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:
82,254 miles
Total Complaints:
120 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. rear end overhaul (35 reports)
  2. not sure (34 reports)
  3. Ford should take more pride in their work & fix problems (22 reports)
  4. replace rear differential (18 reports)
  5. replaced rear end oil with 75- 145 synthetic (3 reports)
  6. mention TSBs #05-23-3 and 05-25-8: Drivetrain rear axle humming (2 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 6 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #20

Mar 252007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


I purchased brand new in 2002. All I hear is buy american, buy american, etc, etc, etc. I have a howling noise since about 40,000 miles. The dealer told me it was the tires. I went another year on the tires and at 55,000 I put new tires on. New tires but same noise. Same thing.. Dealer says I put wrong tires on!!! So I decided to look at the rear wheel bearings myself. To make a long story short the rear end is making the noise. It appears to be leaking out the drivers side seal for a long time but when I check the fluid it wasn't low. I have 80,000 miles on now and I know the rear end is about to fail. I've also had problems with front wheel bearings and transmission noise. Engine has been good however. If Ford doesn't make this rear end right for me they will have lost a lot of future buyers!!

- , Roscommon, MI, USA

problem #19

Aug 042006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

I was out of town visiting my family and my father noticed a small spot under my car in the driveway. We took it to the local dealer and sure enough, the rear differential was leaking. The car was still under warranty at that time and the dealer replaced a gasket/seal and as far as I know, it's fine now. I have 41K miles on the car now and have had the transmission worked on 5 times but that's another story...

- , Carol Stream, IL, USA

problem #18

Mar 122007

(reported on)

Explorer XLS Unk

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

OK, I'm no mechanic, but I will tell you what I remember the mechanic saying. The bolt broke on a piece of metal holding the pinion in place. We were going down the interstate, 70 MPH, the speed limit. All of a sudden we heard a noise. Hubby thought it might be a flat tire. We pull off on the shoulder and hubby looks around. No flat. We call AAA and get a tow to our local mechanic. He looks and discovers our parking brake shoe, yes, parking brake shoe, has fallen off. He replaces it, $130. He drives it out, and still hears the noise. He suspects the rear end. He cannot fix that type of problem. We take it to our other mechanic. It takes a week to get the lengthy repair done, to get it fit into his schedule. After the repair is done, ($885) the ABS brake system kicks in whenever we stop. The pedal thumps! We take it back and he says when the pinion was damaged, that also ruined the speed sensor in the rear end. He fixed it for free, feeling sorry for us that we had two expensive car repairs on our Fords within 2 days. The mechanic said if we had driven much longer with that problem, the car could have seized (my words), the car stopped and "thrown us through the windshield." (Yes, we wear seatbelts.)

- , Crescent, IA, USA

problem #17

Mar 102007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles


Ok... only after I purchased my 2002 Explorer I found out that 02 was the worst year ever for this vehicle, now I know why.

An annoying noise from the rear end that sounded like a problem with the rotors, ended up being a differential problem that cost $1,000.00 to repair. After spending some time on the internet researching, I found several people with the same problem, all 02 and 03 Explorers... so I contacted Ford that simply replied saying that they were aware of the problem, but since the Dept. of Hwy Safety didn't find it life threatening Ford decided a recall was not necessary. My vehicle is only 47k miles, I shouldn't have to fix the differencial at this point, and IT IS dengerous, the back wheels could lock while the car is running.

I also had to replace the gas gauge sensor, and repair the transmission because it jumped from 1st to 2nd.


Let's do something about it.

- , Hickory, NC, USA

problem #16

Mar 082007

(reported on)

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I love my explorer but the one thing that is wrong with it is going to cost me a ton of money to fix. I know a lot of other people have had the same problem the rear differential. I found that the thing that starts the problem is the pinion bearing which i am in the proses of trying to change my self. If it was to fail, it would result in the locking of the rear wheels and a loss of control which most likely will end up killing someone.

