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
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
127,950 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.

2004 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #81

Feb 132014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 131,000 miles


When accelerating the SUV shakes, it has a hard time sometimes going from one gear into another. I started the truck today and it made a thumping sound. The transmission is going on it and I take care of it. I have a hard time getting the truck to go into gear to go in reverse.

- Dayton, NJ, USA

problem #80

Sep 152008


  • 22,000 miles
TL * the contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving 40 mph, the vehicle would decelerate automatically to 20 mph and not regain speed. The vehicle would also not shift into reverse. The failure occurred twice over a six year period. The vehicle's transmission has been replaced twice. The vehicle was not taken to a dealer. The manufacturer was notified. The approximate failure mileage was 22,000.

- Elmira, NY, USA

problem #79

Feb 222014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 180,000 miles
While driving my Explorer down the highway, the transmission blew with out much warning with my baby in the car. The vehicle went from drivable to not moving within one day. It started with a hard shift and acceleration being delayed when trying to make a turn. Then the O/D light came on and the vehicle lost all power within ten miles of my home leaving us stranded in the dead of winter on the highway with very little room to pull over so we could have been hit at high speeds.

- Windsor , VT, USA

problem #78

Mar 122014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 78,006 miles


While parked, I started up my vehicle and put the truck in reverse. However, the truck would not reverse. I was able to drive forward and took my vehicle to mechanic. He stated that the Ford were "well known" for having bad transmission due to certain pieces not fitting, especially the 2002-2006 models. I searched online and realized this problem is a lot bigger than just "a few" cases. This is an epidemic of neglect! additional issues include the throttle body for which your establishment has already investigated but limited the "recall" for years 2009-2013. This should be extended further to cover all incidents within a certain mileage. Mine started around fifty thousand miles until I had it replaced for $650! I request an investigation on the transmission failures, specifically with the inability to reverse.

- Sinking Spring, PA, USA

problem #77

Mar 102014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated while driving 10 mph, the transmission failed. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 130,000.

- Coeburn, VA, USA

problem #76

Oct 032013


  • 107,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 25 mph, the vehicle independently shifted from first to second gear accompanied by an abnormal noise from the transmission. Additionally, the contact experienced resistance when attempting to shift from park to reverse. The contact would have to shut off the engine and restart the vehicle before the vehicle would engage. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic but had not been diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 107,000.

- Corona, CA, USA

problem #75

Oct 032013

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 72,000 miles


This is the second Ford Explorer I have owned and both of them had the same transmission problems. Yet Ford has no recall or even anything to fix them except $3,000 to a dealer out of you pocket for their mistake. I guess since no one has been proven to have gotten injured or died due to this issue, then there won't be a recall made on it. This is totally unsatisfactory for the Ford Motor Co. Because they have workers that screw up, the consumer ends up footing the large bill of repairing it. There is a known problem with the transmissions of these Explorer from 2000 - 2005 yet no one seems to want to address it. Ford motor should be ashamed of putting such faulty vehicles out on the road and endangering another humans life for their profit. This is the last time I will buy and Ford product and I will encourage everyone I know not to buy Ford either. I wonder how Ford would like the media exposure for this issue. No good customer service or product.

- Grain Valley, MO, USA

problem #74

Jan 312013


  • 89,456 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated while the vehicle was parked, the gear lever would not shift in and out of gear until after several attempts. In addition, the transmission would slip gears while driving. The failure recurred intermittently. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnosis. The contact was advised to rebuild the transmission and replace the torque converter. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 89,456.

- Seminole, FL, USA

problem #73

Sep 012012


  • 89,000 miles
After coasting through intersections, transmission slips and then clunks as I accelerate

- Neenah, WI, USA

problem #72

Sep 162013


  • 105,000 miles
Just bought a 2004 Explorer eddie bauer edition with 105,000 miles on it as soon as I got home the transmission started to slip. It lunges hard when put into reverse. This is a well known problem with Ford. They refuse to do a recall. I'm sure someone will have to die before its dealt with. I pray it's not you or yours.

