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 6 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #172

Nov 202012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 112,000 miles


While pulling out from a stop sign the transmission was slipping causing the Explorer to barely pull out into a busy intersection in the path of oncoming traffic which had to stop to avoid hitting me. This was not the only time this has happened, and it happens with no warning.

- Bluff City, TN, USA

problem #171

Dec 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 145,000 miles
Three months ago the overdrive light began flashing on my dashboard. The automatic transmission made a loud noise when changing gears. Sometimes the RPM's will rev but the car will not increase in speed.the light will not turn off and the transmission continues to shift harshly.

- Winnetka, CA, USA

problem #170

Oct 012010


  • 85,420 miles
Merging into heavy traffic on US23 N. in Ohio, tried to accelerate just as I always do and the transmission decides it doesnt want to shift, then when it finally did (approx 5000 RPM) it slamed into gear. Narrowly avoided being rear-ended. Turned vehicle around, tried fluid/filter change with no success. Did a search on the net and found thousands upon thousands of the same problem. Checked for recall and to my surprise there was none.

- Chillicothe, OH, USA

problem #169

Jun 012012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 125,000 miles


Drive train, bucks, grinds, is slipping. Makes alot of noise. Had the rear end replaced and it did not work, paid $1000 or so and did not take care of the problem.

- Longview, WA, USA

problem #168

Nov 102012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 127,875 miles
I just purchased the vehicle in a private sale on 11/09/12 and on 11/10/12 went to shift from park into reverse on a flat surface and my shift lever broke off and I am not able to shift my vehicle.

- Front Royal, VA, USA

problem #167

Nov 072012


  • 167,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 2 mph and attempting to shift into park, the gear shift lever became detached, leaving the vehicle stuck in reverse. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic where the contact was awaiting diagnosis of the failure. The dealer and manufacturer were not notified. The VIN was unavailable. The failure and current mileage was 167,000.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #166

Nov 252011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 146,000 miles


The O/D light keeps flashing on and off. Also the transmission does no longer want to shift gears; and when it does it shifts very hard.

- Goose Creek, SC, USA

problem #165

Oct 222012


  • miles
On the afternoon of October 22nd 2012 my pregnant wife was leaving the speech therapist with my son went to put the car in reverse and the shifter snapped off in her hand. The car every since we had it when U put it in park as a delay and rolls for ward a bit I feel that this is a recall that Ford should issue for this car. Its just not fair to have to pay over 1200 dollars to fix something that is not my fault.what if this would have happened in the street luckily my wife knew to shut the car off and apply the emergency brake. This problem really could end up in serious injury or even fatality to an individual.

- Live Oak, FL, USA

problem #164

Oct 212011


  • 65,000 miles
Transmission failed for the second time. Failed originally at 65,000 miles and had to be replaced. Failed again 3 years later at 130,000 miles and had a rebuilt transmission installed. 10 months later at 140,000 miles the transmission is leaking and starting to slip. I don't anticipate paying for a 4th transmission on this vehicle. Obviously there is something wrong with the design.

- Naperville, IL, USA

problem #163

Oct 032011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
I was driving in town when I accelerated from a stop light and the transmission would not engage into 3rd gear. The engine revved highly and then suddenly the transmission kicked into gear with a sudden jolt forward.

- Holmen, WI, USA

problem #162

Sep 252012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 152,000 miles


While coming off a freeway my car suddenly jerked and the transmission failed. Causing my vehicle to stop. When trying to move forward the car began to try to roll backwards into the car behind me. I was lucky I was coming to a stop rather then going full speed on the freeway. After much research I have found that this is an all too common problem with this make model and year. The transmission now needs to be completely rebuilt according to 2 mechanics.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #161

Sep 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 195,000 miles
Went to put car in drive from the park position and the shifter completely broke and was hanging. Also, I was not able to get my key out of the ignition. We were planning to make an out of town trip the following day, however, had to change plans due to this situation. After searching online, I have discovered there has been numerous complaints for this exact defect for the exact type of vehicle. It seems that since there has already been so many same situations, that a recall would have taken place by now. Not has it only been inconvenient, but could also be potentially dangerous!

