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:
5 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
5 / 0
Average Mileage:
105,271 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 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 10 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #92

Apr 182002


  • 78,000 miles


Transmission is whining and needs to be replaced.

- Nutley, NJ, USA

problem #91

Apr 132011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Please do something about this !!!! the Explorer gear shifter is defective and unsafe. There is a common thread with gearshift selector breakage on Ford Explorer which indicates that recall is urgently needed. After parking, I tried to move the gear shifter from drive to park to exit the vehicle. To my absolute astonishment the gear shifter broke like a dangling broken arm in the reverse position. The vehicle was rendered useless and me optionless. I work at a secure gov't facility and it was no picnic trying to get a tow truck driver access. I finally got the truck towed to the nearest dealership at $85. The dealer then informed me that the entire steering column would have to be replaced at $1,690. They didn't have the part and needed a day to get the truck back to me. I had to rent a car which was another $102 bucks. Make Ford take care of this safety hazard. I asked for the part and can show you what broke inside which is literally a weak metal housing that the gear shift handle fits in....

- Southaven, MS, USA

problem #90

Apr 142011


  • 106,830 miles
My wife was preparing to take our 3 children to school. She put our 2002 Ford Explorer in reverse and backed out of our driveway. After stopping, she attempted to shift into drive. The gear shift lever broke, leaving her with a car stuck in neutral. The keys are locked in the ignition and cannot be removed. After researching this online, I was very surprised to discover this is not a recall item and that Ford Motor Company's recommended fix is changing out the entire steering column. Is this really true?

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #89

Mar 102011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 157,132 miles


Gear shift in my 2002 Ford Explorer broke off while trying to put my car in gear. I have been informed by the local dealer that the part is part of the steering column and it would cost approx. $1200 to replace. The part that broke is made of aluminum and is only about 4-5 inches long. This was a danger to me because my driveway is on a slight incline. In addition if the vehicle went into reverse, I could of had cause property damage and how would I put the vehicle back in park?

- Winterville, NC, USA

problem #88

Mar 072011


  • 134,000 miles
Was driving down the highway at 55 mph at my overdrive light started flashing and my information screen showed "check transmission" when I got home, I looked up the problem on the internet and found that my transmission just went bad and will need to be replaced according to what hundreds of complaints say had to be done to fix the same problem.

- Baldwin, KS, USA

problem #87

Jan 252011


  • 103,000 miles
Transmission failure

- Dorr, MI, USA

problem #86

Sep 012010


  • 70,000 miles


Air bag warning light came on, pulled plug apart under drivers, seat sprayed cleaner on it put it back together, took care of that problem. Gear shift lever sheared off. Ford says you need to replace steering column. Went online found a man in sweden that made a replacement part, ordered it, put it on, works great. (why couldn't Ford supply one?) the transmission is starting to act up, you shift in to drive it hesitates and leaps forward, quite hard, same in reverse. Ford should recall this before someone gets hurt.

- Fortuna, CA, USA

problem #85

Dec 292010


  • 100,000 miles
Automatic transmission needs replaced

- Tyrone, PA, USA

problem #84

Jul 232010


  • miles
The transmission in our 2002 Ford Explorer eddie bauer started flashing the od light @94,000 miles took it to Ford they said the valve body and torque converter was bad, Ford replaced the items above for 2600 dollars problem went away for 10, 000 miles problem is back torque converter and valve body needsto be replaced again.

- Brighton, TN, USA

problem #83

Dec 032010


  • 108,890 miles
Automatic transmission experienced complete failure of band(s) for gears 3-4. dealer offered repair for about $2000, but not recommended as only receive 12 month / 12K mile warranty for replaced parts and no labor and not transferable. Opted for total replacement with Ford authorized remanufactured complete transmission for $3500 with 36 month / unlimited mileage and fully transferable. Difficult to accept a transmission would experience such drastic failure with so few miles, normal Suburban driving and no trailering.

- Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #82

Nov 262010


  • 128,500 miles


I was traveling to mt. Washington, ky. From lorain, Ohio, ( approx. 330 miles). We stopped at the rest are at the halfway mark, between Washington ch, oh. & jeffersonvlle, oh. When we came back out, started the car, & it wouldn't go into reverse. Pushed it out of the parking spot & it wouldn't go in drive either. About 30 miles before, it made some clunking noises & it felt like we had a flat tire. I took it out of cruise control & it drove normally until the rest area. I had to have it towed to Washington courthouse & then back home on Monday, Nov., 29th, (at my own expense). Approximate cost of repair to date was $2969. I had my daughter & 6 yr. Old great granddaughter with me & I feel this could have possibly ended with disastrous results. Ford has known about these faulty transmissions probably from day 1. I'm not trying to just blast Ford, happen to be an employee. I feel they need to man up & take care of this problem before it leads to serious consequences.

- Lorain, OH, USA

problem #81

Nov 252010


  • 124,817 miles
The gear shift lever fell off the steering column while putting the car into park. It is held on only by the electrical connection.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #80

Nov 102010


  • 106,000 miles
When driving the O/D light came on and started flashing erratically, then I was unable to shift from 1st to 2nd gear. The only way I can shift from 1st to 2nd gear is if I let the RPM's go up above 3,000 and 4,000. Then I can take my foot off the gas and it will switch into 3rd gear. I have not drove the truck since it started doing this, the only time I have drove it was to go to the mechanic. The mechanic says it is what makes the gears shift that is causing the problem. The only way to fix it is to put a new or rebuilt transmission into my 2002 Ford Explorer. On the way home from the mechanic it started slamming into gears.

- Baltimore , MD, USA

problem #79

Oct 042010


  • 118,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT. The contact stated that the overdrive warning light would continuously flash. The failure would occur sporadically whether the vehicle was in over drive or not. The contact stated that when placed in park, the vehicle would continue to roll further than usual. The vehicle was taken to an independent repair facility where the mechanic was unable to duplicate the failure or generate a failure code. The vehicle was not repaired. The current and failure mileage was 118,000.

- Watertown, WI, USA

problem #78

Sep 022010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 71,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer gear shift lever broke off while in drive. The lever is connected to a soft aluminum cylinder thru a U shaped end and a pin. The cylinder sheared at the base of the U as a result leaving no way to shift or get the key out after turning the motor off when I finally got stopped. Repair cost is $1400 for a new steering column plus labor. Cannot buy small part that broke separately so Explorer is not fixed. A picture of the problem can be seen at this url

- Tallahassee, FL, USA

problem #77

Aug 202010


  • 117,000 miles
Defective transmission in a 2002 Ford Explorer eddie bauer after only 117K miles. Transmission fails shifting between 2nd and 3rd gears. Some times gets stock in parking. Complete failure estimated repair cost $3600 to $4000.

- Montgomery Village, MD, USA

problem #76

Aug 152010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer XLS. I was shifting from drive to park and the shifter broke in my hand. Not a good thing. After doing some research it seems this a common problem with Ford Explorer due to the cast aluminum that is used in the part. Ford should have a recall for this, seeing as how it happens due to the way it was made not due to driver error.

- Ontario, CA, USA

problem #75

Aug 112010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer and this morning I was going at work when the gear shift arm broke off in my hand. I had to call my wife for go at work and I was unable to remove my keys from the ignition. My car is completely un-drivable.

- Boca Raton, FL, USA

problem #74

Jun 142010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer I was driving down the highway when I noticed the overdrive light flashing. Then the passenger asked me if I could smell transmission fluid and I had said yes. This ended up costing me $2800 and my mechanic told me that the torque converter was failing and sense he had it apart he should go ahead and rebuild it.

- Ocala, FL, USA

problem #73

Jun 232010

Explorer 4WD

  • miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer limited 4X4 had a chiming noise followed by a O/D blinking light on wed. I put the car in park and hit the button for O/D a couple of times it then went out. I drove it straight home. I was only two minutes from my house. The next day I drove it and it acted like it wouldn't or couldn't shift right. I do not understand how a car that is pampered could go so wrong. I had to replace both four wheel drive motors this winter and I hardly use it. The four wheel would not engage. Now I am told that I probably need a new tranny and that it is very expensive.I don't have alot of money. I have always owned Ford but never again! I think Ford should recall all these trannys and fix them just like Toyota fixed their problems. Maybe I should by Toyota.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

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