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 4 of 45)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #828

Jun 012010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 104,000 miles


I have Ford Explorer 2002 O/D light is blinking and having problem with transmission.

- Utica, NY, USA

problem #827

Oct 282010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,760 miles
Ford Explorer would not shift out of 2nd gear. The vehicle is a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT with 4.0 L V-6, and automatic transmission. Took in to my mechanic and he advised me to take it to a transmission shop since the readout fault codes indicated major failure. Vehicle has less than 80,000 miles and has been well taken care of since it was new.

- Newburgh, IN, USA

problem #826

Oct 282010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 137,350 miles
Transmission is failing in my 2002 Ford Explorer 4X4. A local transmission shop confirmed that my fear that the gears were not shifting properly was due to the transmission failing. It will cost $2400 to $2800 to repair. Because the transmission is sealed it will cost extra. Only through the first half of the year of 2002 were the Explorer made with this transmission and mine was manufactured in May 2001.

- Coon Rapids, MN, USA

problem #825

Apr 192007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 88,000 miles


Transmission failure on 2002 Ford Explorer in 2007 at 88,000 miles and 2010 at 140,000 miles. First time od light came on, I drove it home 3 miles and then was not driveable. Second time no warning or light and it slipped out of gear as I was crossing the boulevard. Original transmission and replacement transmission are not quality and failed. First time I was on the freeway and able to coast home and the second time crossing a boulevard when it slipped out of gear. It's as if Ford put on disposable parts for consumers to replacement every several years conveniently after warranty expires. I spent over $5,600 the first time and over $3,400 the second time.

- Diamond Bar, CA, USA

problem #824

Oct 242010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 118,300 miles
Transmission problems. This is the second time this has happened and the transmission was rebuilt in 2005. We've only averaged about 10,000 miles per year since the rebuild.

- Davis, CA, USA

problem #823

Aug 202005


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that she had issues shifting gears and when she would turn corners, the vehicle would shift out of gear. Other times, she had issues shifting into drive and moving forward. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that there were no related recalls. The transmission was replaced in 2008 at a repair shop. However, the failure continued. When the contact placed the vehicle in park (with the engine on) and went into a store, the vehicle shifted into drive and hit a building and then moved back and hit another vehicle. There were no injuries. A police report was filed. The vehicle was taken back to a repair shop where the contact was informed that a component of the steering column would not allow the vehicle to lock into gear. The steering column was repaired. However, after the repair, the transmission slipped. The vehicle had not been repaired. The manufacturer had not been notified. The current mileage was approximately 140,000. The failure mileage was approximately 80,000. Updated 10/21/11

- Fairland, OK, USA

problem #822

May 262009


  • 75,000 miles


The transmission started slipping, clunking and the O/D light is flashing. Just paid this piece of junk off and now waiting to here from the dealer where we bought it for that oh familiar quote of 3000 to 4000 to fix.

- North Port, FL, USA

problem #821

Aug 272010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 163,064 miles
Failure of transmission in 2002 Ford Explorer - known problem of many vehicles made my Ford especially this model/year. But no recalls or help in fixing this problem. Had to replace mine costing $2600 in parts and labor.

- Paoli, IN, USA

problem #820

Oct 012010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
Transmission does not engage when put in drive until 3000 rpms. I was pulling out in traffic and was almost hit by another car because mine was not engaging to move the car. I understand that this problem is very common on the 2002 Ford Explorer.

- South Bend, IN, USA

problem #819

Oct 102010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 77,000 miles
Trouble removing vehicle from park on incline over few week period. Transmission changing gears in rough manner over a few day period. Od light flashing during highway driving and then odor of something burning on October 10, 2010. Diagnosed as "fried transmission" by dealer. Cost to replace $3887 plus $125 for diagnosis. Not yet repaired - deciding our next action. Vehicle purchased new, always maintained according to dealer recommendations. Vehicle never abused, only towed very light utility and snowmobile trailers.

