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 3 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #232

Jun 112014

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 120,000 miles


A part that should never fail, the shifter handle broke off. This appears to be a common and expensive failure.

- East Amherst, NY, USA

problem #231

Oct 202014


  • 130,000 miles
Parked in parking lot on level surface. Started engine went to put in reverse and shifting lever fell off. Contacted Ford instead of selling broken part wanted to sell complete steering column.

- Herrick, SD, USA

problem #230

Oct 192014


  • 150,000 miles
The handle to shift the manual transmission from park to reverse broke off at the metal part inside the steering column. This is could have been very dangerous if I was driving! Ford states they no longer produce the part.

- Sonora, CA, USA

problem #229

Oct 162014


  • miles


Went to put vehicle in reserve and gear shift on the column fell in my hand, completely snapped.

- Gloucester, NJ, USA

problem #228

Jun 022014


  • 135,000 miles
When is the NHTSA going to address the chronic issues with the 2002-2005 Ford Explorer automatic transmissions? it is common knowledge ( including by Ford) that these transmissions all fail anywhere from 50,000 miles up to less than 150,000 miles. Towing with this vehicle has nothing to do with the issue.the market is flooded with these broken Explorer and they are the regular customers at the repair shops if people don't junk them and can afford to have them fixed. They are a hazard on the road when the vehicle suddenly fails to move in traffic or from a stop at an intersection. I was nearly rear ended when my vehicle started into a busy intersection and the transmission failed leaving me coasting in traffic. I am sure that many other complaints have been lodged against these vehicles and that serious injury has occurred as a result of the transmission failures. The internet even sells questionable repair fixes for these transmissions.

- Richmond, NH, USA

problem #227

Mar 122013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 108,934 miles
I was driving my 02 Explorer on the thruway for 2 an 1/2 hours and when I got to my destination the transmission bucked and shuddered and revved up while I was trying to stop at a stop light I almost hit the person in front of me because of the transmission failing when I looked at my instrument panel on the dash the overdrive light was flashing so after I got home I checked the internet and would you know there are thousands of people that are experiencing the same problem... Ford should have a recall for this transmission because what happened to me might happen to someone else with deadly results... I talked to my transmission specialist and he said it needs a new transmission the truck doesn't even have 150,000 on it so I contacted Ford and they can't help me because there is no recall for this truck... Ford needs to fix their manufacture error here because what they are doing is fraud they claim that their transmissions are good but like with a lot of the complaints I have read their trannys died before 100,000 miles so for them to sell defected SUVS is fraudulent in its self because not only do we the customers have to pay all this money for the vehicle but we also have to put a new transmission in them before 100,000 miles at the cost of 3500 to 4000 dollars...

- Waterloo, NY, USA

problem #226

Jun 072014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 43,857 miles


I purchased this to use as a second vehicle for camping trips so the mileage on it is very low for its age. Suddenly one day of normal local driving, the O/D light started flashing and the vehicle started to run very rough. It couldn't seem to accelerate and rpms were high. I had to drive home with emergency flashers on since the car felt like it was going to die any moment. Since O/D flashing means something with transmission, I took it to two different transmission repair shops who both diagnosed a bad transmission that would need to be replaced at about $3,500. I was shocked that I would need a new transmission with only 43000 miles on vehicle despite its age. Both shops informed me that the 2002 Ford Explorer are notorious for bad transmissions. I called Ford Motor Company to request assistance with this repair. They would not help me in any way. The vehicle is not drivable and I am not in a financial position to take on such an expensive repair for a second vehicle. Right now it is sitting unused in my driveway while costing me to keep it insured. Can't believe this has happened to me since I thought I was buying a reputable product. Ford abandoned me when their product failed. I will never buy another Ford product again. The least Ford could have done was assume responsibility for their mistakes and not cheat the public. Other issues I am having is flaking peeling paint and a crack through the Ford emblem on the rear door panel.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #225

Aug 092014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
Was driving on the highway and felt a sharp jerk/pull to the right. At first thought it was a flat tire so got off on next exit. Wasn't a flat tire but could smell something awful. Made grinding sound and still had bad smell, knew we had to drive it back to the place we are staying at. Had hazard lights on and only drove 10-15 mph because of the sound and because of how scary it was. Knew something bad was happening to our car. Brakes at this point practically went out. Would not have to press brakes to stop vehicle at a red light, the car would just stop. Steering wheel was not even, but more or less 90 degrees to the right. Pulled into the neighborhood and into the driveway and a car leaving the street saw that our vehicle at this point was on fire! extinguish fire (since it was a gas fire) and looked at the damage. Looks like the front driver side wasn't even connected to anything. Do not know how or when fire started but the flames when we noticed were about 1 foot tall and wide by the internal driver side wheel.

