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 14 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #12

May 172006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles


Horrible whining noise coming from rear differential of my 2002 Ford Explorer limited edition. Replaced twice already and now it's whining louder and louder everyday. I refuse to pay for the same repair a 3rd time. I have read many complaints on the web about this problem, along with many other similar complaints. Other popular defects for the new Ford Explorer are cracked rear coil over springs, along with transmission and A/C problems, etc, etc. How many more complaints is it going to take before Ford stands up to their design flaws..."??"

- East Aurora, NY, USA

problem #11

Dec 132005


  • miles
Whining noise from rear end of my 2002 Ford Explorer XLT. Small drips in garage from rear end. Dealer said rear differential was leaking but no big deal. Now my overdrive light is flashing which per the owners manual says get to a repair shop right away as my transmission in trouble.

- Celina, TX, USA

problem #10

Aug 012004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
Rear-end whines excessively when driving at 45-65 mph. Very load. I am concerned because as I researched it on the internet it is apparent that I am not the only one suffering from this type of problem.

- Castle Rock, CO, USA

problem #9

Feb 132003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer XLS. At 24,000 miles, transmission would not shift into gear:transmission needed to be rebuilt. At 26,000 miles, load whining heard from rear of vehicle. Brought to dealership on three occasions to complain and was told they "could not duplicate the noise" and "it is how it is supposed to sound". on the third return, I produced seven pages of documented complaints from other owners found on this web site and others. They decided that now they might know what the problem is and replaced the rear differential and drive shaft. Problem was fixed for the next 30,000 miles but is now displaying the same noise and is "clunking" in to drive and reverse. Separate problem with the daylight running lights, they flash like an emergency vehicle till I turn the head lights on. I did not notice till I was pulled over by a sheriff and questioned as to why I had emergency lights installed on my vehicle. On a positive note, I do get through traffic jams a lot faster now.

- Marietta, NY, USA

problem #8

May 202005

Explorer 4WD

  • miles
2002 Ford Explorer experiencing problems with the 4WD, the over drive light illuminates on the dashboard and the vehicle is giving off a rotten egg smell. There were front end problems. The 4WD module wasn't working. The driveshaft and both front wheel bearings were replaced. The rotors were out of round. The service engine light illuminated along with the over drive light. The transmission experienced the same problem on two occasions and possibly a third time. A large puddle of transmission was found under the vehicle. The torque converter was noisy. The acceleration pedal would pull back. When the vehicle was accelerated, it would whine. The left rear wheel bearing was gone and caused damage to the axle, brakes and the tire was barely holding on. The error code for the service engine soon light was due to the solenoid which had been changed before. The A/C was inoperative.

- Morris, PA, USA

problem #7

Feb 092005

Explorer 4WD 9-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles
There is a loud droning sound from underneath the car and vibrations in the floorboards.

- Sterling, VA, USA

problem #6

Mar 182005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,894 miles


1. rear end howling noise (3/18/2005) - hear noise when accelerating between 40 and 65 mph. When letting off of accelerator, noise goes away, comes back again when accelerator is pushed again. Dealer service dept replaced rear carrier bearings, cup, seals, and spacer in rear differential. Noise now occurs between 65 and 70 mph. Was taken back to dealer service dept on 4/11/2005. Was informed 4/20/2005 that rear differential was adjusted with new spacer, but noise is still there. Service manager has another Ford Explorer on lot and test drove it. This Explorer has same noise between 40 and 65 mph. One of the techs (who used to work at a Ford dealership) told service manager that alot of 2002 Ford Explorer owners have been having this problem. Ford has no solution or cure. 2. noise in timing chain area. Ford has a tsb on this. I can hear this rattling noise coming from this area and told dealership to look into it. They could not duplicate the noise, although when test driving it with assist. Service manager, I could still hear the noise, but he could not. I had my local mechanic check this out, and they can hear the noise that I'm talking about. This problem has yet to be fixed. 3. vibration coming from front end on interstate that starts at around 70+ mph. When climbing a steep hill on interstate and transmission downshifts, can feel a grinding noise in powertrain. Dealer believes that the fluid in the transfer case might need to be changed, causing clutches inside to stick. Will find out tomorrow (4/21/2005).

- Ballard, WV, USA

problem #5

Jan 012005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
The vehicle experienced strange sounds and delay when shifting the vehicle from park to reverse. The ABS light was illuminated continuously.

- Lincoln, CA, USA

problem #4

Feb 042004


  • 17,000 miles
Transmission had to be replaced. The vehicle was shaking, made rattling noises and had become impossible to steer. The mechanic suggested that the transmission had looked as if it fell apart and may be a result of an assembly line error and. The mechanic also found that the 4WD was inoperative.

- Worth, IL, USA

problem #3

Sep 012003


  • miles
The vehicle stalled while idling at a light. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who replaced the valve. Unfortunately within three day the vehicle stalled again. The vehicle was returned to the dealer but they were unable to duplicate or repair the problem. The vehicle began to surge while surging idling. The dealer was unable to permanently resolve that problem. The consumer noticed a whine in the rear end of the vehicle. The dealer replaced the rear differential but when the vehicle was returned to the consumer the noise was still present. The vehicle was still under warranty when all these problems started.

- Sanford, FL, USA

problem #2

Sep 032003


  • 4,133 miles
The stated the vehicle felt as though it was going to shut down, as if the transmission was failing. As days went by the overdrive light started to blink days later the vehicle made a sudden halt in the middle of the road, the consumer turned the engine off and back on, it ran for awhile and then stopped again.

- St Croix, VI, USA

problem #1

Apr 162003

(reported on)


  • 6,690 miles
The vehicle rolled back, when the consumer took his foot off the brake. The vehicle did not stop rolling until the consumer placed his foot back on the brake. The transmission was replaced.

- Hewitt, NJ, USA

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