- , Kingsville, OH, Afghanistan

problem #15

Sep 062006

(reported on)

Explorer LX

  • 68,000 miles

With the miles on my Explorer I felt I was in need of new brakes and dropped off my vehicle at Midas. I was contacted by the mechanic that afternoon and was advised "Sir, I'm happy to report that your brakes are in excellent condition. However, I'm sorry to be the bearer of very bad news. Your rear differential seals are bad and leaking and the differential is close to "falling off" of your vehicle." He further states he has been an authorized mechanic for 25 yrs and feels this is an inherent flaw from Ford as this is not the first one he has seen and that I proceed to the nearest Ford service dept for them to correct this dangerous "safety issue." The mechanic also gave me a copy of the TSB from Ford. I called a local Ford service dept the same day in a state of panic! A service manager assured me that not only was the mechanic who alerted me of this "flaw" not authorized by Ford, but he was only over-reacting. I took my Explorer in today with the notice by Midas and it was only discounted as being a "service bulletin for technicians." I paid $55 for them to run the same tests as Midas had done, was told by the service manager "The right rear bearing needs replacing, the seals of the differential needs are bad and leaking and need replacing, there was no recall on your vehicle, you're out of warranty and the repairs would be $700+ and service should be done very soon as the damage will worsen." No one at the dealer would admit that there has been problems. I declined the repairs, advised the service manager I would be calling my attorney for further instruction. I have discovered that there are a numerous amount of people who have complained about this very issue on another website (www.safercar. gov). This is an issue that Ford needs to step to the plate and issue a recall. Something needs to be done!!!

- , Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #14

Feb 082007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


We have a 2002 Ford Explorer with 65K miles. We asked our mechanic to check the brakes because I had been hearing strange noises and wasn't sure what it was. He told us that there was no problem with the brakes, but that we were getting ready to lose our back end. He said he had seen this in other ford vehicles, but that it was not part of a recall. It was what Ford calls a "revision", one step below a recall. In other words, they know it is a problem, but the consumer has to pay to have it repaired. We really feel that this should be addressed by Ford as a recall. If you've had the same problem, please let me know.

- , Eads, TN, USA

problem #13

Feb 012007

(reported on)

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles

Took car in for apparent noises in front end and was told that there was a need for a rear-end overhaul. Cost $1,600. After paying to get it fixed, guess what, the problem with the noises in the front, and the fact that the RPM doesn't go over 1500 while you are going 65-75 is still existing.

- , Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #12

Jan 222007

(reported on)

Explorer LX 4 L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Recently I started hearing a houling noise while excellerating and decellerating. Sounded like it was coming from a bad brake or something. Further investigation would make one believe it was from the rear differential. The brakes were checked and although the front are worn the back seem fine and would not cause that noise. Talked to the Ford dealership where I purchased the vehicle and was estimated $1000 - $1500 for repairs. He told me it could be a side ir pinion bearing . This is a known problem for ford yet nothing is being done by them to rectify the problem.

- , Trenton, ON, Canada

problem #11

Jan 172007

(reported on)

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

I'm a first time owner of a 02 explorer which was purchased from an official ford dealership. The vehicle was used with 27k miles, with one owner. Only months later, did I notice transmission problems. i. e. Slipping and lunging into rear and/or drive. The dealership (only under limited warranty mended the problem at their expense)... months elapse and the problem returned in which the dealership wouldn't pay for 2nd repair. My cost $2k for tranny repairs....

Currently, my SUV has 125k miles and acquired a familiar humming noise (a noise that 02 explorer owners hear so well). This noise is very prominent at coasting and accelerating highway speeds. This noise is not from brakes, wheels, etc. I had those details check and replaced.... from reading several and numerous post over the entire web, i realize that I'm not alone.

My real problem wasn't the transmission... it's the rear differential!!! I'm taking the replacement route into my own hands. I'm asking for 02 Explorer owners for your experiences replacing a rear differential. I'm going to locate and replace the rear differential through a university mechanics shop. This option appears to be the most economical route....

Rear differential 02 Explorer owners.... you're my only hope!

- , Kosciukso, MS, USA

problem #10

Dec 092006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0 V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


I bought this Explorer in 04 with 26,000 miles on it. Wife did 99.9% of driving this vehicle. At about 58,000 or so she said something was wrong with brakes, so I checked them and there was no problem. I bought her an 04 Escalade a few months ago so I inherited the Explorer. All in all had been a good vehicle up to this point. I travel in my job and began to notice a lot of road noise from under suv. Also there was a weird feeling from vehicle while turning at low speed(like it was locked in 4wd) or driving over rumble strips. Replaced tires, changed differential fluid with additive and still the same problem everyone else has. Ford needs a recall or stands to lose alot of customers!

