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 4 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #212

Mar 202012


  • 121,000 miles


I had to replace transmission and solenoid, costing over $2500.

- Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #211

Dec 032013


  • 179,000 miles
The contact owns 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 70 mph, the vehicle came to a complete stop and the engine continued to revved up. The contact stated that as a result of the failure another vehicle rear ended her vehicle. A police report was filed. The driver and passenger sustained whiplash. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician diagnosed that the transmission solenoid was defective and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 179,000.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #210

Dec 112007


  • miles
Purchased 2002 Ford Explorer new in April 2002. Had little problems here and there. The real smack in the face came in 2007 when the transmission went bad. Was shocked that a 5 year old car would need a new transmission. Had to pay over $3,000 (three thousand dollars). This should have definitely been a recall and no cost to the consumer. Performed research on the topic and found that many owners of 'turn of the century' Ford, especially Explorer, were experiencing the same problem. When our car was ready for repairs, we had to wait two weeks because there were ten other Explorer owners with the same transmission problem at the dealer who were ahead of us. There was only one transmission technician at the dealer - which is why there was such a long wait. Called around to different dealers in the area. All were having the same problem - many Explorer owners with bad transmissions and not enough knowledgeable technicians on staff to correct the problem. Wow!!!! what a racket!!!! contacted Ford corporate headquarters and did not get any resolution. Although this was some time ago, some type of compensation is warranted. Since the repair was done through a certified Ford dealership, there is a record of this repair. So it should not be difficult to determine who had this repair and how to rectify the problem. Again - this should have definitely been a national recall with no cost to the consumer.

- Cheltenham, PA, USA

problem #209

Mar 082014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 202,957 miles


Third transmission failure since 2010. Bought a Ford remanufactured trans as this is my second 2002 with a failed trans. The first one I bought failed seven months later. Replaced under warranty at 17,000 miles later. Fast forward to last Saturday. Same failure as the last two. No help from Ford, probably surprised I made it through the warranty.

- Mason, MI, USA

problem #208

Feb 102014


  • miles
After driving into a parking spot I tried to put the car into park and the gearshift fell. After it fell again I tried once more and it broke completely off. We had to take it to the dealership whom just turned it off and later informed us that they would have to replace the entire steering column which would cost $1700 just because one piece was poorly constructed and made of soft metal. It has been almost a month and now we're being told the part is on back-order so we still have no car. We've read where this has happened to others but yet nothing has been done about this problem by the Ford company.

- La Grange, NC, USA

problem #207

Aug 062013


  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 35 mph, the transmission became inoperable. The contact stated that the vehicle was unable to shift out of third gear as the rpms increased excessively and beyond 7000. The vehicle was able to be driven to an independent mechanic, who diagnosed that the torque converter and the shift sensor cluster needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 180,000.

- Hobbsville, NC, USA

problem #206

Feb 202014


  • 166,000 miles


It is having trouble shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. Engine revs up to and over 4,000rpms and slams into the gears.

- Ringwood , NJ, USA

problem #205

Feb 212014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 102,196 miles
After having driven about 20 miles from home, I noticed several indicator lights flashing on my dash and the car was no longer shifting properly. I managed to return home with the car not wanting to properly up shift. When I took it to a repair shop, about 5 miles from home, I also lost reverse gear. Transmission ended up needing to be replaced.

- New Tripoli, , PA, USA

problem #204

Feb 122014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 165,000 miles
Transmission not shifting into overdrive have to let gas to make it shift change screen tired to correct problem another problem Ford good idea to put cheap timing chains in the 4.0 V6 engines thank you

- Bristolville, OH, USA

problem #203

Feb 072014


  • 107,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the gear shift lever fractured. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was contacted about the failure. The failure mileage was 107,000.

- Springdale, WA, USA

problem #202

Nov 052012


  • 112,000 miles


Transmission is junk, it slips really bad, whines and chatters.

- Berlin, WI, USA

problem #201

Oct 072011

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 114,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 50 mph, the overdrive warning light illuminated as the vehicle began to loose power. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer for inspection where they stated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired but the failure recurred three times. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 114,000.

- Brockton, MA, USA

problem #200

Dec 232013


  • 144,452 miles
This 5R55W transmission had to be replaced at 108,890 miles for $3500 while my daughter lived at college. I purchased a 3-year 36,000 mile Ford warranty as I was confounded that a truck transmission might fail at such an early age. 3-years 16-days 35,652 miles later this Ford reman Ford installed trans also failed and Ford is unwilling to accept any responsibility for cost of repair replace, 16-days beyond a 100% free replacement. The local dealer quoted $4500 and the previous dealer (100 miles away) quoted the same $3500. I opted for aamco at $2500 and 3-year 36,000 mile warranty, since Ford can't re-engineer their own transmission to last a reasonable amount of time, there are hundreds of complaints just on the 2002 Explorer transmission, and there are thousands for 5R55W transmission. It is unconscionable that Ford is unwilling to accept any liability.

- Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #199

Jan 152009


  • 117,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 35 mph, the vehicle became hesitant to acceleration. After shutting the engine off and restarting, the check engine and od warning lights illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnosis. The technician stated that the transmission would need to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 117,000.

- Toms River, NJ, USA

problem #198

Dec 252013


  • 985,000 miles
Transmission seals fell off in the driveway, transmission completely failed.

- Northboro, MA, USA

problem #197

Dec 172013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 177,772 miles
Yesterday evening, I got into my 2002 Ford Explorer and noticed the gear shift lever was stuck in park. I was unable to shift into reverse in order to back out of the driveway. This morning I figured I would give it another attempt as I needed to head out for work. As I tried again, I simply applied the break, grabbed the shift lever and as I pulled the towards me and began to pull down to shift into reverse the lever completely broke and is now hanging. I did not apply excessive force at any point. No more pressure then I normally do when shifting from park to drive to reverse, etc. I looked up this particular situation via internet and noticed many, many complaints of the same exact description. Hopefully Ford will recognize this issue and issue a part recall.

- Hollister, CA, USA

problem #196

Dec 132013


  • 141,000 miles
TL- the contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while parked he placed the gear in drive when the gear assembly detached. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnosis. The technician stated the gear assembly would have to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure.the vehicle was being repaired. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 141,000.

- Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #195

Dec 062013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
As I was driving in snow, I put the car into reverse to go around another car. When I put it back in drive the gear shift handle broke off in my hand. I was stuck in my car unable to shift, if I turned it off I would not have been able to restart the car. I had to sit on the side of the road and figure out how to get it back into gear with my foot on the brakes.

- Redding, CA, USA

problem #194

Aug 042008

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 86,000 miles
I bought the 2002 Explorer new from a Ford dealer. At 86,000 miles the transmission proved to be defective and had to be replaced costing $3,000. Just today 11/19/2013 at 134,000 miles the transmission needs to be replaced again $4,200. I have seen several websites with hundreds of posting telling about similar problems with Ford transmissions. Here is one such sites web address: Ford knows about these problems but refuses to take action other then profiting from continued sales of more defective transmissions and parts. I bought the Explorer in good faith for about $31,000 and will have paid $7,200 (approx 23%)in transmission replacements. The danger here is that these Ford transmissions could and may actually have already seize while driving thus causing untold safety issues. Please research this and create a recall. Thank you.

- Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #193

Nov 142013


  • 200,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 45 mph, a burning odor was noticed as the rear differential seized within moments. The failure occurred without warning. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic, who confirmed that the rear differential had seized. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 200,000.

- Franklin, KY, USA

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