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:
1 / 5
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
123,647 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #20

Jun 092003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 25,000 miles


The engine overheated without any warning from the dashboard. I bought this car with 18,000 miles. The engine overheated when it had approximately 25,000 miles.

- Fair Lawn, NJ, USA

problem #19

Dec 262012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 122,000 miles
Was driving car along local road when the engine started to make noise and the car would not go over 5 miles and hour. Many cars severed to avoid truck and was lucky there was no accident. Truck was towed to local facility and had Ford tech look at vehicle. The timing chain tension broke. Tech and dealerships( called two for quotes ) said this was a common problem. After finding out the engine needed to be pulled for repair I had to junk the vehicle could not afford repair. This is certainly a safety issue any time a vehicle breaks without warning in the middle of traffic. It is also a know common problem. Dealer says the design of the tension is poorly produced and they had extended the warranty for the repair. Ford should fix/ replace the tensioner on these truck before someone is killed.

- Geneva, IL, USA

problem #18

Sep 052013


  • 189,294 miles
I bought a used 2002 Ford Explorer in April of this year at a used car lot. It was a beautiful blue SUV in remarkable good condition. I had it four months, and it caught on fire while at a stop sight on my way home from a shopping strip twenty miles from my home. It started smoking and while I was fumbling for my purse to get my cell phone to call for help, it caught fire and bystanders on the thoroughfare pulled me forcefully from the car, and then called the fire department. It was a total loss when the entire hood caught fire and melted. My garage mechanic, who had just seen the car, told me that he could see no reason why it would have caught fire. Can you help me?

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #17

Aug 202013


  • 180,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 45 mph, the vehicle burst into flames and the contact crashed into an embankment. The contact suffered injuries to the back. The vehicle was destroyed during the crash. The fire department was called to extinguish the fire. The fire department stated that the fire had started from the engine. The contact did not call the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 180,000. The VIN was not available.

- Maryville, TN, USA

problem #16

Aug 182013

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the engine intake manifold failed due to defective plastic that fractured and caused fluid to leak. The vehicle was taken to a mechanic for inspection where the intake manifold was replaced with a steel manifold. In addition, the spark plugs rubber and gasket was replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure and current mileage was 180,000. Updated 10/17/13 the consumer stated when he returned to the dealer, he learned when the five spark plugs were flooded they ruined two coils that sent electricity to the spark plugs. Updated the consumer believed Ford hid the plastic intake manifold problem, re-engineered the part to include 1/3 metal and then equipped all subsequent models with 1/3 metal as standard equipment in an effort to avoid responsibility for their defective design. Updated 04/17/14

- Niles , MI, USA

problem #15

Aug 272013


  • 89,000 miles
August 27,2012. Huaband driving howm from work. Going down hill to traffic light. Car suddenly, with no warning, stalls out completely. Loss of power steering, power brakes.etc. A/S contuinued to work. Engine ligh came on. Wrestled car to verge of road. Turned car off and it restarted on forst try. Stated that the following day as he attempted to pull away from stop sign, car would not initally take gas but then suddenly accelerated ( " I peeled rubber!") recalled that thatsame incident had had happened approx. 2 weeks before at a diffeent stop. Car taken to repair shop, somputer shows no issues. Believe car unsafe to drive if affected with sudden, unexplained stalling with no apparent cause. Bought car as "certified, pre-owned" used car from Ford dealership in Dec. 2012. They have no answer, no suggestions as to problem cause. Internet search shows multiple complaints for this same problem with the Ford Explorer.

- New Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #14

Mar 152011


  • 69,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the engine temperature gauge fluctuated intermittently. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnosis where it was stated that the thermostat needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 69,000.

- Las Angeles, CA, USA

problem #13

Apr 012011


  • 291,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that after shifting into reverse, there was an explosion under the hood. The air bags deployed and the engine caught fire. The fire department was present. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer. The contact also mentioned that the vehicle was taken to the dealer several times for the gears slipping where the transmission was rebuilt but the failure was not corrected. The contact and two passengers suffered injuries but they were unknown. The vehicle failure and current mileage was 291,000.

- Guilford , ME, USA

problem #12

Mar 032013


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that there was a rattling noise heard from the engine as soon as the vehicle was started. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who stated that the timing chain plastic tensioner was fractured. The vehicle was in the process of being repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 80,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Baton Rouge , LA, USA

problem #11

Feb 072013


  • 126,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while traveling 45 mph, the vehicle made a loud popping noise and the vehicle shook. The also contact stated that the check engine light, over drive, and message centers lights illuminated. The contact stated the vehicle had not been to the dealer or a mechanic. The failure and current mileages were 126,000.

