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:
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 13 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

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

problem #39

Dec 202008


  • 132,150 miles
Gear shifter broke off steering column in 2002 Ford Explorer. When putting vehicle in park the gear shifter broke off, leaving the vehicle inoperable. It was towed to the dealer and then driven to our home. Learned form internet search of at least 26 similar complaints regarding 2002 Ford Explorer automatic.

- Alhambra, CA, USA

problem #38

Oct 152008


  • 51,619 miles
On the day in question I was pulling out of the staff parking lot from the prison that I work at as an adult corrections officer, upon shifting the automatic gear shift stick from park to drive the shifter snapped and broke right into my hand hanging by a wire. Was able to drive home and park it but had to disconnect the battery terminals to get my key out of the ignition. Upon removal of the under steering column cover I could see where the connecting bolt that connects the gear shift stick to the steering column had broken off. The mental connecting piece appears to be made of soft aluminum. The cost to repair I know will be expensive !!! I think its a defect and there should definitely be a recall on this and Ford should cover the repair and or replacement cost for its loyal Ford customers, thankyou !!!!

- Ewa Beach, HI, USA

problem #37

May 152003


  • 26,000 miles


Within four months from date of purchase my 2002 Ford Explorer XLT 4WD start having problems. They are: 1. vibration inside including physical movement inside when driving with rear window crack over 30 mph. The faster you drive the grater the vibration. I took the Explorer to several dealers, they inform me that this is normal and it's refer to as helicopter effect. 2. the digital keypad stop working. 2. the keys don't open the door 3. the transmission slip, kick and delays when put in drive or reverse. 4.transmission delays going into overdrive. 5.the passenger side quarter panel glass shatter twice, at first I taught someone had broke it and my son reported it to the police. The insurance company replace it and few months later in my garage it shatter again and that's when it all came together. This time my son fix it for me. 6.theres also a winding some coming from under the SUV and my son thinks it have something to do with the diff, keeping the vibration in mind. 6. the latch that secure the rear where the jack handle is located broke.

- Ocala, FL, USA

problem #36

Jun 092008


  • 100,000 miles
Transmission failure.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #35

Sep 122008


  • 80,000 miles
Rear spring broken on 2002 Ford Explorer with 80,000 miles.

- Blowing Rock, NC, USA

problem #34

Sep 092008


  • 78,517 miles


I pulled into the driveway at my house and went to put my 2002 Ford Explorer XLT into park when the gear shift lever broke off in my hand. I still cannot believe that anyone with any sense would engineer and/or design a product that gets so much use out of such shoddy material. If you want to know why our auto companies are going out of business - ask Ford engineers.

- Leesburg, VA, USA

problem #33

Aug 212008


  • 79,000 miles
Overdrive light blinking on 2002 Ford Explorer XLT. Then service engine light came on. Went to mechanic who said transmission died. This should not happen to a car with less than 80K miles. Ford needs to fess up and issue a recall. This is happening to too many people.

- Morrisville, PA, USA

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

Read the next 20 complaints »

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