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 9 of 14)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #112

Oct 242006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 76,000 miles


Transmission died Ford would not warrenty.

- Kinnelon, NJ, USA

problem #111

Oct 222011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
When shifting into park the shift linkage coupler snapped and the shifter came off in my hand. Upon inspection the coupler is a cheap resin and should not snap with normal wear usage. This is a link to a forum with 129 complaints of similar issues.

- Charleston, SC, USA

problem #110

Oct 182011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Purchased this vehicle today and on way home the transmission "od off" light started flashing. Research shows this is a major common problem with a failed transmission in this model. I am on social security disability and cannot afford the $3,000 plus to fix.

- Tallmadge, OH, USA

problem #109

Nov 172008


  • 28,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the overdrive warning light illuminated and the vehicle exhibited abnormal noises. The dealer advised the contact to replace the transmission and performed the repairs in November 2008 however, in October 2011 the failure recurred. The manufacturer did not offer any assistance. No repairs were performed. The current mileage was 51,000 and the approximate failure mileage was 28,000.

- Bay Shore, NY, USA

problem #108

Sep 252011


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While the contact shifted into reverse the gear shift lever completely disengaged from the housing area. The vehicle was towed to the dealer and currently being repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the defect. The approximate failure mileage was 130,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Everette, WA, USA

problem #107

Sep 272011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
[xxx] got behind the wheel of her 2002 Ford Explorer, intending to pick up her son from school. When she tried to shift the car into reverse, she says the entire gear selector broke off and fell in her lap. It turns out she's not alone. Team 4 investigator jim parsons reported that the national highway transportation safety administration has been investigating similar complaints around the country -- some of which involved vehicles slipping into gear and crashing -- for more than two years. NHTSA's Office Of Defects Investigation says it has identified 200 alleged incidents of unintended vehicle movement after consumers believed they had shifted the SUVS into park, resulting in 85 alleged crashes and 32 alleged injuries. Earlier this year, NHTSA upgraded its investigation to an engineering analysis for 2002-2005 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. [xxx] says Ford told her she would need to replace her entire steering column to fix the broken gear selector at a cost of more than $1,500. Instead, she worked with her local mechanic to find an after-market replacement part that retails for $30. So far, Ford Motor Company has not issued a recall on the gear selector. More information: NHTSA website details on Explorer investigation (type in action number EA09013) read more: information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Monaca, PA, USA

problem #106

Sep 222011

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 140,000 miles


Gear shift broke off in my hands.

- Berwyn, PA, USA

problem #105

Aug 282008

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 86,000 miles
The transmission on my 2002 Ford Explorer failed at about 86,000 miles and required $3000 to repair. Ford acknowledged that it was a design flaw but would do nothing to cover any of the repair costs. After researching this online and talking to mechanics there are thousands of 2002 Ford Explorer transmissions that have failed. This is a textbook case of the need for a recall requiring Ford to replace the defective transmissions at no cost to the consumer.

- Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #104

Jul 112011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 142,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT, my transmission just recently went out. It has about 142,000 miles. I took it to a transmission specialist, to get it fixed, they took it apart, and told me it was costing $3,786.60 to get it fixed/rebuilt! as of right now my truck is still in the shop, it has been there for 2 weeks now. There is no way can afford to pay that, I"M just a student. I did some research online and it turns out that there is thousands of people with the same problem; transmissions go out and the majority on the 2002 model. They rebuild the transmission, only for it to go out again. Some people have replaced/rebuilt their transmissions 4 or 5 times. I also read that these trucks can stop at any moment; anywhere. This is very dangerous, especially if on the freeway. I don't see why Ford, didn't recall this truck or this transmission. They need to take responsibility and fix the problem. I have no idea, what I am going to do to get my truck fixed.. or maybe even replaced.

- Arlington, TX, USA

problem #103

Sep 082011


  • 129,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving 50 mph uphill when the vehicle began to stall. The contact pulled over to the side of the road and was unable to shift into park. The vehicle was towed to a local mechanic where it was diagnosed that the transmission would need replacing. The contact called the manufacturer and was told that a possible brake fluid leak caused the transmission to malfunction. The contact did not have the transmission replaced. The failure mileage was 129,000.

- Philadelphia , PA, USA

problem #102

Sep 022011

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 97,000 miles


Transmission failure.

