ANNOUNCEMENT: The Car Book 2018 is now online!

Ratings on over 1,000 new & used models going back 5 years, from the Center from Auto Safety. Learn more about The Car Book 2018 here. 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:
105,916 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 1 of 14)

problem #279

Nov 152017


  • 113,000 miles


The shift lever literally snapped off at the steering column while putting the car into drive. Car couldn't be shifted into park, still running. Keys couldn't even be removed to turn the car off. Very dangerous. Seems like a fairly common problem among 2002 Ford Explorer owners. Many complaints filed here: Https://

- Edina, MN, USA

problem #278

Aug 162017


  • 138,935 miles
Transmission failed on a major highway

- Redwood City, CA, USA

problem #277

Jul 072017


  • 181,000 miles
Transmissions going out it started all of a sudden with a vibration in transmission after driving it for a awhile in the higher gears the od light came on an flashed for awhile can U help

- Cypress Inn, TN, USA

problem #276

Jul 052017


  • 22,000 miles


The rear stabilizer links just broke out of nowhere not even to latest later the front stabilizer links just broke out of nowhere and I have no steering a whole lot of loose control

- Gautier, MS, USA

problem #275

Apr 122017


  • 88,000 miles
Transmission needs to be rebuilt with only 88000 miles on engine.

- Palm Harbor, FL, USA

problem #274

May 262017


  • 174,000 miles
Upon beginning to drive home from work the transmission failed when shifting from second to third gear. There is no longer a third gear in my automatic transmission. In order to get home I had to manually shift with gear shifter and attempt to skip over third gear. Was driving on city streets. Vehicle has 174000 miles on it.

- New Haven, MI, USA

problem #273

Oct 242016


  • 200,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While the vehicle was idling at a stop light, the overdrive warning indicator illuminated and the vehicle stalled several times. In addition, the vehicle was difficult to shift into second and third gear as well as drive, which was when the intermittent stall failure occurred. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failures. The vehicle was parked and unable to be driven due to the intermittent failures. The approximate failure mileage was 200,000.

- Proctor, AR, USA

problem #272

Sep 172014


  • 97,000 miles
Transmission failure before 100000 miles while on freeway

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #271

Dec 242008


  • miles
"takata recall" I have had to have the transmission rebuilt in my 2002 Ford Explorer 3 times. The first time in 2008 with 107,262, second time June 2012 with 136671 miles and the 3rd time in September 2015 with 184,086 miles on it. I would say that anytime you have to replace your transmission that many times there is definitely a defect in the transmission of the Explorer.

- Fairfield, CA, USA

problem #270

Oct 192016

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
Driving nd steering wheel fell apart brake switch stopped working 3 times had new transmission put in had to have 3 different sets of tire put on back window shattered while sitting at red light.

- Millville, NJ, USA

problem #269

Sep 132004


  • 81,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving at any speed, the gear would not engage when shifted. There were no warning indicators illuminated. The vehicle was taken to a local dealer where it was diagnosed that the transmission band did not connect. The technician recommended that the transmission be replaced or rebuilt. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and stated that there was no recall. The vehicle was not repaired. The contact received notification of NHTSA campaign numbers: 04V442000 (structure) and 09V399000 (vehicle speed control). The failure mileage was approximately 81,000.

- Nokomis, IL, USA

problem #268

Sep 142016


  • 283,000 miles
Transmission, jerked, stalled and had difficulty shifting while driving on freeway/ highway. Additionally, the O/D (overdrive) light came on and continually flashed prior to the transmission starting to noisily grind with a burning smell. I've had 5 professional diagnosis all stating it's a different transmission problem. A class action lawsuit and Ford Motor Company recall is needed on the transmissions, this is a widespread problem and issue for nearly 20 years.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #267

Aug 202016


  • 78,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer eddie bauer is on its 3rd transmission. It has 78K miles on it. Help

- Torrance, CA, USA

problem #266

Aug 012014


  • 160,000 miles
At first when shifting the transmission wouldn't go into any gear. We had the transmission replaced. When got vehicle back still had same problem took it to transmission specialist put on computer fixed the initial problem. The transmission we had put in had much more problems. Overdrive started blinking then lost 2nd and 5th gear

- East Orland, ME, USA

problem #265

Jul 242016


  • 144,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While parking the vehicle, the gear shift lever fractured and separated from the steering column. The vehicle was taken to the dealer to be diagnosed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 144,000.

- Sterling Heights, MI, USA

problem #264

Jun 122016


  • 190,000 miles
Transmission don't work, gear slip after 10 minutes drive then stop working won't go back or foward

- Clearwater, FL, USA

problem #263

Apr 272016


  • 89,000 miles
02 Explorer stop shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear, after 2nd gear when it's time to shift it sounds like it goes in neutral, when I let off it finally shifts (hard) it's very dangerous when driving in front of traffic I'm afraid for myself and my children, this is an issue for alot of people, please help us with this issue, this really needs to be recalled thank you

- Eubank, KY, USA

problem #262

May 152015


  • miles
Vehicle lunges at red lights or when I put it in park or take it out of park. Rpms go up to 4000 rpms and wont shift. Od light stays on and flashes while driving and shifts up and down while driving. Almost ran through a store front one day as I pulled up because the rpms were so high. If rpms are up sitting at red light it cruises by itself when I let off brake at 30mph but wont go any faster when I give it gas until rpms come down. This has been happening for a year now. I don't have the money to keep replacing transmissions this is the second one now in 4 years.

- Hinesville, GA, USA

problem #261

Apr 022016


  • 110,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer 4.6L is having major transmission problems at only 110K miles. It hesitates shifting gears and slips while driving. The vehicle also stalls when stopping at a red light or stop sign. It has the infamous crack down the back hatch. Both are problems thousands of customers have complained about yet Ford does nothing. The transmission problem is a very expensive cost to repair and it shouldn't be the customers responsibility when Ford knew there was a problem.

- Hyden, KY, USA

problem #260

Mar 302016

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 182,000 miles
As I was out driving one day, I pulled off from a green light and out of nowhere the "service engine light" and the "O/D light" both turned on at the same time. At the same time I noticed that the truck began to shift very poorly coming out of 1st and 2nd gear. It is now to the point where there is a really loud "clunk" every time the truck shifts, especially in the lower gears and when putting the truck in reverse. I pulled over to ensure that it wasn't something I had done and it wasn't! I let the car sit for a few hours hoping that would clear the issue, but no luck! after much research on the problem this is a very well known problem by Ford Motor Company and nothing has been done to resolve it for their customers. I purchased this vehicle just under a month ago and already I'm looking at $2,000 to put in a new transmission. Well after purchasing the vehicle I can not afford to fix Ford's mistake!!! this is a clear defect of a Ford product and after spending my hard earned money on one of their products I expect much better from them! even after spending $2,000 on another transmission, it is a sure fact that it is only inevitable that this problem will happen again and again and again to anyone who purchases a 2003 Ford Explorer! if I and I'm sure anyone else would've known this fact, I'm positive; Ford would have not sold as many models. Can we say bamboozled and taken for my money by Ford Motor Company! please help us customers out and demand a recall on these poorly built components they mass produced and stuck inside a widely marketed and sold vehicle. How would you feel if you and your infant child was driving and out of nowhere...boom...another $2,000 you do not have for another poorly built Ford transmission smh... ## VIN failed ## [xxx] ## information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Buffalo, NY, USA

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