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:
16 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
8 / 0
Average Mileage:
75,198 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 24 of 45)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #428

Aug 132007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 78,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer transmission failure. During normal highway driving conditions, transmission slips, O/D light flashes, vehicle coasts to a stop. Causes traffic delays, increases chances for multi-vehicle accidents.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

problem #427

Apr 302008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 103,346 miles
Check engine soon light went off, then O/D light kept blinking, failed to go into gear and locked up while driving home. Took it to shop and mech said it was a bad transmission and is now rebuilding it for 1,900 usd.

- Perry, NY, USA

problem #426

Feb 162008


  • 180,000 miles
Transmission shifted hard into 2nd gear from day one, took it to dealer and they said it was normal, whining in rear end also said normal. Had to replace 2 wheel bearings, 2 more bad now, replaced wheel hub, now transmission will not shift.

- Wheeling, WV, USA

problem #425

Mar 282008


  • 81,000 miles


Over the past month my 2002 Ford Explorer limited has begun to knock very hard when put into reverse and it also shifts badly once rolling forward, knocking and jerking.

- Katy, TX, USA

problem #424

Apr 282008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 66,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer no prior warning O/D lights starts to flash then service engine light soon came on now transmission will not shift into third unless I let off the accelerator only 66,000 miles and 1 day out of warranty I have seen numerous complaints on web sites about this problem Ford refuses to acknowledge this problem but many mechanics across the country are aware of it Ford says it is not a safety issue not a safety issue a transmission when my wife and daughter ride in this vehicle every day and god forbid they get stuck and end up in an accident then what it still isn't a safety issue!!!!

- Valley Stream, NY, USA

problem #423

Jan 012007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 40,000 miles
On my 2002 Ford Explorer SUV I have had to replace 3 of the 4 wheel bearings and hub assemblies(approx $250 each), with the 4th not far behind. I have also had to replace the 4-wheel drive module(approx $400-$500). I have had problems with the rear window motors going bad and having to replace these too. The air conditioning unit has stopped working. The passenger air bag dummy light has come on for no reason. The seat belt warning chime often comes on and will not go off, even though you have buckled your seat belt. You have to slam the buckle into place for it to go off and sometimes this does not work either. The transmission is now making a lovely clunking sound when shifting from park to drive and when you try to put it back into park, it does not want to. You have to put it up to park as far as it will go then go back to neutral and then into park from there. We have replaced the emergency brake shoes on both sides because they were completely worn off even though we do not use the E-brakes. These problems are just piling up one after another. I went to an internet site that has complaints about vehicles and found that there are hundreds of others with the same problems on their 2002 Ford Explorer of all kinds (XL, eddie bauer, special edition, etc.). why hasn't Ford done any recalls for these problems" does it require multiple injuries or even death for them to take responsibility??"

- Monroeville, OH, USA

problem #422

Apr 022008


  • 68,000 miles


O/D light started to blink and car is revving and does not shift into 3rd gear.

- Downingtown, PA, USA

problem #421

Apr 172008


  • 65,000 miles
The transmission in my 2002 Ford Explorer has failed. The O/D light started blinking. Took it to aamco and they said I need to replace the transmission. They said they have dealt with many 2002 Ford Explorer with the same problem. Updated 05/19/08

- Fairfax Station, VA, USA

problem #420

Apr 202008

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,500 miles
Transmission won't go into gear sometimes when pulling away from a stop. It also slips occasionally when accelerating.

- Fayetteville, PA, USA

problem #419

Apr 192008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,346 miles
Transmission making noise when shifting into 3rd gear. Od light blinks and check transmission message comes on.