- Henderson, NV, USA

problem #224

Jul 292014


  • 140,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while parking, the shift selector fractured while attempting to shift from drive to park. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 140,000.

- Provo, UT, USA

problem #223

Jul 142014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 187,144 miles
Pulled into a parking space (flat surface) and attempted to put the car into park and the gearshift lever broke off into my hand. The same thing happen about a year ago, and our mechanic replaced the defective parts.

- Mount Gilead, OH, USA

problem #222

Jun 172011


  • miles


My gear shift broke as I was putting into gear and it just fell into my hands it broke into two half a piece that should not broke and as I was going somewhere the truck just starting going crazy the lights was flashing on and off the alarms was going of the lights flashin, sometimes in the middle of the night the alarm just goes off on it on we see all this happen and no one is by the truck no cats dogs nothing.

- Columbus, GA, USA

problem #221

Mar 052014


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving at various speeds, the vehicle would suddenly hesitate and the speed would decelerate. The contact indicated that the check transmission sensor light and over drive light had iluminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician diagnosed that the transmission was faulty. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the defect but no solution was offered. The failure mileage was 150,000.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #220

Jun 122014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 171,483 miles
Driving in rush hour traffic, transmission would not shift into high. I was almost hit by a semi truck on I-94 near I-275.

- Belleville, MI, USA

problem #219

Jun 022014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
First of all the transmission is starting to slip. When accelerating the car transmission slips when shifting into third gear. Took to dealer and they said they need to repair the transmission. The second problem is that the airbag light came on. I have not been in a accident or anything. It just came on. I read online that if the light is on and I am in an accident the airbags wont deploy. This seems really dangerous and should be cover under warranty.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #218

Jun 112014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 134,000 miles
Timing chain problems; back chain 'plastic' tensor broke and affected critically entire engine. Many people with the same problem. Transmission solenoid problems; shift rough from 1st to 2nd. Put new solenoid block, problem still there. Ford does not know what the problem is. Many people with the same problem.

- Bayamon, PR, USA

problem #217

Jun 052014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 168,000 miles
I got my Explorer not too long ago. It was running great then out of no where the O/D light keeps flashing and my transmission starts to slip. A lot of people are having this problem and I think Ford needs to step up and take care of this because I have kids and this is my only car and I am on a fixed income. If Ford does not want to fix these problems or recall them then never will I buy a Ford again.

- Liberty, IN, USA

problem #216

May 212014


  • miles
I was at the school to pick up my kids, I turn on my Ford Explorer 2002 XLT V6 4.0 to drive and then the shift lever broke on neutral position, that was dangerous because, how will I park my car? if it happened on a downhill, how are we going to park that possible to make a recall a Ford company to fix the car.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #215

Apr 282014


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that there was a noise coming from the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician stated that the rear differential was defective and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The recent vehicle failure was not repaired. The failure mileage was 130,000. The current mileage was 133,000.

- Kenosha, WI, USA

problem #214

Aug 152013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
I purchased this vehicle in July 2013 and drove it approximately one month when I began to notice that the transmission was not shifting properly. While driving along there was a sudden decline in my speed while the rpms continued to increase. I slowed to a stop as I pulled to the side of the road. I checked the vehicle for any outward signs of damage having found none I once again attempted to continue my trip. This time the vehicle managed to accelerate to a blistering 5 miles an hour while having to maintain a 4-6 thousand RPM range. I proceeded along the grass of the road until I reached home. It sits now in my yard covered with my "tarp of shame". this piece of worthless crap surely fits it acronym (Ford) found on the road spelling might not be the best, but it is better than this piece any rate, how much more does the public have to pay Ford. We paid with the bail out millions to their executives to get millions in bonuses to rip us off by not paying for and/or fixing their pieces of junk...enough is too much already! if you at the NHTSA doesn't do something maybe we citizen ought to take out a class action lawsuit on you. How many complaints does it take to constitute a pattern" above 4,500,000....or will it be the deaths of one or more of our children at the hands of these fatcats who laugh at us, with such indifference and unbridled contempt. It does seem that it gives them joy to mock the public and the government this way. Consider, GM recently was found hiding their known defects and now Ford has been doing the same thing for well over a decade. What would ole henry Ford say today" but, what hurts me the most is, I used to like Ford but now give me a Toyota, Honda, Nissan or a skateboard before one of these so called pieces of engineering wonders!! the real wonder is where and with who, will they break down on next!!!!!!!

- Laurinburg, NC, USA

problem #213

Apr 102014


  • 128,000 miles
Explorer O/D light blinks and shifts rough from 1st to 2nd.

- Washington, DC, USA

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