ANNOUNCEMENT: The Car Book 2018 is now online!

Ratings on over 1,000 new & used models going back 5 years, from the Center from Auto Safety. Learn more about The Car Book 2018 here. 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:
105,916 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 12 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #59

Dec 212009


  • 55,000 miles


For the 3rd time 2002 Ford Explorer gear shift falling / breaking off.

- Jersey City, NJ, USA

problem #58

Dec 122009


  • 83,000 miles
While putting vehicle in park the gear shift lever snapped off and fell limp in my hands.

- Ithaca, NY, USA

problem #57

Dec 042009


  • miles
I pulled up to the gas station while on my way to work and as soon as I was about to shift into park the gear shift broke right off in my hand. It was causing some nor difficulties in the past where it would show signs of resistance when shifting gears but never something so serious as this current incident. I called a tow truck which appeared about 40 minutes later and then took me home. I have tried to find a new part but no dealer or parts manufacturer has it in stock.

- Ponce, PR, USA

problem #56

Dec 022002


  • 85,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer gear shift broke completely off when cast aluminum ring failed. I see on "" that this is happening on numerous Explorer of the same year. I believe this is a manufacturing defect that could cause a significant safety issue if someone were to shift up or down while the vehicle is in motion. Fords estimated cost to repair is $2400.

- Port Orchard, WA, USA

problem #55

Dec 052009


  • 120,000 miles
Three months after buying a 2002 Ford Explorer I experienced my O/D off light blinking, and my service engine soon light come on. I'm scared to drive my vehicle now after reading all the horror stories on a website. I have no money and this has happened to me. I absolutely cannot afford to put a transmission in my vehicle. The people we bought it from rebuilt the transmission a year ago and that should have fixed the problem, but it didn't. now it's messed up again. This is dangerous because people's transmissions go out on them. The car jumps in and out of gear. Our families are in these vehicles, doesn't that matter to you guys. What does it take to make Ford responsible for this issue, a death to occur, well then it's too late and there would be more payout on Ford part if a life is lost. I'm sure the family would sue and especially knowing this is an issue with the transmissions in the 2002 Explorer. You are supposed to protect us before a death or accident occurs. You need to step up to the plate and make Ford accountable for their dangerous transmissions. I can tell you I will own the Ford company if something happens to my family. I will also have a copy of this to show the court that I tried to tell you to do something about it before it came to a death or accident. Something needs to be done. Now, not later.

- Capron, VA, USA

problem #54

Oct 012009


  • miles
Im another sad story of a 2002 Explorer. The transmission started slipping, clunking and the O/D light is flashing. Just paid this piece of junk off and now waiting to here from the dealer where we bought it for that oh familiar quote of 3000 to 4000 to fix.

- Columbia, MD, USA

problem #53

Nov 042009


  • 123,699 miles


Recently purchased 2002 Ford Explorer. Shortly after, within one to two days I attempted to exit the vehicle by shifting into park and opening the drivers side door. Although vehicle was at a complete stop when I exited it began to roll backwards causing me to fall beside alongside the driver side with lower right extremities still inside the vehicle. Immediate assistant was available so minimal damage was done. Currently requires caution when shifting into park do to additional maneuvering to shift into park.

- Temple, TX, USA

problem #52

Nov 122009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer automatic transmission problems. Various problems. When I first got it (at 45K miles), it would take about 20-30 seconds to engage into first gear after being in reverse. When it did engage, it jumped forward while doing it. That does not happen much anymore. If I have to slam on the brakes (dog, kid, deer runs out, light suddenly changes or someone cuts me off, etc...) the tranny slips out of gear into neutral stays there for an indefinite amount of time, then lurches forward 3-4 feet as it kicks back into gear. This has not caused an accident yet! have seen a dealer for both of these problems - 3 times. Was not able to even get the problem diagnosed, much less repaired. As time has passed, I have learned to be careful and ginger with the vehicle. I shift softly and slowly, I don't gun it and do my best to ensure there is plenty of room between me and the car in front of me. Now the transmission has begun slipping. I have seen multiple accounts online of people having transmission problems with the 02 Explorer. I firmly believe Ford needs to issue a recall. The lurching forward problem is huge! very dangerous! today it was scary. I was approaching a crosswalk and only doing 25. Hikers and bikers notoriously just walk/ride through the crosswalk without looking. There is brush that blocks the view of bikes in one direction. Today, a bike made no effort to stop to look for cars and bolted out into the crosswalk. I did not see him coming for the brush. I had to slam on the brakes. As he was in front of me, he caught some gravel and slid and fell in front of my car. My car lurched forward nearly hitting him. I can't get the problem fixed if the dealer can't figure out what is wrong. Short of having the transmission completely rebuilt...which is what I am going to do. I really feel that Ford should be responsible for the cost of doing so.

- Littleton, CO, USA

problem #51

Sep 062009


  • 105,000 miles
Defective rear differential on 2002 Ford Explorer.

- Longmont, CO, USA

problem #50

Oct 122009


  • 130,000 miles
Truck slows down when I hit 20 to 30, and leads with a violent jerk. Took it to shop they said its my transmission.

- Crowley, TX, USA

problem #49

Oct 102008


  • 100,000 miles


Ford Explorer rear end differential constantly needs replacing. Ford dealer charger me $1800 and used salvage parts eventhough I told them not too.

- Myrtle Beach, SC, USA

problem #48

Aug 082009


  • 94,231 miles
After vehicle has been put in park, it will roll about a half foot or so when door or hatch is shut. Vehicle is not going all the way in park and you don't know it. It has rolled to the point where it has bumped me but than stops.

