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 5 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #192

Sep 032013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 162,000 miles


Driving forward at 20 mph in a trailer park when overdrive light started flashing and transmission started shifting hard. Was told its a well known problem and thousands of 02 Explorer had this issue. Garage wants $3500 to repair the transmission. I called Ford who had no answers for me and wont fix even though they know its a big issue with these. Thousands of complaints to date. Also clock spring just failed and horn stopped working and air airbag light is flashing.

- Attleboro, MA, USA

problem #191

Oct 012013


  • 120,000 miles
Heard a knocking noise went to mechanic. Was told I blew a two holes through timing chain cover. Went online found that it is a recurring problem for that year of Ford. Very upset there is no recall. Was told it would cost at least 2000 to fix. Ford needs to do something about this. I want to go to media to let everyone that has this problem know that Ford knows about it and will not do anything. Apparently everyone has to pay out the [xxx] to have this fixed. I'm not one of them. I want my car fixed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Altoona, PA, USA

problem #190

Aug 092013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 91,000 miles
While moving the shift lever from park to reverse, the lever broke away from the steering column and could not be returned to park position. The vehicle was stuck in reverse, engine running, and brake applied. With the brake applied, the engine was turned off, still in reverse. The key could not be removed until a small wire contact inside the steering column was shorted to the metal in the column. The vehicle had to be dragged onto a tow vehicle and taken to aikins Ford in winder, Georgia. I was told the entire steering column had to be replaced and the part plus labor would be approximately $1500. Aikins ordered the part and is still waiting after discovering that there were 221 steering columns on back order with the after market manufacturer licensed to provide the part. The design of the shift lever included a "pot" metal disk housing that requires the spring behind it to be actuate by pulling the lever forward to change the gear status. The housing snapped in half, leaving the lever dangling by a small wire. Only the fact that the vehicle was not moving averted clear and present danger of an accident. I have requested that the steering column part be returned to me and have very good photos of the vehicle and the actual separation at the break in the column. I will furnish either to your department if and when I get my Explorer back. Now 56 days and still waiting. I believe that it was design flaw to allow a part that requires uniform strength to be a molded piece of "pot" metal and someone may get hurt, if not already in the 221 incidents that Ford is aware of.

- Winder, GA, USA

problem #189

Oct 012013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 155,000 miles


The transmission slips between first and second gear, the check engine light comes on. The code reads bad servo when read by the nh inspection station. Investigation on internet and through dealer inquiries states this is a very common problem with Explorer automatic transmissions in this manufacturing time period, everything and everyone states there should be a recall. This is a very well known problem by Ford for the 2002-2004 Explorer transmissions.

- Richmond, NH, USA

problem #188

Aug 142013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 222,000 miles
Had a few slips prior but nothing major.. and now wont move in drive!!!!

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #187

Aug 062013


  • 233,577 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 35 mph, the over-drive warning light illuminated as a message appeared stating to check the transmission. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer for a diagnostic test. The dealer stated that the transmission had defective rings and bushings. The dealer also stated that the transmission solenoid block was leaking. The contact did not have any repairs performed on the vehicle. The failure mileage was 233,577.

- Lake City, FL, USA

problem #186

May 182013


  • 146,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the transmission failed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the transmission was rebuilt. The manufacturer was contacted about the failure. The failure mileage was 146,000.

- Gainesboro, TN, USA

problem #185

Jun 122013


  • 131,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph, the transmission refused to shift gears. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for inspection where they stated that they could not diagnose the cause of the failure but the transmission need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 131,000.

- Clovis, CA, USA

problem #184

Jun 212013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 115,130 miles
My vehicle was parked in a driveway. I started the vehicle, depressed the brake, and attempted to put the gearshift lever into reverse. The gearshift lever would not move. Again, I depressed the brake and attempted to move the gearshift lever into reverse. The lever broke off at the joint where it comes out of the steering column. I had to hire a tow truck. The driver had to disengage the transmission to load it onto the bed of the tow truck. This has been a massive inconvenience both financially and strategically. I expected this issue to be in the recall mode as there are many incidents noted on this site. I feel the Ford Motor Company should be held liable for all my costs as this is obviously a flawed metal joint that should not fail with normal use. We reside in a mountainous state and use the gearshift lever to down shift on the same roads. This occurrence would have been disaster on floyd hill outside of denver. I guess I was lucky!

- Arvada, CO, USA

problem #183

May 182013


  • 140,000 miles
The dreaded gearshift in hand so well known by Ford and anyone with this model, and Ford wants big money from the consumer, for a terribly engineered part. Have you driven a Ford lately?

- Columbiana, OH, USA

problem #182

Apr 302013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 167,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while attempting to reverse, the gear shifter fractured. The vehicle was not the taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 167,000.

