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 3 of 45)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #848

Jan 152010

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 140,000 miles


My issue started late in 2009. The O/D light started coming on and flashing and for a few months my vehicle would not shift properly into 3rd gear and overdrive. It would slip and clunk into gear. Then while driving up hill on a main road the transmission completely stopped working. It would not propel my vehicle and shut down right in the middle of a busy road which nearly created a multi-car accident. Both forward and reverse did not work making it impossible to get my car off the road. My car has been sitting in the back yard since I can not afford the costly repairs. I feel there is an overwhelming amount of similar problems and Ford should recall this item.

- Wolcott, CT, USA

problem #847

Dec 192010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 152,500 miles
This is the second time my O/D off light has started flashing and now the transmission has started shifting extremely hard. I have now been told that I need to have my transmission rebuilt. That is a $2800 job. This is after a year and half ago I had the same problem with this vehicle and had to have the transmission replaced. Which was a $2400 job. I don't see exactly how I could have gone through two transmissions in less than two years with the exact same problem.

- Hudson, MI, USA

problem #846

Jan 102011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
At 105K miles, our 2002 Ford Explorer started shaking as it shifted through the gears. We took it to a Ford dealer who charged $2,000 for "fixing" the problem. Driving away from the dealer, the problem continued. We took it back to the dealer who said there was another error code that cost us $30. The problem continued, and today Ford said that the transmission needed to be completely replaced. At just over 100K miles, there is no reason that the transmission should completely go out. We are now left with a vehicle that we can't sell and can't drive. Looking at several other descriptions on this website, it is apparent that Ford continues to ignore this transmission issue.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #845

Dec 292010

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 73,654 miles


The transmission on our 2002 Ford Explorer needed to be rebuilt at 36,000 miles and is now needing to be rebuilt again at 74,000 miles. The first repair was done at a Ford dealership and after much complaining we were able to have some of the cost absorbed by purchasing an extended warranty. The car started shifting rough again a few weeks ago and then quickly progressed to fully skipping 3rd gear. We are now facing rebuilding it again. We have read up on the problem and have discovered that it is very common for the earlier built 2002 Ford Explorer. We have even discovered a posting on a Ford technical service bulletin explaining exactly our situation ( tsb 04-24-17. The most frustrating thing is that Ford is aware they built a faulty transmission that will need to be rebuilt every 35,000-40,000 miles and they are doing nothing about it. Upon purchasing a car I feel that it is not unreasonable to expect the transmission to last more than 40,000 miles. We are now in the unusual situation where we no longer want to own this vehicle but feel uncomfortable selling it to anyone knowing that this is an ongoing problem and that the new owner will also have to deal with the expensive repairs of rebuilding the transmission in another 40,000 miles.

- Dana Point, CA, USA

problem #844

Jun 012005


  • 10,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer ext wagon. The contact that stated that upon purchasing the vehicle he noticed that the transmission would shift in an awkward manner. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer who informed him that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle. The failure suddenly recurred and he had to replace the transmission. He also stated that 3 out of 4 window regulators have failed. The windows are not working normally. The liftgate in the rear of the vehicle was fractured which made it difficult to open. The vehicle had only been repaired for the transmission and the 3 window regulators. The failure mileage was approximately 10,000.

- Woodbary, NJ, USA

problem #843

Jan 022011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer O/D light is blinking, as many other Ford Explorer owners I am afraid this is a serious transmission problem, I want Ford to be liable to address this problem of such a big magnitude.

- Norcross, GA, USA

problem #842

Dec 282010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,411 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 30 mph the overdrive and service warning lights illuminated as the vehicle began to lose power. The vehicle was taken to a local repair facility where the transmission converter body was rebuilt. In addition, repairs were made to the overdrive piston, overdrive speed sensor, overdrive band, carrier planter, and reverse board bushing. The mechanic also replaced the transmission fluid. The manufacturer was contacted and advised that there were no recalls for the failure and would not provide any assistance. The failure mileage was 61,411 and the current mileage was 61,445. Updated 2/28/11 updated 06/03/11

- East Hanover, NJ, USA

problem #841

Sep 252010

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 8,800 miles
My 2002 Ford Explorer transmission failed. I was traveling on an on ramp. When the O/D light started to flicker and there was a sudden powerful jerk. It was similar to getting rear ended. The failure occurs above 35 mph. The consequences are sudden uncontrollable jerks. In order to correct the failure the transmission must be rebuilt for a vehicle under 80,000 miles.

- Newark, OH, USA

problem #840

Dec 282002

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 65,000 miles
We purchased a used 2002 Explorer ltd. In July 2010. The car had 62,500 miles on it and looked to be in great shape. The previous owner had all the service papers and we checked carfax and we saw no reason not to purchase the car. We should have checked though. As I write this, the transmission has failed. According to what I read on the internet this is a major problem for early 2000's Ford Explorer. How can I shell out $2500 or more for a new transmission"? Ford should be held responsible for producing this lemon¿that I have only owned 5 months. Are there any class action lawsuits being filed against Ford Motor Company for this problem" I would be interested in participating.

