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 13 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #32

Jun 182008


  • miles


I have a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT with approximately 98,700 miles on it. While driving down the road there is a whining noise coming from the rear end. When I took it to a Ford dealer in mcconnellsburg pa I was informed that the rear end was failing, as well as the front bearings of the SUV were failing. The bearings had previously been replaced 2 years ago. I was also advised by the dealership that Ford Motor Co, knows about the problem with the rear drive train and all its components, as they have published several service advisory on it. Ford Motor Co, however will not recall the vehicle(s) to fix the problem which can cost the consumer out of pocket anywhere form $1,200 to $1,800. Ford Motor Co, does not feel that this is an issue and refuses to address it as such. I guess they will wait until people start dying from accidents that they know can happen.

- Harrisonville, PA, USA

problem #31

Aug 022008


  • 93,000 miles
Rear differential does not allow speed differences between wheels. Car turns like it has a locked or fixed axle. Causes a shudder when turning. Could results in control problems with the vehicle during sudden maneuvers. Issue is due to faulty clutch pack in the Ford factory differential or incorrect differential fluid specification from factory. Not really sure which. Solution was to replace the clutch pack. Ford has also specified a different differential fluid from the factory installed fluid in one of their technical service bulletins.

- Tullahoma, TN, USA

problem #30

Aug 012008


  • 79,409 miles
2002 Ford Explorer XLT, 79,409 miles, placing car into park from drive and the gear shift breaks off in my hand. The transmission is now between reverse and park with no way of me being able to turn the car off. I used the emergency break so that it would not roll out of the parking spot (because of course I was on an incline) and the car ran for one hour and twenty minutes before it got to the dealer and they were able to turn it off. It is costing $1000 to fix. I found out that I am not the only one that this has happened to. Not from my dealer who said they have seen nothing like this but from

- Toledo, OH, USA

problem #29

Aug 022008


  • 103,000 miles


I have a 2002 Ford Explorer with 103,000 miles on it. The rear end of the SUV has started making a humming noise. I took it to my mechanic and they said the entire rear differential and wheel bearings will need to be replaced. After some research I have discovered many many 2002 Ford Explorer owners have the same problem. This problem will cost over $1000 to fix. If it is not fixed it is an issue that will seriously put my family in danger when riding in this car. This problem needs to be made a recall. Please advise me what to do.

- Riverview, FL, USA

problem #28

Feb 102003


  • 22,000 miles
Differential on my 2002 Ford Explorer XLT has been rebuilt twice under warranty, and needs recalled again. Third incident happened two days after extended warranty expired. Ford says tough.

- Greencastle, PA, USA

problem #27

Jul 032008


  • 79,000 miles
My wife drives a 2002 Ford Explorer which as already had extensive rear end repair. It makes a roaring sound whenever the car is moving and it is leaking what I believe is transmission fluid from the rear end. Ford denies having problems with that particular car though I have found hundreds of complains on line about transmission and drive train failures in this particular model. A reliable mechanic has told me that the drive train can seize up an any time. If this happens on an interstate doesn't this qualify as a safety concern?

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #26

Aug 162007


  • 80,000 miles


Noise and fluid leakage in rear diagnosed by local mechanic as failing wheel bearing and differential seal. Replaced differential seal and one rear wheel bearing at 57,000 miles. At 69,000 replaced one front wheel bearing because of noise. At 80,000 mechanic reported that both rear springs had corroded at their upper ends and cracked through. Both these issues are common on 2002 models based on the number of complaints in the data base.

- Uxbridge, MA, USA

problem #25

Jun 152008

Explorer 4WD

  • 84,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer limited, 4WD, 4.6L - 84,000 miles: Rear differential unit whining/roaring for a few months and getting progressively worse. I have mechanical background and looked at the vehicle on rack with mechanic. Rear differential is obviously very bad and I am lucky I did not take my family on vacation with this problem as if the wheels would have locked at highway speed it could cause serious accident/injury. I have not heard of problems such as these with regular/easy use at such low miles and with proper maintenance (as I have done). I have also replaced left front wheel bearing and am suspicious of right rear wheel bearing, which will be evaluated after repair of rear differential.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #24

May 142002


  • 65,000 miles
Had to have torque converter replaced and now or still have a whine that I fear is coming from the rear end.