- Weeki Wachee, FL, USA

problem #181

Mar 042013


  • 102,000 miles
Bearing keep have to be replaced, an the rear coil spring is cracked an the tire came off while driving my truck, have replaced the wheel bearing 3 times already. An I have replace the transmission 2 times.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #180

Dec 182012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
Like many other frustrated Ford owners, I have had transmission problems with my Explorer. Its really frustrating when you take it to the repair shop and they don't even need to see it to know the transmission needs to be rebuilt, due to the track record of the faulty parts Ford has used. Its really sad when they know the transmission where not good and continued to install them for more years. I hope sooner or later they own up to their faults and do the right thing and recall the faulty transmissions. We spent good money for a quality american made car and did not expect to have to invest almost $3,000 in a new transmission the next year. Ford will lose a lot of loyal customers over this and needs to address this problem.

- Honeoye Falls, NY, USA

problem #179

Feb 022013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 140,010 miles
Bought a used 2002 Explorer with 116,000 miles on it, went through all the ware items and replaced with new. I drove this vehicle to work for a while, enough to get the mileage to 140,010 miles then suddenly started to slip into 3rd or miss all together 3rd gear. 1st to 2nd works fine, 2nd to 3rd is gone (engine raves like it went into neutral) when you let off the accelerator it goes into 4th gear on will pull again, O/D works also. Dangerous for anyone in vehicle, this is a very serious safety concern, if someone was to have to get into traffic and this vehicle was to this they could very easily be run over by a vehicle they are trying to stay ahead of or had pulled out in front of. Ford has known about this problem for years now and is doing nothing to make it go away are remedy the poorly designed transmission and it just ticks me off that the federal highway safety people don't make Ford do a recall to fix the affected vehicles before someone gets killed.

- Rushville, OH, USA

problem #178

Dec 032012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
Pulled into park, went to shift vehicle into park (was fully stopped) and gear shifter broke off. I did not apply any force, just the normal typical action of shifting the gear. Good thing it was in neutral when it snapped. Took rubber seal off of the gear lever arm and the part which the lever arm was attached had totally broken off. The metal was not stripped or twisted but broken. Part #905-104: Column shift repair.

- Longview, TX, USA

problem #177

Jan 122013


  • 130,000 miles
Transmission took a crap, it seems to be a know problem with the 2002 & 2003 Explorer. Guess we should have looked into the Explorer better.

- Gwinn, MI, USA

problem #176

Jan 162013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 201,000 miles
Pulling in driveway stopped the vehicle going to put it in park shift lever broke off inside of steering column went on internet found 146 complaints as the same thing happened to them on Ford Explorer

- Belle, MO, USA

problem #175

Jan 152013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 157,000 miles
My Ford Explorer has had so many ridiculous problems. This one is extremely inconvenient. The car has trouble shifting gears, it spins from 1st to 2nd gear and then I have to let go of the accelerator for it to shift again, it skips 3rd gear altogether and jerks into fourth after pressing and depressing the accelerator a series of times. Once it's in 4th gear, it doesn't go past 50 mph. My mechanic says his monitor detected a faulty solender and the entire pack has to be replaced, but that may not be the only problem. If that doesn't do the trick (even though it needs to be replaced regardless) he will have to open the transmission and possibly rebuild or replace some of the parts. I have encountered hundreds of other 2002 Ford Explorer owners with the same problem. Aside from this, I have a list of other dangerous issues that this car has had and that has endangered my family's and my life numerous times: - gear shift breaking off the steering column as I shifted from reverse to drive in the middle of a busy intersection. - ignition cylinder/switch breaking - possible spontaneous explosion recall related to the cruise control - rear latch breaking and inability to use the rear latch. - electrical system failure - doors not closing properly & draining the battery - faulty alarm system - faulty temperature gauge and radiator - Ford not allowing customers to buy just the parts needed for replacement and repair and forcing their customers to purchase entire packages only in order to get the necessary parts at extremely high prices. Ford should be incriminated for selling these vehicles knowing full well that they are flooded with life threatening issues to their customers.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #174

Mar 142012


  • 98,000 miles
I was driving my 2002 Ford Explorer about 25mph when I felt the rear end drop down. Pulled over to the side of the road and all 5 studs had sheared off. The second time it happened I was only backing out of my driveway when I put it into drive & started to accelerate the opposite side studs sheared off. This time only 4 studs broke so I limped the truck back onto my driveway. The third time this happened I was driving about 15mph going around a turn & 4 studs broke off again. If I was going any faster the truck could have flipped over.

- West Allis, WI, USA

problem #173

Jan 102013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 126,000 miles
Multiple issues with the transmission. From park, when shifted into reverse there is a surge that overcomes the brakes and causes the vehicle to move roughly 4-5 feet. Also, the transmissions shifts so hard that it shakes the entire vehicle. When shifting through the gears the transmissions stalls then shifts so hard it overcomes the steering wheel and sometimes causes a change of direction. When traveling at highway speeds 50mph + in overdrive the transmission will surge the vehicle violently as it attempts to stay in gear. After regularly scheduled service of the transmission and multiple discussions with the Ford dealership they have not offered a solution other than spend thousands of dollars on another transmission that may cause the same result. This is an unsafe vehicle and needs to be remedied before an accident or death occurs.

- Orlando, FL, USA

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