- Valdosta, GA, USA

problem #160

Aug 152012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 194,000 miles
Transmission failed on the highway at 70mph pulled off exit and continued on city roads to our jobs parking lot and is no longer drive able.

- Rochester, WA, USA

problem #159

Jan 162012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 97,857 miles
The service engine light came on and I was told there might be a transmission problem. After the service the light was off and I was going again. At 107,000 miles the light came back on and back to the service departmant and they said the #5 ring was having problems I could drive it and it would get worse. It was also mentioned this year Explorer had many transmission issues. Now they want a minimum of $3,500 to fix the SUV and the trade-in is only worth $3,500 dollars. I now have 117,500 miles on it and it shifts hard and goes in reveserves slowly. I have talked to Ford to no avail at all. The say sorry but we can't help with fixing it at all. There is no discounted rate for an issue that is well known on the blogs. This seems to be against the fact that Ford says they have the bext trucks on the road if they think 117,000 miles is enough to replace the transmission. I do not understand the fact they think it is okay to charge that amount for a known issue on the 2002 - 2004 model Explorer. I need help as I can't afford to fix it to trade it in and I don't see putting $3,500 plus into some thing that may only last one day to maybe a year.

- Camby, IN, USA

problem #158

Aug 032012


  • 135,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving in reverse, the gear shift lever failed. The contact tried to shift the vehicle in park but the gear shift remained stuck. The contact stated the vehicle continued to move and the emergency brake was used to stop the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to a mechanic for inspection where they stated that the aluminum house that connected the shift lever to the steering column failed and would need to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified and have not responded. The failure mileage was 135,000.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #157

Aug 032012


  • 64,549 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while attempting to shift from park to drive, the gear shifter lever fractured. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and denied assistance with the repair. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 64,549.

- Susquehanna, PA, USA

problem #156

Jul 192012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 203,000 miles
When accelerating on a start, car doesn't shift into 2nd and 3rd gear....unless there is a push or jump into it.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #155

Jun 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 156,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer and the over drive light started flashing and the check engine light is on and the transmission started slipping from 2-3 gear and I found out with my 2yr and 3yr kids in the car if I need to pull out on to a highway with cars coming the SUV don't want to do so and will rev up and might slam into gear when you let off the gas. I love my Explorer great family car but with this problem I will not have my kids in it at all. And not knowing if it will make it or not. Ford do something about this. Im not the only one.

- Casar, NC, USA

problem #154

Jun 252012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 155,000 miles
While driving car would not shift passed 3rd gear. I had to pull over on a busy highway because I was afraid the engine would explode. I later found out, after researching, that the risk of it shifting into reverse is a common problem with the PO745 error code in 2002 Explorer.

- Pendleton, IN, USA

problem #153

Feb 052009


  • 100,000 miles
Ford is a great company. I love their F-350, mustangs, and vans. But the main problem is the 2002 Ford Explorer transmission. I have seen and researched thousands of complaints the citizens have sent to Ford and through yourselves. And yet to now prevail? what right does a person have to create a vehicle and not own up to its complication. Now I'm not saying their are perfect cars but a Ford Explorer has them. Now I can send you a list of what I want. But I'm not going to rant like some 5 year old in a candy store. But change needs to happen. Hundreds of these innocent people who go through out their day driving this vehicle need a break. Actually they need a fix. A "shift"into the right direction. And hundreds more are filing lawsuit against everyone they can about it. Your cant trade this car because of the problem and who has the money to dish out almost over $3,000 for a headache that could have been prevented from the start. All I need if you. Yes you is to send this message to anybody. Or everybody and help push for a new tomorrow a sunny day. A fixed problem. But I am filing a lawsuit for everything their worth. Or at least a new transmission for all Explorer owners. Regardless of the year or sub model.

- Charleston, SC, USA

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