- Grand Rapids, MI, USA

problem #47

May 062009


  • miles
2002 Ford Explorer gear shift lever broke when attempting to place truck in gear. I have heard through blogs that this is now becoming a common problem. My truck was placed in park with emergency brake on prior to shifting the lever into park, when I attempted to put the truck in reverse the lever snapped and I was unable to move the truck nor remove the key from the ignition. The tow truck driver showed me how to place the truck in drive manually underneath the truck in order to move the vehicle. This is not safe considering the fact that one is underneath a running vehicle and the probablity of being ran over is high. I would like to know if Ford is being pressured in recalling this part considering the fact that the piece that breaks is not sold individual, the customer is obligated to buy a complete steering column just to obtain the piece that breaks.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #46

Apr 252009


  • 120,000 miles
While parking my 2002 Explorer, I went to shift it into park and felt a 'pop'. the gear shifter completely broke off in my hand. Luckily it didn't shift out of park and I was able to drive it to a mechanic to look at. However this happened on a Saturday, so there was no way to get it fixed. I did some research online and found this seems to be a common problem with this year and model. I'm very upset that a part so critical is made so poorly. I feel that this is a major safety concern and feel that Ford should do something about the issue. This is going to cost me alot of money to that I don't have. The quote from my local dealership is $1600 because they have to replace the entire column! so in the meantime I'm stuck at home without a ride. Please look into this issue. Thank you.

- Lawrenceburg, IN, USA

problem #45

Mar 162009


  • 66,172 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer limited that has had continuous rear axle leaking and operating issues. I have had the bearings replaced three times, the shaft axle seal replaced, the knuckle assembly replaced and the spindle replaced. I had this work done at cortese auto group in henrietta NY (585-475-1211) in June of 2007 and April of 2008. I just noticed differential fluid leaking from the rear axle assembly area on March 16, 2009 and called the cortese group to see if they would honor their previous repair. They advised me that I was beyond the "original problem" 2007 repair date and the cost was on my own. To repair this leaky axle seal will cost me in the neighborhood of $400 and considering this has been an ongoing issue with this vehicle, I feel Ford Motor Company or cortese should fix this problem with no cost to me. I have done some research online and it appears this problem is very common among Ford Explorer (had I known that at the time of my purchase, I would have reconsidered buying from Ford). If this problem is very common among Ford Explorer and is a safety issue, why is it not considered a recall and repaired by the manufacturer of the vehicle? please advise me what my rights are and if anything can be done on behalf of other affected consumers. After all, in this tough economy, who has $400 to throw at a problem that was a known deficiency to Ford and one that should have been addressed by the company...

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #44

Feb 272009


  • 61,500 miles
36,006 miles rear axle seals started leaking, had new set put on. Not even 10,000 miles & that set started leaking. Had third set put on. 61,500 miles & leaking again! mechanic says I have a broken rear coil spring. Could the springs have been faulty all long causing the rear axle seals to leak?

- Sunbury, PA, USA

problem #43

Feb 282009


  • 120,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer. It appears they are selling cars with a defect gear shift. Yesterday as I shifted from reverse to drive the gear shift broke off. It simple came off. I've never heard of such a problem. Apparently this is a systemic problem and Ford has not issued a recall. Other Explorer owners have experienced the same problem and reported it on internet auto complaint blogs. According to the tow truck driver he has picked up 6 or 7 Explorer in the san antonio area with the same problem in recent months. Based on internet reports I have to spend a $1000 I really can spare at this time to fix Ford's problem.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #42

Feb 012009


  • 93,445 miles
Gear shift lever broke off. While parking my 2002 Ford Explorer, the gear shift lever sheared off in the steering column, leaving the vehicle stuck in reverse gear. A quick search with google reveals a significant number of identical failures, indicating a common manufacturing defect. Ford have not issued any form of recall or other assistance for this problem. Had the failure happened while driving (perhaps while shifting up or down on a mountain road) it could have caused an accident. Given the age of the affected 2002 model vehicles, it is only a matter of time until this does occur. My vehicle has not yet been repaired; the broken part is currently available for inspection.

- Foothill Ranch, CA, USA

problem #41

Sep 242008


  • miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer that have at least 66,000 mileage on this car. I have a very weird accident on September 24,2008. I was on my way home from work when the accident happen. I was in the parking lot of the va medical center in East orange NJ. At around 5:45 pm I came to my car and found my car have dead battery so va police gave a jump start and the car start. So after 2 minutes the car running I started to change the gear from park to reverse with my foot on the brake. As soon as I change the gear the car went off by itself with a very high speed hitting a park vehicle and ended up inside one story building. My foot was still on the brake when the car stop. I hurt myself resulting to a big surgery. I have a cervical fracture from that accident. My car was still parked in my driveway still untouched because I don't know who to send the car fro investigation. I filed a claim to Ford motor but I did not hear from them yet. I contacted the lawyer and advised me to contact this facility and since my lawyer cannot represent me from this accident. I was advised that I don't need a lawyer to file a claim. I hope you can help me with this matter.

- Bloomfield, NJ, USA

problem #40

Nov 052007


  • 85,000 miles
Had bought 2002 Explorer used, noticed noise from rear end. Told rear differential needed to be replaced, cost for used $1500. But possibility that used could have same issues as this is a very common problem with 02-04 Explorer. My mechanic does several a month. After visiting numerous web sites and forums on the subject, I have seen that it is a very common problem and there is a very real safety concern as the rear end could seize while driving. I believe the dept of highway safety is wrong in not considering this problem to be a safety issue and I think a recall should be issued based on the very large numbers of vehicles that have the exact same problems. And Ford knows about this problem as they have released service bulletins on the subject they know the problem exists, but they do not issue a recall because they want the owners to pay the extravagant costs of the repairs.

- Kingston, NY, USA

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