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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
40,535 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

problem #6

Mar 112008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the overdrive light illuminates intermittently and then the vehicle accelerates without warning. When the overdrive light is blinking, it cannot be shut off with the overdrive switch unless the vehicle is shut off and then restarted. The contact also stated that the transmission was slipping gears. The failure occurs randomly while driving 10 mph or greater. The dealer and the manufacturer have not been notified. The failure mileage was 79,000 and the current mileage was unknown.

- Dillwyn, VA, USA

problem #5

Mar 202007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles
The transmission in my 2002 4WD Ford Explorer failed at 73,000 miles. I was traveling on a highway when the problem occurred. I was fortunate that the highway was empty at that time when the transmission failed. The problem occurred suddenly and I feel that my life could have been endangered if more automobiles were present on the highway I was traveling on. I read that sudden transmission failure is a very frequent occurrence among 2002 Ford Explorer and also read that Ford has not addressed the problem through any sort of safety recall procedure. When I called Ford to submit a patron complaint Ford confirmed that no safety recall had been issued.

- Denver, CO, USA

problem #4

Jul 122005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,010 miles
2002 Ford Explorer XLT 4X4 control module goes out. There are hundreds of posts talking about this problem in forums. They remade the part 3 times because they knew they had a problem. I got stuck 2 miles on a beach with my wife and 2 children because the 4 wheel drive wouldn't kick in. There is no warning that it is broke until you try to use it.

- Gratz, PA, USA

problem #3

May 232005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,201 miles


4 wheel drive will not engage. Has been used one other time since I purchased the vehicle in 2002

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #2

Mar 022005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Prior to purchase 6/03 @ 40K miles, trans fluid 2 qts low, nothing else addressed. April '04 @ 50K miles replaced leaks in transmissions, charged $200 deductible. Sept '04 replaced rear differential, Jan '05 replaced rear diff clutch assembly, now need whole new transmission at 68000 miles.

- Lees Summit, MO, USA

problem #1

Apr 082002

Explorer 4WD

  • miles
Module that controls the "control trac" 4-wheel drive system, failed at 3000 miles causing system to assume rear wheels were slipping. This caused the system to intermittently cycle the front wheel drive to assist even though rear tires were not losing traction. Owner complained to dealership 4 previous times of control trac problems, but dealership did not admit problem (told owner everything was fine with drive train) until 7000 miles when owner demanded a fix. Dealer then told owner that Ford knows about bad part, but that they have no idea when part will be available for repair. Currently, Explorer's 4X4 system is unpluged by dealer and is 2wd only. Dealer said they "don't know how much damage has already been done with 4000 miles of driving with bad system." Ford says module for fix, is on backorder, and don't know when fix will be available.

- Farmington, NY, USA

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