Notes: The 2004 Ford Explorer one of our worst vehicles 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 2002-2005 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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
83,610 miles
Total Complaints:
41 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (19 reports)
  2. replace steering column (9 reports)
  3. had to pay for the expensive repair (4 reports)
  4. replace defective parts with better upgrade (4 reports)
  5. replaced entire steering column (4 reports)
  6. replace shift solenoid (1 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #21

Jul 142010

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles


OK, the gear shift lever to my truck just BROKE OFF in my hands. I was in shock. I've never seen that, or heard of it. I was in a long driveway and I wound up blocking all these poor people who needed to get to school and work and wherever for HOURS until the AAA tow could get there.

I was kind of freaked out until I googled this. I thought maybe I didn't know my own strength. I mean, I'm a girl, and the thing just SNAPPED OFF in my hands! What is the matter with this truck? I've had trouble with the gear shift and the starter since I bought it. The dealership kept fixing it and telling me it was fine. Now it's out of warranty and some of the dollars I'm seeing here are criminal. I've been stranded with this truck at least three or four times, and it's a relatively low mileage, well cared for vehicle.

I towed my Explorer to the most honest service center I know. I'm going to call the dealership where I bought it in the morning. But I'm not happy. I had a Jeep before this that I loved driving but I got rid of it because of all the wacky things that went wrong with it, including a windshield that just shattered for no reason. Chrysler wouldn't fix that or other bizarre things, so I bought a Ford. I like to buy American. However, my husband buys European or Japanese for the same money or just a little more and never has these problems. I'm thinking I may have to admit he's right.

- , Tewksbury, NJ, USA

problem #20

May 122010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

My car is in excellent shape...sitting in front of my house with a broken gear shift and can't be driven anywhere, also with a new battery in it. Ford is trying to charge me over $2,000! That's not going to happen!!

- , Cordova, TN, US

problem #19

May 092010

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Got in my truck today to run a few errands, started it up and tried to put it in reverse and the gear shift fell off in my hand. The key will not release from ignition because my truck is not in park (it's in between park and reverse). I have never heard of anything like this ever happening to any one, so I started to do some research on line. I was hoping that this was a possible recall prior to my purchase of my truck. After reading the other complaints, I see that I am one among many. This clearly is not an issue of abuse but rather a consistent use of faulty products by Ford. This should be a re-call issue! Not only was I stranded today but now I am anticipating the cost of towing my vehicle to a dealer, where I could be told it's not their problem.

- , Chester, VA, USA

problem #18

Jan 062010

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles


While sitting at a red light, my Explorer started idling funny so I went to shift into park. When that happened, my gear shift handle broke off in my hand! The car died and had to be towed to a mechanic. The key is still stuck in the ignition and the steering wheel is now barely connected. Does anyone know whether Ford is willing to admit that there is a manufacturing issue with this problem? I broke a bolt when the gear shift handle came loose! I'm strong but don't think this should be something that happens at all!

- , Louisville, KY, USA

problem #17

Dec 102009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,000 miles

The gearshift lever just broke off in my hand as tried to change gear on my driveway. As a lifelong Ford owner I am thoroughly disappointed in the current quality of Ford products. This steering column problem is obviously due to faulty and inferior parts as this same problem has happened to other 2004 Ford Explorer owners. So it is not a fluke but an established fault with the parts in this product. Ford's "Customer Service" advice was to "talk to your dealer". This would make sense if the dealer made the parts but Ford made the parts. I have driven cars for many more miles than this one and never had this problem. The situation here is that if Ford does not compensate me in some way I will never buy another Ford as this is an indication of the current quality of Ford products.

- , Anacortes, WA, USA

problem #16

Nov 182009

Explorer XLT 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

The shift lever fell apart in my hand as I tried to put the car in park. It broke loose from the steering column. It took 3 tow trucks before I could get a flat bed with"skids" to pull the car from the head in parking spot. The first AAA dispatched flat bed did not have skids and to me I would have to wait until the AM when their regular tow trucks were on duty.

I waited until morning to find that the tow truck cannot tow my car and can only be towed onto a flatbed. The idiot on the first flat bed did not know this. The second tow truck operator told me I had to get a AAA truck only since he did not have skids and had the wrong type tow truck.

I had to wait until midday the next day for a tow. The Ford dealer told me it would cost me $1840 for a new part or maybe he could get me a used part for $1200.00 since the entire steering column had fallen apart !!! He said he had never seen this before.