- , Ashland, KY, USA

problem #9

Dec 142006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 3.2

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Noise coming from the drive shaft. Someone please help, I have a terrible noise coming from the back of this SUV I had all brakes replaced and rotors, problems is still there and getting worse. It is a loud rubbing noise coming from the back wheels section. Let me know the cost and how to addresss this issue. Thank You

- , Saginaw, MI, USA

problem #8

Jan 092007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

The left seal went then the right a few weeks later. Then the left one again. They kept saying at the dealership that each time they would get a newly designed seal.? Then they replaced the left rear wheel bearing from noise but it got louder. Had vehicle towed to dealership as differential was leaking again. Replaced the whole thing this time.

- , Howell, MI, USA

problem #7

Jan 032007

(reported on)

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

Rear seals leak, has happened multiple times, all at low mileage. Go to and lodge your complaint! Maybe this will help persuade Ford to do something about this problem. We had to get our rear seals replaced 3 TIMES. Each time we were promised that the seals would last for at least 50,000 miles. Yeah right!

- , Salem, OR, USA

problem #6

Jan 022007

(reported on)

Explorer 4.0 L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

When placing the truck into reverse there is a clanging noise ( this noise sounds like it is in the transmission, it is just when your transmission is shifting the gear into reverse ). This noise is only at the shift and it makes me wander but it does not scare me to bad. I think it might be just a loud shifter ( I hope ). Then when backing backwards ( mostly up hill ) the front end makes a clanging noise if the truck is on slippery ground. Only if the wheels are slipping and even if it is in four wheel drive does this noise happen. So I try to go slow without slipping because the more the truck slips the more noise comes from what sounds to be in the front drivetrain. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.

- , Trenton, Nova Scotia, Canada

problem #5

Dec 282006

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

I've been a loyal FORD customer all my life (now 48) and for the last 7 years have either owned or leased NEW vehicles under warranty, the last being an 04 Explorer that goes off lease in 2 months. Instead of paying Ford the outrageous lease buyout since our driving has been considerably reduced, I shopped around and found an 02 Explorer private party one owner in what seemed to be Great condition. Owner had all service records done at Dealership totaling over $6500 including $1200 deductible paid when the dealer agreed to warranty his failed tranny at 74970 miles. Thought I was getting an OK deal until on the way home the famous "rear end noise" started coming from what sounds like the RR wheel area. Noise increases under load and decreases during coast worse 50-65 mph. After reading all the issues all over the net and hearing horror stories of multiple rear end/bearing/seal replacements on the same vehicles I really wish I could unload this tomorrow! I'm already in hot H2O from not buying from a family member who is a Ford sales manager and will get worse when I ditch Ford altogether! THEY KNOW THIS PROBLEM EXISTS AND CHOOSE TO IGNORE IT!

- , Aspers, PA, USA

problem #4

Nov 182006

(reported on)

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

OK people.... I just wanted to let everyone know they are gettin ripped off with at the dealerships. I have a 2002 xls with an automatic transmission and had the same problems that it seems like many others are having. There was noise coming from the rear differential and the right seal was leaking. I took it to ford and they told me exactly what i already knew... i needed to replace the seal. So i looked into it unlike the rest of you and found that the seal only cost like $30. Then i bought it and replaced it myself instead of letting ford touch it. And for the people out there with the rear noise i am glad to inform you all that is needed is a little bottle of differential additive :) all it cost is about $12 at the auto store. This thins out the differential fluid so that it runs smoother with less noise. If this helps anyone... glad i could help;)

- , Bethel, OH, USA

problem #3

Sep 162006

(reported on)

