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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 8
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
81,905 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 3 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #16

Jun 012003

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 22,000 miles


: the contact stated the vehicle has intermittently stalled possibly due to outdoor heat. The vehicle stalled or would not start on nine different occasions. The vehicle was taken to the service dealer after each incident where the inertia switch, the fuel pump and the PCM module were changed. This problem occurred eight times while the vehicle stopped, while it was started, at an intersection, and once with the vehicle in motion at 35 mph. The contact also stated the gas storage tank had developed a hole and was leaking gas.

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #15

Jul 282006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles
: the contact stated while driving 35 mph, there was a sensation of running over something. The vehicle then stalled completely. The vehicle was taken to a service dealer, where the dealer determined that due to the engine locking up, the entire engine needed to be replaced.

- Benicia, CA, USA

problem #14

Jul 142006

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles
: the contact stated while driving the vehicle 25-35 mph, there was a sound like an explosion coming from the engine. The vehicle was towed to a garage where the garage determined a spark plug had blown out. The dealership determined this was a very common problem with these vehicles. The dealership also informed the contact that once this happens, it keeps happening and eventually the engine will need to be replaced. The coil was damaged when the spar plug failed. Updated 08/08/06.

- Lincoln, CA, USA

problem #13

Jul 062006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles


I just bought a 2002 Ford Explorer with 74,000 miles on it. I have had it for just long enough to discover a few problems with it, and have done enough research to know that I am not the only one by far with the same problems. I am not sure what causes the problems that I am experiencing, I just know that lots of other people are also having these problems. First of all, there is a leak in my rear differential. My truck is currently in the shop for that now - however, the shop mgr refuses to fix the leak until the rear end breaks.... which will cost more and cause more repairs than necessary at the current time. My second problem - which the service mgr again refuses to fix until it breaks is with the timing chain tensioner - which leads to transmission problems which are also very costly. I have done my homework on this situation, since I have been forced to, and I am seeing over and over and over again, replaced the rear end on my 2002 Explorer (multiple times on the same vehicle), and I am seeing over and over and over again, new transmission on my 2002 Explorer (again, multiple times on the same vehicle). I don't know if anyone else knows about this site, or I'm sure that hundreds of the same kind of complaints would be filed with you.... someone really needs to look in to this problem, because Ford is awful proud of their vehicles and I am paying a hefty chunk of money for mine, as are the tons of other people out there with the same problems who just may not know how to go about getting something done regarding this problem... I'm speaking not only for myself, but, for loads of other people with the same problems. Please look into this problem, I beg you!! I don't want to be on the side of the road with my babies (4 & 5 yrs old) praying that the right person stops to help me and not the one with bad intentions!! something needs to be done about this - Ford has got obvious drive train problems!!! thank you for your attention in this matter!

- Pampa, TX, USA

problem #12

Jul 012006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • miles
2002 Explorer has problems picking up speed and over use of gas. The consumer also had problems with the transmission, gear adjustment, difficult high altitude driving even after gear change, air suction into the engine and transmission, accelerator and ses light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer but they refused to provide any assistance. Updated 07/06/06.

