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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
45,223 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #7

Apr 022007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,500 miles


2002 Explorer has 83,500 miles. Discovered that the 4X4 system would not engage. Ganley Ford replaced the control module that communicates with the 4X4 system at a total cost of $577. The part alone was $293. Explanation as to why the balance of the labor was so high was "the control module is difficult to reach up under the dash". why is that my problem? I had also purchased the gold plan warranty and this part was not covered. Ford's gold plan in my opinion is useless. I will never purchase another Ford product again!

- Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA

problem #6

Feb 062007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,258 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer. When it started to get very cold, my Explorer, that I just bought, started to not want to go into gear. It would grind and slip. There was a clicking sound coming from under the dash. It was from the computer that runs the 4 wheel drive. The 4 low button would just kick in by its self. Then it would not go into gear. After a while of trying to get it into gear it would go. It would only act up when it was very cold out (10 to -5 degrees) it did this to me for about a week and then it just stuck into 4 low and now won't come out. There was a smell this last time of burning electrical wire and smoke. Now my Explorer won't drive and has a electrical smoke smell stuck in it. I now have to have it towed to a Ford dealer to get it fixed. It also makes a really loud popping sound when I go to turn or hit a bump. Sound comes from the front of the Explorer drivers side.

- Maxwell , IA, USA

problem #5

Jul 012005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles
The contact stated the instrument panel cluster was no longer working. The service dealer did not state why the panel was no longer working. The electrical components failed, such as the radio, blowers, windows, airbags, and all of the safety equipment. The dealer stated it was a common problem within this type of vehicle. The part to repair was no longer available. The consumer contacted the manufacturer; they referred him to the dealer to find an aftermarket product to repair the problem.

- Norfolk, MA, USA

problem #4

Apr 122002

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,800 miles


The vehicle unexpectedly caught fire while it was parked. Results showed that there was a shortage with the cruise control switch. Two independant cause & origin reports found the fire to have started under the dash board on the drivers side. Bruce york has the C&O reports.

- Niles, OH, USA

problem #3

Jun 082004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
Vehicle was parked in public lot while visiting local store. Original driver attempted to start vehicle but was unsuccessful due to apparent loss of all electrical. Original driver noticed some smoke and/or smell of smoke from behind console. Driver immediately turned key to off position and called spouse to report failure. Spouse inspected battery cables and battery viewing eye with no findings of failure or loose cables. Spouse entered vehicle inspecting position of gear shift lever and transmission indicator for proper park position with no unusual findings. Spouse turned key to start position which produced what appeared was an electrical short under center console directly under beverage and misc holder. Spouse turned key back to off position immediately then smoke started coming from under that area of center console. Spouse removed rubber liner with screwdriver which exposed pin hole with sparks shooting outward which in turn produced a fire in the center console. Spouse attempted to stop fire with no success then exited vehicle to break off red cable at battery termination in attempt to stop fire. Original driver called on help at ups store directly in front of vehicle parked location. Employee from ups reached vehicle with fire extingiusher and stopped fire from spreading to other areas of vehicle. Vehicle was towed to champion Ford dealership within 1 1/2 hours after incident. Dealer reported findings on June 10th to vehicle owners. Dealer investigation claims unsuccessful in identifing cause of fire. Estimated cost is 1,500 $. vehicle owners are attempting to contact Ford management to cover full cost of damged due to defective vehicle electrical system.

- Stafford, TX, USA

problem #2

Feb 062004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles
I had my Explorer parked in my driveway, I was walking past it and heard a buzzing/humming sound from the front end. The car was not started though it was making this noise. I called the dealer and asked for service and asked them to hear the noise over the phone. The call was passed around the department and no one could figure it out. I was told to turn the car off and to their surprise I said I had not turned it on. The said bring it in immediately but before we hung up they wanted to see it if would start. It did, we hung up & I was on my way. On the drive there, the buzzing would stop when I would step on the brake, turn on the turn indicator or hit the hazards (didn't need them, just figured I would try them). At the dealership, everyone came out to experience this noise. I have been their customer who brings problems to them before the masses. The technician tried to stop the noise by changing out the fuses, which wasn't the problem. I ended up waiting about an hour while they unassembled the dash to find a short in the steering column. An electronic sensor was having a meltdown. I ended up leaving the Explorer with them while they ordered the new peice. The service rep also didn't want me with the vehicle since it was a fire hazard as well. They took care of it and I have not heard of any other owners who have experinced this.

- Silverdale, WA, USA

problem #1

Oct 012002

Explorer 4WD

  • miles
Vehicle brought to dealer after craking noises behind dash and driver pillar. Found 15 plus bolts loose, hoses installed incorrectly, all panels/door/grills assembly on vehicle front and rear are dropped or racked out of alignment. Dealer unable to conclude why so many defects exist.

- Hampton, NJ, USA

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