Explorer LX

  • 68,000 miles

I have 68k miles on my 2002 explorer and felt i was in need of new brakes and dropped off the vehicle at midas. I was contacted by the mechanic that afternoon and was advised: "sir i'm happy to report that your brakes are in excellent condition; however, i'm sorry to be the bearer of very bad news. Your rear differential seals are bad and leaking and the differential is close to 'falling off' of your vehicle! He further states, "he has been an authorized mechanic for 25 years and feels this is an inherent flaw from Ford as this is not the first one he has seen and that i proceed to the nearest Ford service department for them to correct this dangerous "safety issue." The mechanic also gave me a copy of the tsb from ford. I called a local ford service department the same day in a state of panic! A service manager assured me that not only was the mechanic who alerted me of this "flaw" not authorized by Ford, but he was only over-reacting! I took my explorer in today with the notice printed by midas and it was only discounted as being a "service bulletin for technicians." I paid $55 for them to run the same tests as midas had done, was told by the service manager; "the right rear bearing needs replacing, the seals of the differential needs are bad and leaking and need replacing, there was no recall on my vehicle, you're out of warranty, and the repairs would be $700+ and service should be done very soon as the damage will worsen. No one at the dealer would admit that this was a recall. I paid a $55 diagnosis charge for them to tell me what parts had failed which i already knew. I declined the repairs, advised the service manager i would be calling my attorney for further instruction. I am now seeking legal advice as i see i am not the only person who has experienced this "inherent ford flaw" and will do my best to see that Ford addresses this safety issue. This is a serious flaw from Ford!*

- , Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #2

Sep 072006

(reported on)


  • 88,000 miles

The "Growling" and "Whining" began at about 45,000 miles and became so bad that I had to take it in. After three different opinions from 3 different mechanics it was determined that the best way to get rid of the problem was to replace the rear differential. We started with one from a salvage yard from an '03 Explorer with approximately 40,000 miles on it. Same EXACT problem. It was exactly the same as before the changeout. So, we tried another salvage yard differential. Same crap again! Okay, now we have to come to the realization that if the part came from the salvage yard it was probably junk. So then, we decided to spend additional dollars and go for a remanufactured differential. Gotta work, right? WRONG! It's the same goddam noise! It starts at around 40mph and really whines at 55-65.

I'm fed up! I'm seriously thinking about starting a class-action lawsuit against Ford. I have read HUNDREDS of posts on various websites regarding this problem and I have yet to see Ford do anything about it past the 3/36 warranty period. Even when they do, the problem comes back! This is absolutely not acceptable! I have never had a rear-end that was so troublesome... ever!

I take great care of all of my cars and this Explorer has been babied from day one. I change the oil every 3000 miles, new coolent every 25,000 miles, well, you know the drill. If the problem would have gone away after the first fix I would be so damn mad. But c'mon. Even a remanufactured unit should sound as good as it did the day the car rolled out of the factory.

In talking to the owner of the shop where the "repairs" have been done, he tell me that he's had quite a few 2002-2004 Explorers in his shop lately (for other things) and they all sound loud from the rear-end! It's apparent that these owners aren't noticing the increased noise coming from their Explorers, or they just don't want to spend the money to get it fixed.

If there's a good lawyer out there that wants to go for Ford's throat on this, let me know. I'm sooooo ready!

- , Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #1

Jul 132006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • 74,000 miles

So irritated with my Ford!! I have wanted a SUV for a long time, I liked the Ford Explorer particularly, I've had a Ford F150 in the past that was a awsome truck, so I figured I would have good luck with that again. I WAS WRONG!! I bought my Explorer not even 3 wks ago and it is in the shop with rear differential problems and timing chain tensioner problems.... I've read enough on this site and other sites to know that there are LOTS of people with the same problem... Someone said on here that Ford has obviously got a problem with their drive train - this makes the damn thing work, you have problems here, and you are in trouble!! Not only do these problems put your truck out of comission, it puts LOTS of money out of your pocket - obviously I'm not rich, or I would have bought a new Lexus SUV instead of a used Ford. This is the thing, there are no recalls on the drive train, but, from everything I have read, there should be. If you would go to this site and post your complaints, maybe we can get Ford backed into a corner where they have to acknowledge these problems... I know that there are a few people on here that have done this already, but, unfortunately just a few of us can't get much accomplished. Please take 5 min - no more time than it took you to post your problems on here - and go to and place a complaint on their site, if we ALL do this, maybe we can get something done. In the mean time we are all screwed with crappy drive trains that are repeatedly breaking and causing us costly problems!! This sucks, I'm so damn disappointed that I don't know what to do!! Please help me make Ford do something about this!!!

- , Pampa, TX, USA

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