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:
4 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
48,172 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 seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #13

Jun 092010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles


The side curtain airbag spontaneously deployed upon side door closure of a Ford Explorer. The vehicle was sitting after re-fueling. Concurrent with and immediately prior to the deployment of the airbag, the door alarm system was chiming that a door was ajar, and after inspection by a mechanic it was determined that the security/door warning system module has failed. Ford was sent the airbag module for inspection, and has yet to provide the results of the module inspection - after a period of more than 5 months. Further problems persist with the electronic system. The door ajar alarm continues to sound at random intervals, the interior lights flicker on and off at random intervals, and the door locks repeatedly lock and unlock, all of which cause a distracting potential safety hazard while driving.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #12

Apr 062009


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving less than 35 mph, both the driver's and passenger side window air bags deployed without warning. The vehicle became engulfed with chemicals and made a very loud sound that shocked the driver. There were no injuries. There were no warning lights illuminated on the instrument panel prior to the deployment. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and it was requested that the computer be removed from the vehicle. Ford could not offer a solution nor guarantee that the failure would not recur. The current and failure mileages were less than 120,000.

- Bass, NH, USA

problem #11

Apr 192008


  • 80,400 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. While driving 20 mph, the side air bags suddenly deployed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for repair. The contact feels that the Ford manufacturer should replace the air bags for free due to the failure being technical in nature. The current mileage was 80,544 and failure mileage was 80,400.

- Bakersfield, CA, USA

problem #10

Apr 182006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles


: the contact stated while driving 30 mph on a paved road, there was a loud noise followed by a burning smell. The side air bags had deployed. No injuries were sustained. Both occupants were wearing seat belts however, after the deployment, the seat belts strap tightened. The contact pulled over and the seat belts released. The police were contacted and a report was taken. The vehicle was towed to a dealer who was unable to determine the cause of the side airbag deployment. Updated 5/16/2006 -

- Redding, CT, USA

problem #9

Feb 272006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles
Passenger side curtain airbag deployed upon closing rear door of vehicle. Vehicle was not in motion, nor was it parked near another vehicle. Dealership ran diagnostic, computer code indicated vehicle had been in an accident. Manufacturer initially declined repair via conversation with mechanic, after I pursued claim, was told by dealership that vehicle would be repaired and I would have an expense to do so of $300. I contacted svc manager for explanation of $300, told consumer always shares in expense of repair for out of warranty items. Contacted manufacturer again, asked for review as NHTSA website states safety issues should be addressed at no expense to vehicle owner. Yet to be resolved.

- Severna Park, MD, USA

problem #8

Dec 262005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles
Ford Explorer 2002 2 wheel drive was driving at 65 mph on freeway. A car cut off the Ford and anti lock brakes were applied. Brakes locked and driver lost control of SUV. SUV rolled over and off the freeway. Side air bags and front air bags did not deploy.

- Calabasas, CA, USA

problem #7

Aug 052005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


The air bags did not deploy on driver's or passenger's sides. This happened on August 5, 2005. Not contacted Ford.

- Milwakee , WI, USA

problem #6

Apr 042005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Passenger's side door was slammed by the driver and passenger's side door air bag inadvertently went off. Driver took the vehicle to the dealer for inspection, but a cause could not be determined.

- Absecon, NJ, USA

problem #5

Dec 242004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 22,631 miles
When attempting to start the vehicle passenger's side air bag deployed, then exploded inadvertently. As a result, the steering wheel caught on fire. Vehicle remained in a garage where the incident occurred.

- Montgomery, AL, USA

problem #4

Sep 242004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,700 miles
While placing the vehicle in drive the driver's side air bag deployed. Prior to the incident the air bag light had come on intermittently.

- Hobart, IN, USA

problem #3

Aug 272004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


While driving at 45 mph consumer's vehicle was involved in a front end collision. Upon impact, front and side air bags did not deploy. No warning light appeared prior to the crash. Dealership was notified.

- Kinston, NC, USA

problem #2

Aug 272004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While driving consumer lost control of the vehicle and hit a curb and vehicle flipped more than once. Both driver's side and passenger's side air bags did not deploy. Driver sustained injuries, and was transported by ambulance to a hospital. Vehicle was totaled.

- Penasco, NM, USA

problem #1

Sep 012003

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 15,500 miles
Consumer called complaining about side air bag problems. While driving the the drivers and passenger side impact air bags deployed without any type of impact on the road. Manufacturer was contacted and replaced the air bags under the vehicle's warranty. Neither the dealer nor the manufacturer explained the cause of the the failure.

- Roseville, CA, USA

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