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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
88,376 miles
Total Complaints:
7 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (5 reports)
  2. replace rear differential clutches (1 reports)
  3. replace switch for four wheel drive system (1 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #7

Jul 012010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles


I noticed one day, that when I would (going slowly) turn the wheels, this rubbing sound appeared. Eventually, it got worse and could be noticed when turning into my driveway. The rubbing sound seemed to come from the front wheels as if something was binding or trying to lock into 4-wheel drive. My Ford dealer diagnosed the problem as coming from the rear. They replaced the differential clutches and a rear tie rod (which they broke and replaced at their cost). I would have never believed the problem in the front came from the rear, but it did. After they repaired the problem, my Explorer ran really smooth. I felt good about the repair until I paid the bill. The bill was around $700.00

- , Fredericksburg, VA, US

problem #6

Dec 012008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 33,635 miles

I had an extended warranty for 5 years drive train and it was just over one month from being covered. I will admit when I ranted and revved about a car with only that many mile on it and that happening, and I have been a life time customer, the dealer gave me a break and only charged me $400.00 plus to repair it. That is the third vehicle in a row with 4X4 problems or Transmission problems with less then 40,000 mile on it.

Now that is sad. Chode444

- , Manchester, PA, USA

problem #5

Nov 212008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

The other morning, my 2002 Ford Explorer (which has already had many problems) decides it wants to moan and groan in the front end. At first I thought it was due to a below freezing morning (for which I moan and groan too) but I soon found out my Explorer does like to make turns at low speeds. I'm pretty sure the 4x4 system is messed up and responsible because I have tires in the front that seem like they both want to turn at the same rate (not good in a turn) and a back tire that will spin upon acceleration. Of course, there is a big loud clunk which makes you feel like the whole front axle will be laying on the ground when you get out and look. Hmmm... this would be very shocking news to anyone except an Explorer owner. Just another day in the life of a Ford Explorer owner... always a new challenge in driving.

Anyway, I am unemployed a result of the domestic auto industry troubles and this is the last thing I need. Especially since it can not be driven in this condition and I'm trying to get to interviews and get back to work.

I have already spend thousands of dollars on repairs for this 2002 Explorer in the past. It appears to be time to call the junk yard and cash in the 401k money (paying taxes and penalties) to buy a Toyota or Honda. Being a Detroit native and loyal Ford buyer (never owned any other make and many family members work for Ford) I never thought I would say it but I have to come to grips with reality... Ford stinks!

- , South Lyon, MI, USA

problem #4

Aug 022008

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


Took the truck to the dealer because the front end was grinding and the truck was getting terrible gas mileage. Dealer soaked me on a brake and bearing job. Now that the front end is cleaned up the massive shaking from the rear differential is isolated. I don't have the cash to replace a rear end right now but have been assured that as long as the fluid is topped off, the differential clutch slipping is just an annoyance. I'll say. Every time I take a slow turn it feels like the truck is trying to buck me. I thought differentials were supposed to last the life of the vehicle; especially tow packages that have never been used to tow (We thought we would get a trailer someday but two more kids later and it's still a future plan.)

- , Friendswood, TX, USA

problem #3

May 192008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

I'm sure in my case it was not the rear differential. My Explorer was making the roaring noise like bad tires do and also had a vibration feeling in the steering wheel when first accelerating or when backing up or turning. Ford closed their dealership downtown Chicago so I took it to a highly rated independent shop. Since I had a new transmission installed at around 50K miles, I suggested maybe the U joints were bad. The auto repair shop owner said it was definitely the rear end. Cost to repair $1900. When I picked up my truck, the bill had jumped to $2300 because while replacing the rear end, they found a broken spring which they took the liberty of replacing. I was advised that the rear end would settle down in 100 miles or so. On the drive home it was like nothing was done. Same noises, same vibrations only I'm $2300 poorer.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #2

May 012008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,000 miles

I am totally worried about the distinctive growling noise when turning my front wheel especially at starting out! Ford should address and cover this problem I believe it could be the transfercase or differential maybe the transmission? I had the car at the dealer Brien Ford in Everett and they didn't hear a thing? What's happening here? Sure would like to know ! Also when I go around corners or over bumps my back up warning signal starts beeping-I am not happy!!!!

- , Everett, WA, USA

problem #1

Sep 012006

Explorer XLT Unknown

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

My daughter gave me a 2002 Explorer XLT. Since I got it, every single time I turn a corner the back end goes thump, thump, thump. It feels like it needs some kind of lubrication, but my husband has checked it and everything's full that should be. It wasn't until I read all the other comments that I considered the 'whining' a problem. I thought it was related to the type of tires I have on the car. My husband already changed the brakes, thinking that may be the problem. Next would be buying new tires, but I don't think, after reading everybody else's comments that that would solve my problem.

I am disturbed by the mention of the rear wheels suddenly locking up and causing an accident. I often drive my little grandson around and am horrified of anything happening to him. Has anybody found out exactly what the problem is; how to fix it short of taking out a second mortgage. My husband can do just about any repair, but there seems to be quite a few different diagnoses and I'd just as soon put my money into a solution, rather than another guess. Also, has anybody started any action against Ford, i.e. a class action law suit?

- , Union, IL, USA

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