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 1 of 5)

problem #100

May 152009


  • 85,000 miles


Back tailgate window is crooked, air pressure thing fell off on right side causing a lack of support on that side and hinges are starting to bend to the left also. Who knows when this window will fall off or how much longer it will be supported without the support on the right. It's just scary, we don't use this tailgate window at all so it may be fine? it is like this while stationary, in motion, on a city street or highway, turning etc.

- Green Bay, WI, USA

problem #99

Sep 262016


  • 218,000 miles
After loading my luggage I closed my trunk and the whole back window completely shattered the struts broke and the little black thing that holds the window up top broke too. I got a cut on my hand, glass went everywhere. So stressed..

- Bowie, MD, USA

problem #98

Apr 022016


  • 110,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer 4.6L is having major transmission problems at only 110K miles. It hesitates shifting gears and slips while driving. The vehicle also stalls when stopping at a red light or stop sign. It has the infamous crack down the back hatch. Both are problems thousands of customers have complained about yet Ford does nothing. The transmission problem is a very expensive cost to repair and it shouldn't be the customers responsibility when Ford knew there was a problem.

- Hyden, KY, USA

problem #97

Feb 112016


  • 130,000 miles


I was driving my Ford on the highway and the next thing I know my feet were really hot and black smoke started coming up. Then the black smoke started coming from the engine and I nearly crashed trying to get to the edge of the highway before the fire took over the whole front of the car. Luckily the fire department was right there for another accident. It was incredibly disturbing experience. Luckily my 3 small children were not in the car.

- Jupiter, FL, USA

problem #96

Jan 052016


  • 82,000 miles
Column gear shifter broke off when putting in gear. Could not remove key or put in park

- Farmington Hills, MI, USA

problem #95

Dec 162015


  • 215,000 miles
Car stalled on busy street, then was restarted and lost power. Then fire in engine compartment. Cause is unknown. Car was well maintained. Total loss was not covered by insurance

- Lakeville, MA, USA

problem #94

Nov 092015


  • 133,748 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While entering the vehicle, the interior lighting remained illuminated and leaked water into the vehicle. The contact noticed water stains by the visors. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 133,748.

- Belcamp, MD, USA

problem #93

Jun 262015


  • 154,000 miles
Vehicle leaks transmission fluid from what a appears tobe the trans bell housing and was told by experts after taking vehicle to investigate, main seal tranny damaged and trans needs tobe pulled, costing hundreds to fix.was in first accident in 30yrs because tranny would not engage, shift to proper torque for speed when needed.causing sluggish late shift to almost stop, and causing crash. Can you help".................anyone" thankyou!

- Nampa, ID, USA

problem #92

Jul 012011


  • 150,000 miles
Rear panel has crack 2 times. We paid 600.00$ for first repair. 3 months later the rear panel cracked again. No crash or accident.

- Oneida, KY, USA

problem #91

May 082015


  • 177,492 miles
Vehicle parked in stall when gear selecter was shifted from drive to park with foot on brake said vehicle experienced wide open throttle surged forward knocking down light pole only coming to stop ontop of fire hydrant or vehicle would of kept going as wheels were still spinning!

- Ronkonkoma, NY, USA

problem #90

Apr 182015


  • 127,000 miles


The rear window shuttered into 100 pieces during the driving. The rear panel has cracked.

- Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

problem #89

Nov 162004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 40,000 miles
Huge crack on back panel below window!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Puyallup, WA, USA

problem #88

Oct 092014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 97,800 miles
My daughter went to open my rear hatch and the window fell. The hinge completely detached from the car. I went to Ford to have them look at it they stated that it was a recall item but that it had already been fixed in 2005. I asked if it had been fixed why would the same problem occur. They couldn't give me an answer. All they said was that they only pay for the first occurrence not and subsequent occurrences. My issue is that if an item continues to break that is no longer and issue with that item its and issue with the design of the item. This is a safety concern. What if the glass fell on my daughter or shattered on her. I don't see why I have to replace a faulty Ford issue.

- North Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #87

Sep 202014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 88,000 miles
Paint job on engine hood is bubbling up. SUV has been regularly washed and waxed; so one would not expect problems with the paint job. Based upon internet research, Ford has paint job issues with vehicles sold from 2000-2005.

- Huntsville, AL, USA

problem #86

Aug 012013

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 135,260 miles
Rear lift gate plastic panel cracked, allowing water to enter. I have noticed many Ford Explorer with the same issue. Why has Ford ignored this defect, I see many complants on-line with the same flaw by other Explorer owners..

- Fair Lawn, NJ, USA

problem #85

Jun 042012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
The rear hatch is splitting down the middle near the windshield wipers. The metal is coming apart and may fly off during high rates of speed causing an accident. This email is to prevent an accident which may occur. I am aware of a pending lawsuit regarding cosmetic defects but would like you to know the possibility of an accident occurring once the metal separates at high rates of speed on the interstate. This is also a paper trail in case I am the truck the causes the accident.

- Lakeland, TN, USA

problem #84

May 172014


  • 130,000 miles
Shortly after purchasing my Ford Explorer from the dealership I noticed a small crack in the rear hatch around the Ford emblem. This part of the hatch is also connected to the rear glass window that lifts open. I took my vehicle back to the dealership and they told me it was a manufacturers defect and will be recalled eventually so I should keep checking back. The recall never happened and after 10 plus years the crack got larger letting moisture in and rusting. Meanwhile I was noticing the majority of Ford Explorer from that year had the same crack on the rear hatch in the same place! about 2 weeks ago I went to simply open the rear hatch and the glass window buckled and shattered with an exploding sound similar to a gunshot. Glass was everywhere! the piece with the crack literally broke in half. Thankfully no one got hurt, but if my kids were in the car or my face was any closer it could have been a disaster. I truly believe Ford needs to take responsibility for their defective rear hatches in these models to prevent injuries.

- Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #83

May 012014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
Over the past year I have noticed that this particular vehicle is experiencing severe rust issues on various components including lower body work, specifically under the driver and passenger doors in addition to emergency brake components. When I first noticed the issue I took immediate action to repair the damaged body work areas by using anti-rust treatments and applying new paint as recommended by a certified mechanic. The issue though is still ongoing to the point where door seals are no longer water tight and small pieces of body work are flaking away from the vehicle as a result of wind resistance and bumps while the vehicle is in motion. I have also needed to replace rusted emergency brake components which I was advised were no longer functional or safe. Upon further research it appears that a large number of Ford/Mercury/Lincoln vehicles (primarily between 2002 and 2004) are experiencing the exact same issue and that supposedly Ford is aware of a known paint defect that is the root cause, however no related recalls or further information has surfaced. (example testimonials here: ) my vehicle has always been regularly serviced and well maintained and I would not expect to be seeing an issue as significant as this given the vehicle's age and mileage. This issue needs to be investigated as I am not confident in the overall safety of my vehicle.

- New Milford, CT, USA

problem #82

Mar 032014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 143,000 miles
Got home and noticed a crack all the way thru panel below window on liftgate.

- Buffalo, NY, USA

problem #81

Feb 132014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 66,000 miles
Rear lift gate fiberglass trim below window cracked for no apparent reason. Vehicle was sitting still in driveway and when I went out to start it this is when I noticed the crack.

- Sumter, SC, USA

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