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:
45,594 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

Sep 032010


  • 180,000 miles


O/D light blinking and slipping gears.

- Muscadine, AL, USA

problem #12

Jan 012009

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 60,000 miles
I have a 2002 Ford Explorer. When starting from a stop, the vehicle hesitates and then lurches forward. Other times the vehicle does not want to slow down. My O/D light is beginning to flash for no reason while driving or after warming up.

- New Milford, CT, USA

problem #11

Mar 062010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 88,725 miles
We just purchased a 2002 Ford Explorer. We picked up the vehicle on March 3, 2010. The car drove fine the first 2 days. On the third day the O/D light starting blinking and the car skipped a gear. We heard a large clunk and the car keep skipping. After that the service engine light came on. We took it to two transmission shops today and they diagnosed it as the vehicle does not have a third gear. We received estimates of $2600 to repair.

- Clarkston, MI, USA

problem #10

Jan 242010


  • 48,000 miles


Transmission does not shift.

- South Bound Brook, NJ, USA

problem #9

Dec 012007


  • miles
I own a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT. It has 99,000 miles on it. I drove this vehicle very gently and haven't had any prior problems. Then one day out of nowhere, the transmission went. It went without warning. No prior slippage, no jerking, no engine lights, nothing. Now I have to dish out money I don't have to get it fixed. I see I'm not the only person with this problem. Ford needs to recognize the fact that they messed up somewhere along the way with this vehicle. It has a nice body, a nice look and feel. The transmission problem just needs to be taken care of. I'm waiting for a recall so I can get my money back. I've been a faithful Ford driver, and they should be there for everyone who supports them by buying their vehicles. If I don't get any resolution, I'll be sure to never even look at a Ford again. I'll tell everyone I know to stay clear of Ford.

- Hopkins, MN, USA

problem #8

Jan 202007

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles
We have a 2002 Ford Explorer. We bought it new. Our transmission is currently going out on the vehicle. It is at 110,000 miles. Had it to dealership after first bought it and dealership reprogrammed the computer and then at about 38000 miles it started doing it again. Have now been told it is the transmission. We also have a humming coming from our right rear tire and front. Now told it is the wheel bearings. Have several friends with the same problems on their 2002 Explorer.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #7

Jan 042005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 48,000 miles


Vehicle goes into neutral when braking hard and when turning vehicle off, outside under driver seat a winding down noise is heard 9 times out of ten when turning vehicle off. Transmission pan replaced, solenoid assembly replaced, no longer goes into neutral and nothing was found at dealership regarding winding down noise, problem still exists.

- Rocky River, OH, USA

problem #6

Jun 012005

Explorer 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 32,000 miles
The complaint is directed at a widely known manufacturing defect in 2002 Ford Explorer involving the drive train. The problem surfaces just before the 36K warranty period and begins as a whine in the rear differential. The whine gets worse over time and at this writing my local Ford dealership has had parts on order for 3 weeks with no definitive delivery date. My Explorer has 40K miles and just ran out of the 3yr warranty in May 2005. Even with new parts installed these 2002 models have the same results re-occur in 10-20K miles. This is, by all accounts, not a defect that will likely result in personal injury to any thing but your wallet, but it is of such proportion in the marketplace that the consumer should have somebody to go to bat for them. These Ford Explorer are lemons if you can't get 40K out of the drive trains. I have a 1993 expl that has 200K and no issue. A recall should be a mandate for the consumer. At this writing I have parked the vehicle to avoid any more miles and I am waiting for arrival of parts. Please listen to us, the individual, and help us as we fight for what is right wit the corporation and it's clout.

- Williamston, NC, USA

problem #5

Nov 232004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
I have had the 2002 Ford Explorer XLT 4X4 for less than 3 years and have driven approximately 47,000 miles. We began having transmission problems about 4 months. The first issue was a whine in the rear end that started at 20mph and got louder until about 60mph. Next the shift between gears started to get rough and there was a delay when shifting into reverse. When we brought it into the dealer they said the following would need to be replaced: The solenoid and related parts (to fix the issues with the transmission shifting between gears) and the rear differential (to fix the whining noise). Total cost is about $2,750. I expect a transmission to last more than 3 years.

- Cumming, GA, USA

problem #4

May 142004


  • 48,000 miles
While driving it was hard for the consumer to shift gears manually. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- Cusseta, GA, USA

problem #3

Dec 012003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 10,000 miles


At approximately 10,000 miles I started experiencing minor difficulties with the clutch. At 14,000 miles, the malfunction became much more pronounced especially when shifting out of first gear. I took the vehicle in for warranty repairs but today was told I had worn out the clutch and the repairs would not be covered by the Ford warranty. Ford is asking $1,374 to repair the Explorer was used overwhelmingly for city and highway driving. At 10,000 miles it had been in 4WD only once and at 14,000 miles, only three times. This is the seventh vehicle I have owned with a manual transmission and I certainly know how to operate a stick shift. Today the general manager of leif johnson Ford (austin), fred trudea, hung up on me because I was taking contact notes on my computer. He heard the computer keys clicking and asked what I was doing. He then refused to give me a phone number for Ford's regional service manager, wasn't even sure of her name, and did not offer to find out. He was so flippant about my time and resources, that when I asked him to arrange a conference call with the regional service representative, he replied if you don't hear from me in four days, give me a call. When I told him I would not play tag and needed a daily update until this was resolved, he refused. Later in the day, another leif johnson employee, tony manzano, called to tell me the regional service representative declined to return my call. Mr. Manzano would not give me her phone number or email. I asked both Mr. Trudea and Mr. Manzano for something in writing stating they were refusing to make the warranty repairs and reasons. Both Mr. Manzano and Mr. Trudeau refused to place anything in writing. They told me to call the Ford 1-800 number. Today was the most abusive consumer experience I have had in my life. Every request I made was returned with with no, stonewalling or just general contempt.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #2

Dec 152001


  • miles
Consumer states that while driving at any speed and no warning the vehicle will stall and it will be hard for the consumer to control the vehicle. Dealer notified

- Lumberton, NC, USA

problem #1

Oct 012002


  • miles
Consumer states that transmission hesitates excessively and vehicle lurches forward when shifting between gears.

- Miami, FL, USA

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