- Cypress, CA, USA

problem #11

Jun 092006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
On or about November 3, 2005, I purchased a break model used Ford Explorer XLT 2002 from norm reeves Honda car dealer in cerritos, ca. The car had 78,000 miles on it at the time of purchase. I signed the papers and took the possession of the car. It has not been more than 2 months that the car started giving me trouble on the pick up of the speed, transmission, gear adjustment, over use of the gas, difficult high altitude driving even after change of gears, air suction into the engine and transmission, accelerator and signs like service engine soon on the front panel, although I have been getting regular lube and tune on the car after every 3000 miles. While driving the, occasionally, the car gives a thundering noise on the tires as if it is dragging itself and running on the road. This makes me fear that my car is not safe for me to drive! the norm reeves Honda super store car dealer knew that the car is defective and they simply wanted to get rid of a used 2002 Ford Explorer XLT vehicle from the fleet as they primarily sell Honda cars and similar vehicles. Despite repeated requests, the norm reeves Honda super store and their sister company Ford of cerritos refused to provide service on the car since I stopped payments on the car loan. Other Ford car dealers have test driven this car and observed the same defects as I have mentioned. My purpose of writing this complaint with the NHTSA is to request the intervention of NHTSA immediately as the questioned vehicle is likely to endanger my life on the local roads and/or on highway/freeways. Due to major defects in the car, I can meet with a serious accident and can be crippled or suffer such pecuniary losses that are irreplaceable and/or I can die also with out any fault of mine. Please recall Firestone tires V. Ford Motor Company case law. Criminal charges against norm reeves Honda, Ford of cerritos and their ceos to follow. Please contact me and the dealers asap. Respectfully submitted, amardeep singh gill.

- Cypress, CA, USA

problem #10

May 102006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


Brought in my 2002 Ford Explorer for routine maintenance - 60K service. In the process of doing service, tech found a bad injector, replaced injector but found there was a bad cylinder. Advised me of this. I gave go ahead to fix. When they went to pull head to send valves off for fix, discovered that the timing chain guides on both sides had holes worn in them all the way through the top and bottom of them. This should not have happened on a 5 year old vehicle w/ 60,000 miles on it.

- Lacey, WA, USA

problem #9

Oct 302005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,100 miles
SUV in service for 40 mths & 33K miles when ac evaporator went. No warranty coverage. Then several months later with just over 36K miles a rear timing chain went. Ford provided some after warranty assistance, but these failures cost consumer over $2K for a vehicle that was just out of warranty and has been babied its whole life.

- Melbourne, FL, USA

problem #8

May 152003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,078 miles
ABS light came on at 19,518 miles, 22,071 miles, and 27,078 miles. More importantly, however, are my issues with the 2002 Explorer rear end. 10/1/03: 27,078 miles ABS light came on, the dealer replaced the assembly. Rear differential was leaking, dealer replaced the seals. 7/28/04: 40,541 miles rear end leaking again. Half shafts were worn. Rear locking diff was slipping. The dealer had to replace both halfshafts, seals, and clutch packs. 9/22/04: 43,203 miles rear axle chattering. Replaced whole rear axle assembly. 2/25/05: 54,960 miles rear diff making more noise. Left rear axle bearing was noisy. Replaced left rear axle hub and assembly. On test drive, the dealer found that the bearing they just installed was bad, so they had to replace it again. 8/11/05: 68,000 miles leaking fluid from rear end. The dealer performed the following maintenance: Replaced diff seals, replaced timing chain, replaced right front hub assembly, replaced ring and pinion, replaced front end tie rods, replaced both lower ball joints, performed front end alignment. All told, I have had my Explorer in the shop at least 10 times. My warranty is about to expire (7,000 more miles) and I'm going to try to get Ford to buy the vehicle back. From what I've heard, this is not an easy process and apparently doesn't happen often with such 'high mileage' vehicles. If they don't buy it back I will be forced to take a huge loss on the vehicle. I will then purchase anything but a Ford.

