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 2 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #252

Jan 012013


  • 118,000 miles


Needed a new tranny at 118,000 miles then needed another one

- Harrah, OK, USA

problem #251

Oct 162015


  • 156,000 miles
1st transmission total failure at 87K miles 2nd transmission total failure at 156K miles vehicle is driven very light duty usage by a mature woman (now 86 years old at the time of the 2nd failure). From researching on the internet I have found that Ford many issues with early mileage transmission failures and never a recall for this issue. I'm filing this on behalf of my mother

- Castaic, CA, USA

problem #250

Sep 012015


  • 173,000 miles
I financed this vehicle thru 123 auto in homosassa fl citrus county and it has a airbag that is no good and no horn and the transmission was bad the day I bought it and they will not fix so I am currently paying to get it fixed I was told to make a complaint with this office to see if you can help me get something done because it is not right

- Homosassa, FL, USA

problem #249

Sep 152015


  • miles


I was driving along and the over drive light off started flashing and I started experiencing the vehicle starting to shift harder in 1 & 2 gears!

- Lebanon, TN, USA

problem #248

Jul 072015


  • 144,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving at approximately 55 mph, the transmission shifted from third gear to fourth gear independently and the vehicle decelerated. The vehicle made an abnormal noise and the engine warning indicator illuminated. The vehicle was driven to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician stated that the transmission was burned out and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. In addition, the contact stated that while driving approximately 35 mph, a snapping sound emitted from the vehicle and the steering wheel became hard to turn. The failure recurred multiple times. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that the power steering pump was defective which prevented it from holding the fluid damaging the anti-brakes system. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 144,000. The VIN was not available.

- Patterson, NJ, USA

problem #247

Jun 172015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 156,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving at various speeds, the transmission failed to shift into different gears. The contact mentioned that there was a loud whining sound coming from the transmission. While driving up a hill, the contact was unable to change gears and had to apply the brakes in order to stop the vehicle. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 156,000.

- Gilford , CT, USA

problem #246

Mar 102015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 98,954 miles


The transmission would not shift between gears in my 2002 Ford Explorer resulting in my being unable to accelerate on the Massachusetts turnpike at rush hour.

- Ashland, MA, USA

problem #245

Apr 012015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 188,800 miles
Transmission will not shift from 2nd to 3rd gear unless you let off gas.

- Parma, OH, USA

problem #244

Jul 262012


  • miles
Parked on hill or flat ground it happen before, but the gear shift gets stuck. You can turn the steering wheel right, left to get it to unlock but it want, no locked brakes.but I kept on trying to get my truck in gear to point of doing dangers things as of sticking one foot out of the door and rocking it back and get the lock to brake but that did not work then I tried again and the gear shift broke a aluminum part on the inside broke and I have saw three more like this and some more reports of this and nothing has been said or done about this, that I am not the only one.

- Columbus, GA, USA

problem #243

Jul 112009


  • 80,000 miles
In 2009 on the way to our family vacation our transmission failed. We had it towed and the transmission replaced with a Ford rebuilt transmission with a warranty purchase. In 2012 this rebuilt transmission failed and we had it taken to a Ford dealer and the transmission replaced with another transmission. This current transmission is exhibiting the same symptoms as the last two did prior to failure.

- Mclean, VA, USA

problem #242

Feb 192015

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles


While driving the vehicle made a loud "bump" and then I lost all acceleration. This problem needs to be addressed by Ford, this is very dangerous to all of the sudden lose a transmission while driving. I have seen numerous complaints on the transmission of this year of vehicle, so there is obviously a problem. Transmissions are not cheap by any means, I don't know how I'm going to get the money to fix mine. I currently have no vehicle and have had to resort to bumming rides from people just to get to work. This vehicle needs to be recalled!!!

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #241

Feb 232015

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 155,000 miles
Gear shifter broke off while attempting to shift the vehicle in reverse. I am thankful that I was at home in my own driveway and that it did not go into gear. It is stuck in park, but my keys are stuck in the ignition. This seems like it could be a safety hazard if the car were to go into gear, or get stuck in reverse.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #240

Feb 152015

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 195,000 miles
Driving on the interstate at 70 mph. Transmission failed while driving in traffic. Was nearly hit trying to get vehicle off the road. No warning, transmission just went. Huge problem and safety issue with Ford Explorer.

- Jefferson, OH, USA

problem #239

Aug 122013


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 40-45 mph, the transmission failed without warning. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 150,000.

- Troy, AL, USA

problem #238

Feb 272014


  • 168,000 miles
I am an owner of a 2002 Ford Explorer. I have had numerous issues with the transmission. When traveling at highway speeds the transmission will intermittently disengage causing the vehicle to have to be pulled to the side of the road, shift into park, then back to drive. I have consulted with my local Ford dealership numerous times on the issue. I have been repeatedly told that this is a known issue with the Ford Explorer / Mercury Mountaineer transmission. Ford Motor Company is failing to address this issue as being a safety concern. My mother owns a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer with the same exact issue. The previous owner replaced the transmission shortly before I purchased the vehicle due to the same issue. The transmission was replaced with a new transmission from Ford. I wonder how many people have been in accidents because their Explorer/Mountaineer transmission disengages" the Ford dealership in my area referred me to this website being that the service manage believes this should be a safety recall through Ford. I would have to agree with the dealership. Why has Ford or the NHTSA not required the manufacture to correct this issue? do people have to die in car accidents before this is rectified" it is not safe to pass a vehicle since the transmission randomly cuts out without warning.

- Jefferson, OH, USA

problem #237

Dec 212014

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • miles
Bought an Explorer we thought was a private owner on craiglist in Chicago, and found out he was a dealer from Indiana. He signed the title as first auto Inc. 2620 165th in hammond in 46323. The name of seller is [xxx]. the dmv file a complaint on our behalf and stated what he did was illegal. We did not know he was a dealer til when we tried to transfer our plates the next day. We took the truck in for service and my mechanic stated that carfax has the miles almost 80,000 more than what is on the odometer. The odometer listed 110,000 and carfax was far past that amount. The dealer rolled back the miles of Explorer. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Round Lake Beach, IL, USA

problem #236

Dec 112014


  • 120,000 miles
O/D light keeps flashing, will not switch into second gear until you let off the throttle. Gets as high as 38,000- 40,000 RPM.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #235

Dec 172014


  • 250,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 5 mph, the gear shift fractured and only operated in reverse. The vehicle was towed to the dealer but was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 250,000.

- Solon, IA, USA

problem #234

Nov 162014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
Overdrive light came on. Check transmission light came on. The truck suddenly started screeching loudly, nearly caused an accident while going to the airport on an expressway.

- Copiague, NY, USA

problem #233

Dec 092014

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 138,000 miles
I got in it after 15 minutes of it warming up, pulled out of the drive and the RPM went to 3000rpm before it shifted in second gear. Then the O/D light started flashing on and off, next the check transmission indicator light came on. Went home and called a mechanic, took it to him and then bad news. It has worked perfectly up to this point.

- Farwell, MI, USA

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