- Schenectady, Ny, NY, USA

problem #101

Sep 012008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
I bought my 2002 Ford Explorer in 2005. At about 85000 miles I noticed the transmission started to slip and often jerks real hard when shifting into 3rd. I had the transmission fluid changed by an authorized Ford dealer in my area and they told me there are no metal shavings in the fluid, however, they did tell me that the 2002 Ford are well knows for having transmission problems and they see it all the time in this make model and year. I called Ford and they told me there are no recalls on the transmission, however, reading all the problems on the internet about owners who have complained, I feel there should be a recall on this because it is a safety issue!

- Schoenchen, KS, USA

problem #100

Jun 122011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
While my wife was backing up in my son's driveway, the gear shift broke on my 2002 Ford Explorer. The charge to repair by a Ford dealer was roughly $2,000 (including tow charges). After doing research on this issue, it apparently is way too common, however Ford refuses to acknowledge responsibility or issue a recall.

- Irving, TX, USA

problem #99

Jun 032011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 132,000 miles
Today I drove my 2002 Ford Explorer out and upon returning home I could not shift it into park. I switched it off thinking that if I crank it up and turn the wheels it would go into park but I couldn't even crank it up because I was not in the park gear. I played with it for 20 minutes and it finally went into park. I let it sit for a couple hours and went back out and cranked it, it went into gear. I drove it around the block came back and parked. Cranked it up about 10 minutes later to go out and it would not come out of park gear. I have no idea what the problem but if it's something serious the dealer can have it back. Something should be done to make Ford repair their malfunctions, we are talking some serious money on these repairs and a lot of people like myself is looking for work now. People we need to start protesting out side these dealerships. They are getting rich and we are suffering at their mishaps.

- Hamlet, NC, USA

problem #98

Apr 222011


  • 75,841 miles
Transmission gear shift broke off steering column as the vehicle was put in park. Could have been a major safety issue had I been anywhere other than my home and shifting into any other gear than park. Thought this was an isolated incident only to find information online that this is a common occurrence with the 2002 Explorer (over 100 reported on one website alone). Other issues I've experienced since day 1 of purchasing the vehicle new are transmission lunging, vehicle rocking when put in park, and difficulty shifting into park.

- Petaluma, CA, USA

problem #97

May 282011


  • 123,968 miles
This requested recall involves a 2002 Ford Explorer having an automatic transmission. During normal use, the shift lever breaks off at a cast rotating cylinder that transmits the torque from the gear shifter to push and pull the cable that puts the vehicle in park, drive, neutral, and reverse. The vehicle also had a tendency to jump out of park even before the part broke which caused the vehicle to roll back and almost pinned me between another vehicle when the vehicle rolled back and crashed into a vehicle parked downhill. This was a near miss accident. Ford wants to charge $1500 to replace the entire steering column. We elected to junk the vehicle at this time until another solution can be found. Vehicle still drives if you reach your hand and push/pull the transmission cable to shift the automatic transmission into gear. We can send the broke off section of the part if you will return it. On the internet, there are many reports of the same failure for years 2002 through 2005 Ford Explorer.

- Edmond, OK, USA

problem #96

Mar 162011


  • miles
When putting car into park or reverse, car would sometime still be in drive for seconds after putting car in gear. Several times now, occasionally car will simply shut off. Recently, the car would not go into park and shifter separated from steering column.

- Chula Vista, CA, USA

problem #95

Feb 162011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 97,000 miles
While backing up, the gear shift broke on my 2002 Ford Explorer. It was good that I was not in traffic because I could not get the car back in gear and could have gotten hit and or caused an accident. The steering column was replaced and the parts were in my opinion over priced. My fear is that it may happen again because it may have been replaced with the same defective part.

- Bluffton, OH, USA

problem #94

Mar 202009


  • miles
Ford Explorer transmissions slipping and going out will get U killed if U pull out in traffic and it starts slipping and want go someone may hit U and get U killed.

- Old Hickory, TN, USA

problem #93

Mar 082011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer has a rear end noise it is really loud I've noticed many Explorer have the same problem. I have replace rear axle the whole rear end and the noise comes back I think its ridiculous that I have to pay all this money to fix it when its a wide spread problem for Ford Explorer. Ford should have a solution by now and should fix it for free.the noise is a constant when driving.

- El Paso, TX, USA

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