- Mason, MI, USA

problem #7

Dec 202004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles
April 04 purchased 2002 Ford Explorer; just over 60,000 miles. No longer under warranty'sold as is. Day after purchase, noticed knocking sound. Returned to dealer. Stated sound coming from the rear ac. Repaired, did not hear after repair. Approximately one week after purchase, noticed delay in gears engaging when going from park to drive, park to reverse also gear shift seemed to be loose. Returned to dealer; told it was normal for this model. Advised to keep in overdrive. Late July 2004, noticed delay seem to be getting longer and jerking suddenly when finally engaged. While driving, od light flashed on and off erratically. Problem with od light intermittent. Spouse took the car to the dealer; told that it wasn't under warranty, but we could make a service appointment. Spouse took the vehicle to a shop had done business in the past. Thought that it could need transmission fluid. Checked fluid levels not deficient. Problems continued; had them look at it a couple of months later. Could not determine problem, advised to take to a transmission specialist if continued. Problem persisted. Seemed to get worse as the weather turned colder. Late December 04, delays in engaging gears worsened; now making a loud clunking noise and lunges when engages, od light flashed erratically on a frequent basis and engine service light on and gear shift seemed to be coming out. January 2005, spouse took the vehicle to a transmission shop for diagnostic. Transmission shot. Rebuilt at a cost of $2900. Found out that the vehicle had been repaired twice before, while under warranty for the same problems described. Its obvious from the number of complaints that this is a known design defect. When a company sells defective products they should be held liable, especially when they do so knowingly. I stopped making payments on this junk and will notify the lender so that they and Ford can fight it out. Any owner who wishes may contact me at 703-998-5510.

- Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #6

Jun 232005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 50,000 miles


Driving and heard engine noise engine stalled wouldn't start in the middle of rush hour traffic...I was going downhill and able to roll to the side out of traffic and to safety. Engine froze while driving with no warning, no the middle of traffic endangering myself and my daughter. My car sat 2 weeks at the Ford dealer as they received 5 cars with engines frozen and couldn't get to my car until 7/8/05 cause they had to replace engines. When engine was torn down I was advised a valve spring broke and dropped into the cylinder tearing up the engine and now I need a new engine. Ford motor will not back up their product.

- Dana Point, CA, USA

problem #5

May 202005

Explorer 4WD

  • miles
2002 Ford Explorer experiencing problems with the 4WD, the over drive light illuminates on the dashboard and the vehicle is giving off a rotten egg smell. There were front end problems. The 4WD module wasn't working. The driveshaft and both front wheel bearings were replaced. The rotors were out of round. The service engine light illuminated along with the over drive light. The transmission experienced the same problem on two occasions and possibly a third time. A large puddle of transmission was found under the vehicle. The torque converter was noisy. The acceleration pedal would pull back. When the vehicle was accelerated, it would whine. The left rear wheel bearing was gone and caused damage to the axle, brakes and the tire was barely holding on. The error code for the service engine soon light was due to the solenoid which had been changed before. The A/C was inoperative.

- Morris, PA, USA

problem #4

Feb 232005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 34,700 miles
Vehicle was parked in the garage when it caught on fire unexpectedly. The sounds of fire trucks at about 3:15 am before consumer knew their garage was the one on fire. The Ford Explorer was completely destroyed as well as the other 1992 GMC. The fire came from under the hood of the Ford Explorer.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #3

Nov 032004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,120 miles
Truck well maintained at 59,000 miles truck broke an engine rod need new engine, cost $4800, replacing engine. I think Ford should pay for this.

- Dayville, CT, USA

problem #2

Oct 062004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 31,000 miles
While driving 65 mph the vehicle completely lost power without warning. As a result the vehicle failed to accelerate. The dealer stated they were unable to duplicate the problem. Please provide additional information. This has accured 5 times. Ford can not find the problem.

- Merrick, NY, USA

problem #1

Jan 152003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 15,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer and have had numerous problems that the dealer has not been able to fix. At any speed the engine is constantly making a ticking noise. Sometimes when making a complete stop the truck will stall and then jerk forward when I am trying to push on the gas to go. This happens so much and I have sent it in numerous times for this and no solution. This also happened twice on the freeway when I had to press on the brakes to stop quickly the truck locked up for about 5-10 seconds and then jerked forward. I still have to deal with this situation since I am in a lease and the dealership says they can't find anything wrong. I tell them it is dangerous for me to be driving this vehicle. Twice at a stop sign I took my foot off the brake to go but the truck starting moving backwards. I pressed the brake again then released and it still moved backwards. I then put it in park and then back in drive and then it move forwarded. I took the truck in again the next day and told him the situation and still nothing was done.

- Houston, TX, USA

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