- Slanesville, WV, USA

problem #71

Aug 202013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 236,000 miles


I was on my way to work on a Tuesday morning with my son who is a college student at my school on August 20, 2013. I work at a community college and it was the first week of the fall semester 2013 starting. I arrived about 10:15 a.M. and could not find parking. I found a parking stall in the staff parking lot. I put the Ford Explorer in reverse and was going backwards to park in the stall. When I moved the shift gear handle to put the truck into drive into the parking stall, the gear shift was just broke off. I couldn't believe it! I had to act quickly and hit the emergency brake and turn the ignition off from the car to make it stop. I was really scared! luckily, I dropped off my son so he can go to his first class. I had to have the car towed to banning, California and have my mechanic fix it. Still to this day, Ford cannot provide a part to fix the steering column shift level. Ford says its on backorder, no one has the part. They don't know when I will have the part to fix my truck. I need help, I hope you can issue a recall on all 2004 Ford Explorer with gear shift level breaking off. Very upset need your help to get my truck fixed. This matter has made me sick with high blood pressure and would appreciate someone to investigate this matter right away.

- Beaumont, CA, USA

problem #70

Aug 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
2000-2005 Explorer have a rate of 1 out of 10 having transmission failure. I want to know why there is not a recall or a class action law suit for this vehicles transmission problems and failures. I would like any information possible to further this. There was mention on Ford complaints and failures website for out of warranty Explorer a "goodwill repair"? I contacted the Ford company and said my vehicle did not fit the criteria. Yet when I asked for the guidelines to be sent or emailed to me, I was told this was confidential information and was told nothing could be done...I purchased this vehicle with my daughters disability money so that she would have a safe ride to dr's etc. A little over a year later the gears went totally out while driving. Road side assistance took 4 hours up until 4am. Lengthy wait for anyone let alone a disabled child. Now my daughter and I as a single mother can not afford another vehicle. Or the repairs for Ford mistakes. Ford really needs to acknowledged their mistakes and fix them on a case by case basis or someone needs to put their foot up their tailpipe and sue the company. Any help suggestions or other ways to deal with this matter would be gratefully appreciated. Thank you..[xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Chester, WV, USA

problem #69

Aug 102013


  • 115,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that when he attempted to shift gears, the vehicle failed to respond. The contact believed the transmission was defective however, the vehicle was not taken to the dealer for inspection. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 115,000.

- Phillipsburg, NJ, USA

problem #68

Aug 052013


  • 123,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that after having some unrelated repairs performed on the vehicle, the vehicle failed to shift out of park and when it did, the vehicle could only be operated in third gear. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, who diagnosed that the transmission was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 123,000.

- Darien, IL, USA

problem #67

Feb 042013


  • 90,000 miles
Transmission is slipping and makes a grinding noise while driving and when back up turning the wheel it jerks and makes a banging noise. Garage said it be $3500 to fix it. It seems like tons of people with this SUV are having the same problem.

- Jefferson City, MO, USA

problem #66

May 092013


  • 129,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the transmission failed. The vehicle would sporadically surge and would exhibit an abnormal grinding sound. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer where it was determined that the fly wheel was spinning because the torque converter had failed. The vehicle had not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 129,000.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #65

Oct 272012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 124,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the vehicle shook. Upon inspection, the driver noticed that the rear passenger side lug nuts had loosened and the tire was only being held in place by one lug nut. The contact mentioned that the failure recurred on the rear driver side tire but in this occasion the tire detached while driving 70 mph. In addition, the contact stated that the vehicle failed to shift into third gear. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the transmission, studs, log nuts, rotors, and tires needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was 124,000 and the current mileage was 132,000.

- Paden, OK, USA

problem #64

Apr 072013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 128,765 miles
We was drive the street doing 30 mph until we came until a stop light. When the light turn green the transmission started to act like in didn't wont to go into gear. When only had the car for a year in only put almost less then 9 to 8 thousand mile on it. When the car full service every time... don't know what to do any more.

- Jefferson City, MO, USA

problem #63

Oct 012012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 68,000 miles
Transmission seems to slip and engine revs also when put in reverse transmission seems to jump.

- Shrewsbury, NJ, USA

problem #62

Jul 292005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 2,000,000 miles
My car won't shift in to gear any more.

- Lomita, CA, USA

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