- Beaver Dams, NY, USA

problem #23

May 232008


  • 75,000 miles
At 75,000 miles, the vehicle started to make an extreme grinding noise in the rear. Took to a car repair shop and they indicated the rear differential was shot. All the bearings in all four wheels were shot. The car repairman indicated that he has seen many of Explorer come in with this exact same problem. To make matters even worse, the parts are not engineered to repair economically. You must buy all new assemblies just to repair bearings. The total cost of the repair is $2,500.

- Avon Lake, OH, USA

problem #22

Apr 162008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 137,000 miles


It started around 78,000 miles. My transmission started to slip as I was driving up a hill. The tranny was slipping between 1st and 2nd gear. I took the vehicle into the dealership - had to replace the whole transmission ($3400). Transmission again at 137,000 miles slipping between 1st and 2nd gear again - warranty expired - Ford could only give me a warrant for 36,000 miles or 3 years - I'm under my 3 yrs but not mileage. Took to the dealership again, now its my transmission band ($2100) but with all the wear on the transmission and the cost. I will have to replace the transmission again. During this time that my transmission problems, I also had the right (I believe it was the right) rear axle went out twice my overdrive light came on. I think there is a correlation with the overdrive system and the tranny.

- Traverse City, MI, USA

problem #21

Jan 012008

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 95,000 miles
Transmission slippage, rear end clunks when the tranny finally shifts to another gear, rear end whine at 60-70mph. Hasn't been fixed but the dealership estimates $2K for the rear end and $3K for the tranny.

- Laramie, WY, USA

problem #20

Mar 262008

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 110,800 miles
When I start my Explorer first thing in the morning, the 4 wheel low and 4 wheel high lights will come on and the Explorer will not shift into reverse or drive. It's like the car is neutral and when I go to put it back into park, there is a grinding noise that sounds like grinding gears.

- Lakewood, CO, USA

problem #19

Mar 212008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Rear end is making a horrible rubbing noise....thought it might be the tires but I just replaced all 4 tires with the same exact tires they come from factory with and still have the problem.

- Wilmington, NC, USA

problem #18

Mar 012008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 133,000 miles
O/D light went on then check engine light, lost third and fifth gear.

- Longmont, CO, USA

problem #17

Oct 152007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles
The noise was the indication of a problem, took the car in for noise coming from the wheels. Was told by Ford garage all four wheel bearings needed to be replaced I was very shocked. When Ford mechanic said this was a recurring problem and common in this year and model I was angry. Not soon after that the four wheel drive module went out and needed replaced. This car is five years old with at the time 82,000 miles on it. Now the transmission is slipping. Earlier we had to replace the automatic driver's window power motor which was also expensive. Had to replace rear axel bushings too.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #16

Sep 152007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles
Loud noise coming from rear of vehicle. Let off gas and is fine. Took it to the shop and have to have a new rear end and new housing. I am sorry but a 2002 vehicle should not be having these problems. It is the worst vehicle Ford has ever designed. They just lost another customer.

- Nashville, TN, USA

problem #15

Jul 242006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
: the contact stated while the vehicle was in park, it jumped gears, accelerated forward and hit a tree. The vehicle was identified to be still in park after the accident. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who could not determine or duplicate the problem. The dealer recommended that the contact should use the parking brake in the future.

- Mesquite, TX, USA

problem #14

Jul 012006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • miles
2002 Explorer has problems picking up speed and over use of gas. The consumer also had problems with the transmission, gear adjustment, difficult high altitude driving even after gear change, air suction into the engine and transmission, accelerator and ses light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer but they refused to provide any assistance. Updated 07/06/06.

- Cypress, CA, USA

problem #13

May 022006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,741 miles
2002 Ford Explorer rear end noise when accelerating between 50-65 mph (a loud howling sound). When I let off of the accelerator the noise goes away. Took it to a mechanic and they replaced the bearings, but the noise is still there. They said it was the rear end gear ratio. This sound is too unbearable. The rear end gear ratio should be fixed under a recall.

- Lanesville, IN, USA

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