- Eleanor, NC, USA

problem #10

Jan 152013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 157,000 miles


My Ford Explorer has had so many ridiculous problems. This one is extremely inconvenient. The car has trouble shifting gears, it spins from 1st to 2nd gear and then I have to let go of the accelerator for it to shift again, it skips 3rd gear altogether and jerks into fourth after pressing and depressing the accelerator a series of times. Once it's in 4th gear, it doesn't go past 50 mph. My mechanic says his monitor detected a faulty solender and the entire pack has to be replaced, but that may not be the only problem. If that doesn't do the trick (even though it needs to be replaced regardless) he will have to open the transmission and possibly rebuild or replace some of the parts. I have encountered hundreds of other 2002 Ford Explorer owners with the same problem. Aside from this, I have a list of other dangerous issues that this car has had and that has endangered my family's and my life numerous times: - gear shift breaking off the steering column as I shifted from reverse to drive in the middle of a busy intersection. - ignition cylinder/switch breaking - possible spontaneous explosion recall related to the cruise control - rear latch breaking and inability to use the rear latch. - electrical system failure - doors not closing properly & draining the battery - faulty alarm system - faulty temperature gauge and radiator - Ford not allowing customers to buy just the parts needed for replacement and repair and forcing their customers to purchase entire packages only in order to get the necessary parts at extremely high prices. Ford should be incriminated for selling these vehicles knowing full well that they are flooded with life threatening issues to their customers.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #9

Dec 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 145,000 miles
Three months ago the overdrive light began flashing on my dashboard. The automatic transmission made a loud noise when changing gears. Sometimes the RPM's will rev but the car will not increase in speed.the light will not turn off and the transmission continues to shift harshly.

- Winnetka, CA, USA

problem #8

Oct 212011


  • 65,000 miles
Transmission failed for the second time. Failed originally at 65,000 miles and had to be replaced. Failed again 3 years later at 130,000 miles and had a rebuilt transmission installed. 10 months later at 140,000 miles the transmission is leaking and starting to slip. I don't anticipate paying for a 4th transmission on this vehicle. Obviously there is something wrong with the design.

- Naperville, IL, USA

problem #7

Jul 152008


  • 62,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the timing chain belt tensioner failed and caused the vehicle to sound like a diesel truck while driving. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer and was told the engine needed to be replaced. The contact stated the noise had been a problem for over four years, but the dealer could not find anything wrong with the vehicle. The failure mileage was 62,000 and the current mileage was 101,000.

- Bay City, MI, USA

problem #6

Sep 252012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 152,000 miles
While coming off a freeway my car suddenly jerked and the transmission failed. Causing my vehicle to stop. When trying to move forward the car began to try to roll backwards into the car behind me. I was lucky I was coming to a stop rather then going full speed on the freeway. After much research I have found that this is an all too common problem with this make model and year. The transmission now needs to be completely rebuilt according to 2 mechanics.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #5

Aug 152012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 194,000 miles
Transmission failed on the highway at 70mph pulled off exit and continued on city roads to our jobs parking lot and is no longer drive able.

- Rochester, WA, USA

problem #4

Jul 192012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 203,000 miles
When accelerating on a start, car doesn't shift into 2nd and 3rd gear....unless there is a push or jump into it.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #3

Jun 252012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 155,000 miles
While driving car would not shift passed 3rd gear. I had to pull over on a busy highway because I was afraid the engine would explode. I later found out, after researching, that the risk of it shifting into reverse is a common problem with the PO745 error code in 2002 Explorer.

- Pendleton, IN, USA

problem #2

May 152012


  • 135,000 miles
As I was driving home from work my fuel gauge went from full to empty and the check gauge light came on then the vehicle died and I lost power steering and the power brakes.

- West Bend, IA, USA

problem #1

Nov 012004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles
None - just driving and engine stops without a sputter on highway at 55-65 mph or just idling, 2/3 dealer determines idle air bypass defective, 2/3 - driving home from dealer it does the same thing, 2/8 - dealer gets vehicle back and reprograms power control module, now it runs rougher than before and dies out more frequently. 2002 Ford Explorer 49K miles [xxx]. information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6)

- Lowell, MA, USA

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