and hit a car behind me. I feel that this crack may cause serious problems if I was in a wreck. I feel that there are many people who are out there with the same problem and Ford will not do anything to replace this part. They have received many complaints as I can see from the research I have done.

- Balch Springs, TX, USA

problem #18

May 232005


  • 70,000 miles
Crack developed in area below lift gate glass. Now the door ajar light goes on and off, as well as the buzzer. The glass does not shut properly and is inoperable and the area below the glass has completely fallen away.

- Friendswood, TX, USA

problem #17

Jul 092008


  • 87,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer - rear applique (plastic trim) under the rear window cracked, and a portion of it fell off the vehicle traveling 70mph. Same problem as reported at Ford has said it was temp related, however, I'm in Florida, the vehicle never saw any temp below 40, freezing wasn't considered. Tsb 0485 if I'm reading it correctly.

- New Port Richey, FL, USA

problem #16

Jan 212008


  • 65,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the molding on the rear of the vehicle was cracked. The vehicle has not been repaired. The current mileage was 77,000 and failure mileage was 65,000.

- Mt. Pleasant, IA, USA

problem #15

Oct 032008


  • miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer hood is corroding. It's been over a year since the first spot appeared. I really didn't pay much attention to it because I thought it was just from wear and tear, but then 2 months ago 2 more spots appeared. On 10/3/08 I went to a body shop to see how much it would cost to paint, and I surprised to hear him tell me that the problem is really a Ford problem because it looked like the hood is made of aluminum and the paint isn't sticking. That same day, I went to the Ford dealer nearest to me and I was told that indeed there is a problem with these hoods and confirmed what the guy at the body shop said. He then told me that since my car is a 2002, 5 years has passed and I cannot have it replaced for free. This is unfair. I was not aware of the problem, and no one at Ford informed us. Had I known that it was their problem, I would have had it replaced when the first spot appeared.

- South San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #14

Oct 152003


  • 61,000 miles


Same as noted from other Ford explore 02 owners.....the bottom of the rear window is cracked shortly after purchase in 03. I have now attached a sign using stick on letters that read on the back panel "Ford quality' with an arrow pointing to the crack as the dealer and Ford will not do anything about it as evident by all the complaints. I think Ford needs this type of publicity!

- Espanola, NM, USA

problem #13

Nov 132007


  • 51,000 miles
Rear gate plastic that is directly below the rear window snapped due to cold weather most likely. Don't know why there is glass underneath this section, the whole thing should be metal.

- Hudson, MA, USA

problem #12

Jun 302008

Explorer 4WD

  • 35,000 miles
Purchased a 2002 Ford exp eddie bauer ed used with 35,000 miles. Transmission had to be repaired within 3 weeks due to 4WD malfunction covered by warranty. Passenger side window motor assembly has been replaced once, and window regulator has been replaced once, and is in need of a second replacement. Took to local dealership and was told window was not meant to be lowered halfway. The rear hatch has also cracked completely down from window to lower panel. Dealership will not acknowledge issues with this occurring, but upon further research have found this to be a common problem with this vehicle make and model. Overdrive light blinks continuously and dealership reports it to be a malfunctioning electrical switch repair cost at around $400. Have continued to drive vehicle, but will no longer drive vehicle after discovering that this is a precursor to transmission failure. May possibly trade-in this vehicle and lose monetary value for private sale. Will not be responsible for selling this vehicle to a private party and risk injury to next owner. Shame on Ford for not taking care of their customers.

- San Angelo, TX, USA

problem #11

Jan 012007


  • miles
A cracked rear panel on my 2002 Ford Explorer. To date, I haven't had any safety issues, but I've checked other online sites and seen quite a few submissions from other owners with the same issue. I cannot afford to have it replaced, and according to other owners, the problem will probably reoccur (it seems to happen during cold weather). Ford has not listed it on their recall site.

- Perth Amboy, NJ, USA

problem #10

Jun 262008


  • 55,000 miles


March '07: Rear gate split under window December '07 through Jan '08: Rear differential rebuilt twice, rear axel hubs and bearings replaced; differential noise still loud June '08: Torque converter replaced.

- Morgan Hill, CA, USA

problem #9

Aug 282007

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 63,000 miles
Last summer 2007, I noticed a crack in the plastic panel beneath the rear window in my Ford Explorer. I took it into a body shop to ask how this could have happened and they told me that they had seen several Ford Explorer with the same defect and that the part had been recalled by the manufacturer. I looked up online the recall and saw that it was for the same year, make, and model of my Explorer so I took it to the dealership and they ran the VIN number and said that my particular car wasn't a part of the recall even though it is the same exact part and car. I then called the Ford national customer service line and filed a complaint and they did nothing about it. I was told by 2 autoshops that if I don't get the part replaced it could crack completely and the window can fall out of the car.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #8

Jan 102008


  • 40,000 miles
Crack on rear hatch of vehicle, this is the second time that it has happened. First time it was replaced at our cost.

- Stillwater, OK, USA

problem #7

Mar 262008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT, a couple weeks ago I went to open the back lift glass, and the window fell, and combustion in thousands of little pieces, right in my face! I have pictures, anyway I proceeded to take my vehicle to Ford Motor Company in horseheads, NY, they replaced the window due to the explosion, and I have had my truck back there 4 times because they wired it wrong, and they refuse to fix this problem, if my wiring from the back windshield to the dash of my truck does not get fixed I am sorry to say that I will be forced to obtain an attorney for Ford! please help!!!!!!

- Elmira Heights, NY, USA

problem #6

Sep 142005

Explorer Diesel

  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,203 miles
: the contact stated there is a crack by the Ford symbol in the back. There are no dents or debris around the crack. The dealership and manufacturer were alerted.

- King George, VA, USA

problem #5

Jan 022006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 37,000 miles
The back panel below the rear window developed a 1/4 inch crack from running from top to bottom.

- Gorham, ME, USA

problem #4

Dec 012004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
By the Ford symbol in the back there is a crack about 6-8 inches long. No dents or debris around crack. The crack just happened.

- Etna Green, IN, USA

problem #3

Jul 232004

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles
Rear tailgate had a fracture about 10 inches long and the mold was touched up with paint prior to shipping or selling. It was cracked. Dealer stated that they had a service bulletin on this problem.

- Madrid, IA, USA

problem #2

Aug 012002


  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles
Manufacturer's defect with paint. Failure to properly apply under coat resulting in paint checking and oxidation. Entire car will need to be repainted.

- Edwards, CA, USA

problem #1

Oct 012003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles
Seats are rusted underneath, under dash metal rusting. Contacted local dealer where purchased, said they contacted Ford, condition normal. I contacted Ford, same answer. Concern is rust is a never ending condition and in time (what ever it may be) will cause failure. Having paid quite a large amount of money for vehicle, I find it hard to understand that this practice is safe and not a concern.

- Elkins Park, PA, USA

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