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:
106,367 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 11 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

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

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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

problem #72

Jun 202010


  • 64,510 miles
2002 Ford Explorer shifter broke while putting vehicle in drive looked at part made out of some type of granulated aluminum. Can't believe such a unsafe metal could be used in a vehicle part will call Ford for estimate read over 50 complaints on couldn't believe that the dot has let this go on for so long. I will be contacting my local news team and other marines who have Ford Explorer and telling everyone that has an Explorer.

- South Boston, VA, USA

problem #71

Jun 142010


  • 142,957 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving at 60 mph when the vehicle began decreasing in speed and become sluggish.the contact was unable to shift into drive or reverse, he coasted into the emergency lane. The vehicle was towed to the dealer who advised having the vehicle diagnosed at the contact's expense. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer would not provide any assistance. The failure and current mileages were 142,957.

- San Pedro, CA, USA

problem #70

Jun 162010


  • 95,000 miles


Went to leave a baseball game and attempted to put my car in reverse only to have the gear shift come loose from the steering column and was just dangling there. Of course customer service at Ford could not help.

- Tidioute, PA, USA

problem #69

Jun 122010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 169,000 miles
I pulled into my driveway and went to put my vehicle into park and the gear shift was like a broken limb in my hand. I checked with several auto part stores and the replacement part is a dealer only part. Ford will not sell the part to customer for personal repair. Plus the cost to repair is very costly. I was seeking information and found several other complaints on autobeef-car Seems like Ford needs to reconsider this as recall.

- Irmo, SC, USA

problem #68

May 282010


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated while driving at speeds of 30 mph, the vehicle began to decrease in speed without warrant. The over drive warning lights were illuminated on the dashboard and the contact was able to drive the vehicle to his residence without incident. The manufacturer was contacted but offered no assistance. The dealer was not contacted and the vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 120,000.

- Nashville, TN, USA

problem #67

Mar 122010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 116,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT. It has 118,000 miles. About 2 month ago my O/D light start to flash really fast. I took it to aamco and they say its the torque converter clutch with error code P0741 tcc. They want me to fix this with $1700. This has happen to many people. The O/D off light comes on every time I drive my SUV past 40 mph and it doesnt come back off until I turn the car off and than it goes back again after 40 mph.

- Goodlettsville, TN, USA

problem #66

Nov 102008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
Ford 2002 6 cylinder Explorer XLT O/D off light flashing on dashboard. Transmission problem started with 100,800 mile. Had rebuilt transmission done at 100,800 miles. Now vehicle has 109,900 miles and od/off light flashing again. Was told that transmission is falling apart. Back in transmission shop again. There are thousands of same complaints for the same problem on 2002 Ford Explorer. Ford will not help at all! Ford needs to recall transmission.

- Commack, NY, USA

problem #65

Mar 042010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,923 miles
Stuck throttle on a 2002 Ford Explorer with different automatic transmissions! four wheel drive model. At wide open throttle when release gas pedal throttle will stick at wide open throttle only way to stop is to put transmission in neutral (automatic).

- South Lake Tahoe, CA, USA

problem #64

Feb 252010

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6) 2002 Ford Explorer [xxx] - gear shift lever broke off of steering column while shifting from park into reverse.

- Ft Myers, FL, USA

problem #63

Feb 172010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
On my way to do morning drop off for school, my 2002 2wd, 6cy Ford Explorer transmission gave out, without warning while making a left hand turn with very busy oncoming traffic headed towards my son in the passenger side. Thankfully traffic was alert on this morning and slowed until I was able to cross! now I am toldi need a new trans. And son and I were almost killed in the process! please recall this item and make Ford do good by its customers as I had no luck with them! ps my mileage is only 105,000 for an 8 year old car.

- West Palm Beach, FL, USA

problem #62

Feb 152010


  • 143,350 miles
I was leaving a friend's house... put the key in the ignition and attempted to shift into reverse and the shifter broke off into my hand; only connected by the rubber and the wire inside. The metal connection actually just snapped in half! I was glad I wasn't stuck in drive or anything I had my 20 month old niece in the car! this could have ended really really bad! if Ford knows that this is a common problem with this model why has nothing been done!?! I got one estimate from the local Ford dealership where I had to have the car towed to; $1795+7% sales tax! I called around and found a place to get a used steering column put in for $1000+tax but I have to have it towed another 40 miles to get it to that shop... something needs to be done before someone dies from this parts failure! it's seems senseless for Ford to sit by and do nothing if they can act now and save lives!

- Galloway, NJ, USA

problem #61

Dec 242009


  • 156,000 miles
Automatic shifter broke off from column during driving.

- Dublin, OH, USA

Read the next 20 complaints »

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