It ended up costing me $1200.00 which includes a car rental for 5 days. My extended warranty had expired in aug 2009 and he told me it would not be covered any way. Nice timing!! (christmas etc!) I sent letter to both Ford and the US Govt hotline as I believe this is a safety issue when i realizied I lost control of the steering at the last minute as I pulled into the sport.

I am waiting to see where this issue will go


- , Hanson, MA, USA

problem #15

Dec 302008

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles


What can we as consumers do? I'm a small business owner and my vehicle is essential for my plumbing company. Is there some way that we can collectively get word to Ford's Board of Directors? I just had great success reaching the board of a major well known plumbing fixture manufacturer. Got my delayed part three days later.

The real worry is this. When this broke this time I was parked in a customer's driveway two miles from my mechanic's place. What if this were at 70 MPH on I-20 here in Georgia with full load of tools and materials? Disaster and or deaths.

Ford must be brought to task on this one folks. Maybe your clout and enlarged voice is the beginning of justice. These e-mails must be sent to Congess ASAP.

- , Stone Mountain, GA, USA

problem #14

Jun 102009

Explorer LTD 4.7L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

this suks, i was about to back out of driveway when gear shift broke. i could not change gear and the key was stuck in the ignition. car had to be towed to dealer. stranded for the whole day. cost about 2k to have problem fix. no wonder the most number of cars traded in as clunkers were explorers!

- , Alhambra, CA, USA

problem #13

Mar 242009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

The gear shifter will not go from Drive into Park. It stops at Reverse. I had the transmission checked, and it is fine. The problem is with the Gear Shift mechanism. I am afraid to go to the Ford dealer, because I know I will get ripped off. Would anyone have any suggestions?

- , Centennial, CO, USA

problem #12

Feb 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

i don't know why this isn't showing up?? i posted 3 times?? but my gear shift fell off my ford explorer!! with my kids in car in the night at a friends house,, what a night mare this is!! ford said they will not fix, because they have never heard of this!! im livid and broke making high car payments still and dont know what to do!! is there any way we can all report to BBB??? this has got to be a defect in the metal

- , Oceanside, CA, USA

problem #11

Feb 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


my gear shift just fell off in my hands on 2004 ford explorer!! im livid!!! this has got to be a defect with metal!! how could that just break! does anyone no how much this will cost??? ford told me they never heard of this happening before, and i will have to pay

- , Oceanside, CA, USA

problem #10

Feb 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

I own a 2004 explorer xlt, and still making car payments, my warranty ran out at 75000 miles, i have 83000 miles,, im in the middle of driving, and stop at stop light with kids,, and went to back up a little and my gear shift came right off in my hand!!! i had to get car towed,, and my son in law looked at it, he said looks like the metal ford used was pot metal, not aluminum, and is know to crack! He said it is a defect and ford should fix and make recall on it,, but the ford manager told me he never heard of this and it would be quite expensive to fix,, i know have no car, and no money to fix this defect,, and i have seen many complaints on the internet about this!! im thinking of getting an attorney, or does anyone have anyway to get a hold of a higher up at ford?? all i get is customer relations at and they said they never heard of this! this is a very dangerous situation, and would hate to see it happen to someone else

- , Oceanside, CA, USA

problem #9

Jan 052009

Explorer XLT 3.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Ford Motor Company Customer Relationship Center P.O. Box 6248 Dearborn, MI 48126 Wednesday, January 07, 2009 Dear Customer Service: I am writing to you instead of calling again because I strongly feel that my call on Tuesday (January 6th 2009) was not accepted in that manner I had anticipated since I have been a loyal Ford customer for nearly 30 years. In June of 2004 I purchased a brand-new 2004 Ford Explorer from your dealership. This has been my �Fifth� new Ford I have purchased from your company. This does not include my purchase of a used Ford Granada in 1981. I have become a solid Ford buyer since that time, and nearly two years ago my daughter purchased a Ford Focus. On Monday January 5th 2009, I was in my garage and attempted to place the vehicle in reverse to back out. The gear selector broke off completely in my right hand. Now it is going to cost me well over $1,500.000 dollars to repair. I have always maintained my vehicles fully and always get the really good, no �Great� use out of your vehicles. In fact the other Explorer �98� I also own has 175,000 miles and is running very well. I could readily accept this situation if this was a normal �Wear and Tear� issue. But this event was brought on due to a faulty part. This part lacks the quality that is consistently seen in all other parts that makes up the Explorer. I have never complained about any Ford product for the nearly 30 years I have owned a Ford. I expect Ford to resolve this situation in one of two ways: 1) Back up its products from these unusual occurrences. 2) Make a decision on this matter you determine appropriate to this situation and my proven loyalty to your company in a timely manner. The decision you make I will fully accept. You decision will tell me the value you place on my past, present, and future relationship with Ford. This may have been a slow news week but I must relate to you that many family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers are anxious to see the outcome of this matter since many have never heard or seen this highly unusual defect. Please repl within seven business days to resolve this matter. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Ruben E. Martinez

