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 1 of 2)

problem #40

Dec 282016


  • 126,000 miles


Door ajar light is always on and alarm goes off constantly from it. Seat belt light is always on even when seat belts are in use. ABS light is always on and off. Always issues with heat and coolant.

- Maspeth, NY, USA

problem #39

May 022016


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While the vehicle was parked, the contact noticed an abnormal noise coming from the engine compartment. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the engine needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 120,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Caldwell, TX, USA

problem #38

Apr 112016


  • 108,000 miles
Transmission failure.

- Rockland, NY, USA

problem #37

Mar 012016


  • miles


Check engine light came on went to a auto repair shop and was given oem code P0442 (evaporative emission system). The scent of gas was present. I changed the fuel cap and issue still remains. Gas fuel tank vapor vent check valve is defective and must be replaced.

- Queens Village, NY, USA

problem #36

Mar 112016


  • 123,076 miles
Turned car on to drive it would not start after sever rainfalls until finally when I did the last time after a jump, battery new. It started to make this awful noise like a clanking sound like a chain sound. I took it to a mechanic and he did not know what the problem was, called a mobile mechanic and he said the same thing said it could be a valve or piston problem. From what I hear sounds like a chain. Before this happening the rear window regulators for the rear passenger windows right and left sides broke. Had left side fixed right side not fixed, glass still held with a board inside door.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #35

Feb 112016


  • 130,000 miles
I was driving my Ford on the highway and the next thing I know my feet were really hot and black smoke started coming up. Then the black smoke started coming from the engine and I nearly crashed trying to get to the edge of the highway before the fire took over the whole front of the car. Luckily the fire department was right there for another accident. It was incredibly disturbing experience. Luckily my 3 small children were not in the car.

- Jupiter, FL, USA

problem #34

Dec 162015


  • 215,000 miles


Car stalled on busy street, then was restarted and lost power. Then fire in engine compartment. Cause is unknown. Car was well maintained. Total loss was not covered by insurance

- Lakeville, MA, USA

problem #33

Apr 142015


  • 119,000 miles
My truck began to shake when I stop at stop signs and lights. The service engine soon light came on and would not go out. I got a code reading, there were many fuel ejection issues. I got a diagnostic test today, and was told it could be the fuel pump. When I put gas in, the gas pump gets stuck inside sometimes. Does not come out smoothly. What is going on?

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #32

Jul 112009


  • 80,000 miles
In 2009 on the way to our family vacation our transmission failed. We had it towed and the transmission replaced with a Ford rebuilt transmission with a warranty purchase. In 2012 this rebuilt transmission failed and we had it taken to a Ford dealer and the transmission replaced with another transmission. This current transmission is exhibiting the same symptoms as the last two did prior to failure.

- Mclean, VA, USA

problem #31

Jan 202015


  • 191,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated while driving approximately 70 mph, the temperature gauge displayed signs that the vehicle was overheating. The contact shut the vehicle off, and restarted it but the failure persisted. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that there was a crack on the intake manifold. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure was 191,000.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #30

Dec 182013

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 105,000 miles


My 2002 Ford Explorer, since 2013 have blew out sparks plugs three times. The threats of the head are damage.

- Spring Glen, NY, USA

problem #29

Dec 212014

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • miles
Bought an Explorer we thought was a private owner on craiglist in Chicago, and found out he was a dealer from Indiana. He signed the title as first auto Inc. 2620 165th in hammond in 46323. The name of seller is [xxx]. the dmv file a complaint on our behalf and stated what he did was illegal. We did not know he was a dealer til when we tried to transfer our plates the next day. We took the truck in for service and my mechanic stated that carfax has the miles almost 80,000 more than what is on the odometer. The odometer listed 110,000 and carfax was far past that amount. The dealer rolled back the miles of Explorer. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Round Lake Beach, IL, USA

problem #28

Nov 162014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
Overdrive light came on. Check transmission light came on. The truck suddenly started screeching loudly, nearly caused an accident while going to the airport on an expressway.

- Copiague, NY, USA

problem #27

Oct 292014


  • 183,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer Sport. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the engine light illuminated as the vehicle started to overheat and stalled. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that the water pump and heating core needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 183,000. Updated 1/16/15

- Mobile, AL, USA

problem #26

Jun 112014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 134,000 miles
Timing chain problems; back chain 'plastic' tensor broke and affected critically entire engine. Many people with the same problem. Transmission solenoid problems; shift rough from 1st to 2nd. Put new solenoid block, problem still there. Ford does not know what the problem is. Many people with the same problem.

- Bayamon, PR, USA

problem #25

Mar 082014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
" check engine soon" sign is on. " O/D" sign is on.

- Middletown, NY, USA

problem #24

Apr 102014


  • 128,000 miles
Explorer O/D light blinks and shifts rough from 1st to 2nd.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #23

Apr 012014


  • 135,500 miles
I was driving home from work thank god I was almost home at this time, my Ford explore was driving fine all of a sudden I herd a pop and a bang and then the motor started stumbling and shaking. As it was running the motor kept on popping I got out and seen a spark plug next to driver side fender under the hood also the coil that was plugged on to the plug was there too.I tried to grab the coil but got shocked because the rubber on the coil was broke from the plug flying out like a bullet and hitting the coil braking it in four or five places thats Y I got shocked so much.the hole point is that the plug striped out of the head and did all this damage. Now I have no way to fix this issue one of the ways to fix it can be to replace the heads on the motor witch will cost lots of money.what can I do im desperate so it would be nice to have a helping hand by the dealer but they claim it's not there fault but this has happened to so many Ford because of the heads they have used on this motor please make a recall for this issue it is a defect I do believe it is. I found over 50 people online having trouble with the same issues as me. Please help us.....

- New Haven, CT, USA

problem #22

Apr 042014


  • 136,000 miles
When driving to work three blocks away from my house I stopped at a stop light. I started to take off again once the light turned green and a sound from the engine scared me. The truck started to sound like a lawn mower. I then had the truck towed and taken to the garage where the mechanic showed me that the spark plug blow out the engine. He said that with Ford it happens alot and if you search online there are so many people that it happens to. He then told me once he fixes it I should sell it right away unless I am willing to spend what the car is worth on replacing heads. If Ford knows about the problem why isn't there a recall on this already.

- New Haven, CT, USA

problem #21

Feb 202014


  • 166,000 miles
It is having trouble shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. Engine revs up to and over 4,000rpms and slams into the gears.

- Ringwood , NJ, USA

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