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:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
51,269 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 #13

Feb 152012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 146,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while parked, it became difficult to shift gears. The vehicle was also slipping gears while driving at any speed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing three different times. The technicians were unable to diagnose the failure. There was an investigation under NHTSA action number: EA09013 (power train: Automatic transmission: Lever and linkage: Column shift steering: Column steering: Column locking: Anti-theft device power train: Automatic transmission: Gear position indication (prndl)) that may be related to the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 146,000. Updated 11/28/12

- Cottageville, SC, USA

problem #12

Jan 282012

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
I was putting my car in gear when the gear shift snapped off in my hand.

- Medford, OR, USA

problem #11

Jan 052009


  • 59,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer and the gear shift lever broke. I found 27 complaints on the same problem when we bought the Explorer we told the salesman that it was hard to get out of park and he said he fixed it.

- East Hartford, CT, USA

problem #10

Dec 122008


  • 70,500 miles


My 2002 Ford Explorer gear shift lever broke off. I was going to pick up my son from school, and when I pulled it out of park to put it in reverse the shifter broke off. I found 26 complaints of the same issue at if this is a continuous problem with this year of vehicle I believe there should be a recall. On this site it states that at an average this issue occurs at 91,000 miles, and has a cost of an average of $950 to fix. Many of the people who posted comments said they had to pay $1,300 to get this problem fixed.

- Salem, OR, USA

problem #9

Feb 092008

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles
Changing gears (park to drive) in order to drive car. Gear shift lever came off car. Have found other complaints on this model on web where gear shift lever falls off steering column. What car has a gear shift lever that falls off"??"

- Northampton, PA, USA

problem #8

Jan 062007

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles
At 65,000 miles I had to have both clutch packs in the drive train replaced at a cost of $300. At 72,000 miles the transmission failed and the cost was $1,750. Just recently at 91,000 miles the gear shift (prndl) fell off of the steering wheel and is currently sitting at a dealership waiting for a "back ordered" part.

- Leicester, NC, USA

problem #7

Sep 072001

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Ford Explorer. When attempting to shift into reverse, the gear shift broke inside the steering column. The contact stated that the gear shift has always been difficult to move from the park position. The dealer stated that the gear shifter was sheered off the steering column. The steering column was replaced. The contact stated that she also has trouble inserting the key into the ignition. The dealer has not inspected the vehicle for the ignition failure. The current and failure mileages were 66,000.

- Levittown, PA, USA

problem #6

Jun 112005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles
The gear shifter broke off while shifting from park to reverse. The shifter completely snapped off the assembly rendering the 2002 Ford Explorer completely inoperable. Mileage was only 56,000 miles and been driven for only 4 years. The car has to be towed to the dealer's location. The dealer replaced the steering column assembly (part # fmc4L2Z 3C 529 da) at a cost of $706.20 to the vehicle owner.

- Old Bridge, NJ, USA

problem #5

Jun 092005

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles
Gear shift broke off. Consumer said shifter broke off and landed in his lap. Consumer was shifting into gear when this happened. No previous problems. Vehicle is serviced regularly. Consumer had hightech auto center fix problem, they replaced the whole column. Ford refused to do repairs, said warranty expired.

- West Memphis, AR, USA

problem #4

Jun 162003


  • 56,000 miles
Consumer states while parked vehicle jumped into gear and rolled down a hill.

- Newburgh, NY, USA

problem #3

Jan 062003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,000 miles


2002 Ford Explorer can slip from park into reverse, causing a roll-away accident. The gear shift is loose enough that a driver can shift the truck into "P" on the gear shift, but the truck is not actually all the way in park. When this happens, it can slide into reverse. This is what happened to my wife and daughter. She put the car into reverse and backed up the driveway. She left the vehicle in park on the level driveway to run a bag of groceries inside. She opened the rear gate, went inside, dropped them off, then heard a loud crash. The truck had slipped out of park and into reverse, causing it to crash into the house. I can reproduce this behavior easily. I took it to bob tomes Ford of mckinney, tx and spoke with maureen pollack of Ford's Consumer Affairs. They said that they could find no defect (of course). I believe that they found nothing out of the ordinary because all 2002 Ford Explorer have ambiguous gear shifts. I urged her to have Ford issue a recall or a service bulletin at the least. She declined, saying that the technician at the dealership said it was ok.

- Mckinney, TX, USA

problem #2

Apr 252002


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
When shifting to drive, indicator shows it's in drive, yet it's still in park. Also, when shifting to reverse it shows reverse, but it's in drive. Please add further information.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #1

Nov 132001

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While driving gears get stuck and they are very hard to change. However, vehicle has been in an accident.

- Huntington, WV, USA

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