- Vista, CA, USA

problem #418

Apr 192008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Rear differential and also the transmission. Please do a recall on this before someone dies. You make tons of money off your loyal costumers, now do something for them and fix an obvious problem that mechanics, dealerships and owners of 2002 Ford Explorer know about. Thank you

- San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

problem #417

Sep 012006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles
Blinking O\D light, transmission will only shift into overdrive under no load, late and hard shift from 1st to 2nd (or accel to about 20 mph then back off to minimize jar to drive line components), and 4-wheel drive will not engage. Safety issues: (1) pulling out in traffic, can't accelerate until shifts into 2nd gear (have to back off in 1st before it shifts) (2) 4-wheel traction lock does not function. From the day I bought this Explorer new, the transmission shifted later and harder than I though appropriate. Then at about 80 to 85K miles the od and 4-wheel drive stopped working and shifts between 1st to 3rd became much worse. The torque converter lock up still seems to be working (can tell when it's running road speed in 3rd gear). After some research using Ford shop manuals, there seems to be direct relationship between 1st to 2nd late/hard shifts and the overdrive problem but I can;T find an official Ford posting or tech bulletin to provide details. Internal pressures control the shifting and there are several valves, orifices, solenoids, etc that can cause improper control pressures. Ford must know of the problem and truthfully, I think the reliability of the tranny in the irs Explorer falls well below the publics expectations and should be even farther below Ford acceptance criteria. Despite the premature failure, I would probably be content if Ford provided their Explorer owners a detailed description of the failure, developed a long term fix, provided Ford owners some reasonable options to install the parts and/or make the modifications needed for a long term fix (to include self repair as an option), and establish a help desk to assist customers with this extremely high transmission failure rate.

- Sierra Vista, AZ, USA

problem #416

Apr 032008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer, transmission failed at 69,000 miles. I am the original owner and will never buy another Ford.

- Wolcottville, IN, USA

problem #415

Apr 102008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles
The service engine light would occasionally turn on along with the check transmission light at approx. 95,000 miles on my 2002 Ford Explorer. The shiftiing of the gears would not shift properly causing a usually high idle at certain gears. Also the O/D light would also constantly blink along with the check engine light. Currently my Explorer is in a repair shop and needs to have the transmission rebuilt. The total cost of the repair is $2,300. A vehicle should not have these many complaints about a transmission problem with less than a 100K miles.

- Newport News, VA, USA

problem #414

Apr 122008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,500 miles
O/D light blinking; service engine light on. I brought the car in and it was hooked up to the computer. Basically was told I needed a transmission. The car only has 67,000 miles on it. I did some research online and it seems that this is more common than I thought. There is even a tsb (03-25-4).

- Newington, CT, USA

problem #413

May 102007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the transmission was faulty. While driving 25 mph, the transmission began making a roaring noise. The vehicle would jerk badly in traffic and the contact would lose control. He called the local Ford dealer and they stated that the repair would cost $5,000 because the warranty expired. Ford also stated that there were no recalls on the vehicle. He took the vehicle to a transmission specialist to have it rebuilt for $3,100. The specialist stated that imperial parts did not manufacture the transmission correctly. The current and failure mileages were 97,000.

- Pound, VA, USA

problem #412

Oct 192007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles
Placing vehicle from park to drive wants to accelerate on its own. When placing back into park it is hesitant. This really scares me, I have to park a bit from the car in front of me, to make sure I don't hit it.

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #411

Apr 032008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Transmission would rev before shifting into 3rd gear, had it replaced at a Ford dealership with Ford parts, 17 months later same thing and Ford will not back it up, a transmission should last longer than 17 months, this has cost me a total of $4,000 dollars, and due to this defect the cars book value is $4,500 because it is a known fact that the factory parts and the replacement parts are no good. 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty, when the standard is 36 month, 36,000 miles. This truck sucks!!!!!!!!! Ford needs to do something about this problem!!

- Louisville, OH, USA

problem #410

Oct 192007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl Diesel

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,719 miles
Continuous problems with transmission, and E-brake. E brake replaced and bad again. Had transmission repair at dealership a 400 miles before 75,000 mile warranty ended. Taken back 100 miles later transmission problem again. Past warranty now and still having problems. I will not buy Ford again, it has been a nightmare. Also air bag light keeps coming on. -please ignore equipment part of this complaint, I misunderstood.

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #409

Mar 292008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Overdrive light started blinking and car engine revved when giving gas while driving. Brought to Ford dealer 3300. Dollars later a new transmission. Transmission failure when driving is a safety issue. If you knew your transmission could cut out on you while driving say on the highway would you do it"would you put your family in it"

- Sanford, ME, USA

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