- Kings Mountain, NC, USA

problem #839

Dec 212010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 142,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer XLS, driving O/D light came on and transmission started failing to shift correctly, needs complete transmission rebuild.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #838

Dec 162010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 68,500 miles


2002 Ford Explorer - eddie bauer edition. Transmission O/D light turned on when driving up a hill. Car has less than 80,000 miles on it! read the hundreds of complaints about other 2002 Ford Explorer: please help.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #837

Oct 052010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 260,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer, 274K miles. Transmission began making grinding noise; had it rebuilt by a reputable transmission shop. Shortly thereafter, if braking hard, the engine just stops and all power is lost. This has happened several times, yet it starts right back up when I turn the ignition key. Mechanic cannot get any codes to show up. Six months later, overdrive off light flickers or flashes fairly regularly, shifting between gears is rough and it won't stay in overdrive. Once reaching overdrive, it becomes 'mushy' and slips back and forth, losing speed while rpms bounce between 1,500 and 3,000. Transmission shop has checked it again, says it is an electrical issue and that I need to take it to the dealer. Dealer claims that there is only one recall out on this car and it is for the speed (cruise) control and that this would not have any effect on the transmission. 4X4 high light flashes whenever the transmission should be going into overdrive, but that eventually stops. I've had to resort to driving with overdrive turned off, which is the only way I can get the transmission to operate smoothly without all of the lights. This causes me to have to run the car at higher rpms and decreased fuel efficiency. I have an appointment at the dealership tomorrow for the recall and I'm hoping that maybe there is someone there who is honest enough to help. Went to another transmission shop who informed me that this is a very well-known problem, that they rebuild these tranmissions regularly and that Ford hasn't acknowledged any form of responsibility or even a repair solution for this.

- Fredericksburg, VA, USA

problem #836

Dec 102010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 94,000 miles
I was driving and my od light started flashing. A few miles later my cars rpms went up and my car slowed down, causing my to quickly pull over to the side of the road to avoid being rear ended. I tried to drive it to the store a few days later and I got about 1/4 of a mile down the road when I heard a loud noise and the car did the same thing. I have my car sitting in the drive way waiting to get it into be looked at. Since this is the second time that this has happened in under two years, I know that the transmission is having issues and more than likely I will have to have it replaced.

- Wayne, OH, USA

problem #835

Dec 022010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 120,378 miles
2002 Ford Explorer transmission jumped when put in reverse hit a parked car. When you slow down it slips out of gear and wont go. I have transmission problems with the vehicle. Im scared that it will fail again while on the freeway and my family and I will be hurt or even killed. Its not safe to drive.

- Alvin, TX, USA

problem #834

Nov 222010


  • 30 miles
2002 Ford Explorer transmission failure with only 87,899 miles on vehicle, I complained to the dealer 4days after having the about hard shifting and gears banging.they made adjustment to the PCM, but a month later it started again,3yr later without putting over 30,000 on the tranny is broken.

- New Britian, CT, USA

problem #833

Nov 172010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 109,000 miles
O/D light started flashing, suddenly my car stopped shifting correctly. The car was never driven hard and is an automatic. After taking it to a transmission shop and doing some research I found that my transmission needed replaced and that it was not covered under warranty and costs around 3000 dollars to replace.

- Washington, IL, USA

problem #832

Nov 132010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 124,000 miles
Got into my 2002 Ford Explorer today and my overdrive light was flashing and when I drove off, it revved up in the 300-400 RPM and shifted very hard. I have never driven offroad or very hard at all. Taking it to a mechanic Monday, but we have dealt with enough cars to know that the transmission is going to blow up soon.

- Greenwood, IN, USA

problem #831

Oct 222010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 110,123 miles
2002 Ford Explorer transmission experienced problem. The overdrive light began flashing and the vehicle shifted into neutral. There was no down hill engine braking. I stopped the vehicle and turned the engine off. When I restarted the vehicle the overdrive light was off and remained off for a few weeks. It is now back on again. I feel that the transmission shifting into neutral and not providing braking when going down a hill is a safety hazard.

- Cross Lanes, WV, USA

problem #830

Jan 102010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
Transmission on my 2002 Ford Explorer failed for the 2nd time in 2009 of December. I was on the highway when this happen and could have caused an accident.

- Grandview, MO, USA

problem #829

Oct 242010


  • 190,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 15 mph the vehicle stalled and would not shift into third gear. The contact noticed a recall for the power train transmission. Due to the VIN the vehicle was not a part of the recall. The contact stated that the manufacturer should extend the recall to more vehicle identification numbers since this was a known safety issue. The failure mileage was 190,000.

- Greenwood, SC, USA

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