- , Moreno Valley, CA, USA

problem #8

Aug 252008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

In 8/2004 I bought this Ford Explorer 8mths later I had to take it back in for a Transmission problem, In 12/07 I had to replace the engine (6,000)timing belt broke after 100 miles over warranty, now 8 mths later I am being told I have to replace the whole Transmission. I paid 31590 for this vehicle that has absolutely nothing in it , then on top of that I put another 6,000 into it and now I have to put another 2000 this is crazy. I am a single mother and I DON'T have anymore money to put into this car. Ford is not helping and I had to fight with them just to get an answer on what was covered on the warranty I purchased in January. If anyone can offer me some HELP I would greatly appreciate it.



- , Cincinnati, OH, US

problem #7

Apr 292008

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

Last Thursday I got in my Explorer to go to work. I tried to shift to reverse...and the gear shifter broke off in my hand. It is dangling by some sort of cord. My boyfriend said he's never seen anything like it. I called a mechanic I know, who couldn't believe what I was telling him - he actually drove to my house to see it for himself, since I couldn't drive it anywhere. He said he has "never seen anything like it" and this "isn't supposed to happen" and referenced "very poor craftmanship and materials". He was going to find used parts for me, but discovered he can't fix it because the key is stuck in the ignition. He said it has to be fixed by a Ford dealership because they have a "key code" to get stuck keys out of the ignition.

I'm irate. This is ridiculous. Ford should be covering this. It's very unfair that I (and others) have to pay out of pocket for this. Shame on Ford.

- , Hampton, VA, USA

problem #6

Apr 112008

Explorer XLT # L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

OK Ford what do you intend to do about these gear shift levelers on the Explorer? I was lucky and wasn't out in the woods with a group of Boy Scouts AND knew how to do a quick temp fix. But what about the Mom's you market this vehicle to? Being stuck with kids then becomes a safety issue not just an inconvenience. Seems that you have known about this for awhile and DIDN'T FIX IT! Shame on you! My next car will be a Tacoma, you had your chance!

- , Clifton Park, NY, USA

problem #5

Jan 282008

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,845 miles

While trying to shift from drive into park the shift lever catches in reverse before going into park. This catch was enough to break the leaver at the pivot point. I was able to fix myself for 58$. This is the 3rd ford explorer I Have personally driven and they all have this catch.

- , Eau Claire, WI, USA

problem #4

Dec 102003

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 400 miles

I pulled into my driveway and placed the vehicle in park. The shifter fell to the floor, the only thing still attached was the wiring that goes to the overdrive button. I called Fords roadside assistance and requested a tow truck. After 2 days of waiting on a tow truck I decided to call a tow truck myself. The tow truck bill was forwarded to the dealership and paid in full (not by Ford but by the dealership). I picked my vehicle up 1 week later.

- , Jacksonville, AL, USA

problem #3

Sep 032007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

This is the most frightening incident to have happen especially when you're in a heavy traffic area and no way to change gears. I thought Ford was supposed to make quality vehicles but since switching to Ford, have found that to be a joke!

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #2

Jan 172007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0 V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

XMAS Eve 2006, with my Explorer loaded with presents, I made my last stop and thought I was on my way home. But NO! The stupid Gear Stick breaks as I was trying to put the car into gear. Luckily I had AAA towing. But unfortunately I had the "Hi Tech Extended Warranty" and this wasn't covered. I'm out $1,000. Worst Xmas ever. I fear this is going to cause a tragic accident one day. I'm certain that, even though it's "fixed" that it will happen again. This is one the Feds should look into.

- , Wilmington, DE, USA

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