- Merrimack, NH, USA

problem #818

Oct 032010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 131,000 miles


I have an 02 Ford Explorer eb edition. Not too long ago, my od light began flashing and my transmission was hesitating. I was 1.5 hrs from home at 9pm (Sunday). Called my husband, he made a couple of suggestions and I was able to make it home. Same problem occurred twice the next day (Monday). Contacted my Ford dealership and dropped the truck off for a solution to my problem. Was told it was a solenoid body going bad. Thought my truck would be repaired in a day, but they had my truck for the entire week. I rec.'d a call on Friday of that week and was told that they had dropped the pan on my transmission and found a "gear" laying in the pan. I was told I would need my transmission replaced. The following Monday, I took the truck back (as is) and took it to a transmission shop for a second opinion. A broken wiring harness in my steering column was diagnosed as the problem and it was repaired for $230.88. I rec.'d my truck back on a Thursday. It drove fine that day. I drove it out of town that Friday and returned home Saturday. Two weeks after this problem began, I left my home on a mid-Sunday morning and the problem started again with the flashing od light and a hesitant transmission. I was able to run my few errands and get back home. I, just like everyone else who has encountered this problem, thinks Ford should take responsibility. This is the first Ford I've ever owned and I, personally, don't want to get rid of my truck. I rec.'d an exceptional deal on it and I truly believe it still has a lot of good left in it. I have no blame to place on my local Ford dealership or the transmission shop. The responsibility lies with Ford itself. A recall needs to be issued so that their dealerships can make the proper repairs to this vehicle. I have a 2yr daughter and I spend about 75% of my time in that vehicle with her. I need peace of mind that my vehicle is going to be there for me as I take care of it with proper service and maintenance. Thank you.

- Prattville, AL, USA

problem #817

Oct 102010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
Overdrive light is blinking and check transmission is indicated in message window. Does reset when truck is turned off but warning comes back when driving again. At this time vehicle does 'clunk' when going into reverse. It is still shifting through 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc ok. I had the transmission rebuilt by Ford dealer at 50K miles (3/24/06), currently have 75K miles on vehicle(10/11/10).

- Rocky River, OH, USA

problem #816

Oct 012010


  • 174,786 miles
We own a 2002 Ford Explorer that we have kept up all the maintenance on. We have owned if since June of 2008 (bought it from a used car dealer) and have had no really big major issues until now. The O/D off light is flashing which is causing the transmission to get mixed signals as to if the over drive is on or off. Which causes the transmission to shift hard and actually try to lock up at some times. It has been going on for about 4 days now and in our manual it says to take and have it serviced as soon as possible. Well we did and the mechanic says that there is nothing we can do to fix it except rebuild/replace the entire transmission. Online this is a very common problem in this year model and pretty much anyone we have spoken with that has owned these vehicles prior says that the transmission will go out around 175000 miles. We are at 174789 so we are right on course. We do not drive it hard or crazy and we take very good care of all our vehicles. We have never had an issue with an transmission.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #815

Jul 062009


  • 95,200 miles
Loud whine from rear. Transmission slipping between 2nd and 3rd gear. Flashing O/D light.

- Indio, CA, USA

problem #814

Sep 092010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 129,000 miles
We bought a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT 2 weeks ago with 129,000 miles within 2 days of owning this vehicle, the O/D light started blinking. Upon investigation with transmission repair locations, we have to spend $2500 or more to replace the entire transmission! what a rip off, after researching this issue, it is quite obvious that Ford needs to recall this vehicle, step up to the plate, and help their customers out who have put trust in their vehicles! if Ford wants to stay in business, they better start considering reconciling with their many disgruntled customers. Thank you.

- Kankakee, IL, USA

problem #813

Sep 072010


  • 96,000 miles
Transmission doesn't shift from 2nd to 3rd gear - entire transmission needed to be replaced.

- Sammamish, WA, USA

problem #812

Sep 082010


  • 106,000 miles
I do not have to provide an in depth description, myself as with all the owners of a 2002 Ford Explorer are all having this same problem. Ford should be ashamed, and have this recalled if its happening with more than enough vehicles. The O/D light will flash rapidly and then the transmission will skip a gear, has a hard time switching into first gear. Big clunk! this is ridiculous. If all of these people are complaining Ford needs to address this issue asap! I will never buy another Ford!

- Bridgewater, NJ, USA

problem #811

Sep 102010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 121,000 miles
Got a transmission overheated error and O/D was off. Looks like its a common occurrence on my Explorer.

- Mechanicsville, MD, USA

problem #810

Apr 122010


  • 120,000 miles
Faulty transmission.

- Atchison, KS, USA

problem #809

Sep 062010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
2002 Ford Explorer XLT V-6: overdrive off (O/D off) light blinking rapidly. Transmission is suddenly shifting very erratically which makes vehicle difficult to control. I understand that there have been numerous complaints regarding this issue on this vehicle -- please exert your authority to require Ford to address this serious problem.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

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