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 3 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #61

Mar 112013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 2,000,750 miles


Going 55 miles an hour truck slip out of gear.

- Bronx, NY, USA

problem #60

May 162012


  • miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the rear liftgate body panel was cracked. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the body panel needed to be replaced. The contact also stated that while driving approximately 25-35 mph, a noise was heard coming from the rear differential. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician stated that the rear differential needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and stated the vehicle was not included in any recalls. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was unknown and the current mileage was 80,000. The VIN number was not available.

- Davis, CA, USA

problem #59

Aug 152012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 71,000 miles
First issue was with the solenoids now the issue is with 1-2 shift ratio. Shifting into neutral.

- Lambertville, MI, USA

problem #58

Apr 062012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 114,000 miles


On April 6th of this year I purchased a 2004 Ford Explorer. The next day I took the car for city passed. The very next day (Sunday) the check engine light came on. The ABS light would also illuminate. I took the car to autozone to have it diagnosed (egr valve). Only the check engine light could be diagnosed because the ABS light came on at random while I was driving. The car was still under the 1000 mile warranty so the egr valve was replaced and a speed sensor believed to be the problem with the ABS light. I purchased an independent extended warranty so I would be covered for any surprise expenses. I had my chance to use it in just a few months later when the car ran hot. The repair was not covered. This happened in July, just a few months after buying the car. Earlier this month (November 2012) the service engine light came on again but it didn't stay on so I couldn't get it diagnosed. No need to have it diagnosed because the battery light came on too. I took it to autozone once again and the battery tested bad. It wouldn't start at the store. I bought the battery, it was installed and checked again. The alternator showed it wasn't charging. I had to have the alternator replaced. With the cold weather, I discovered the defrost vents don't work. Air only blows from front vents. On the morning of November 19th, I was taking my son to school and the overdrive light started flashing. It happened again while on my way home from work on November 21st. So now I suppose I have transmission problems. Ford needs to answer for their horrible engineering.

- Memphis, TN, USA

problem #57

Nov 162012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 106,000 miles
While putting the car in reverse in the parking lot the gear shift completely snapped off and the car was stuck in reverse. The keys were stuck in the ignition and I couldn't turn the car off. I had to put the emergency brake on and call for help on my cell phone. When help arrived after a couple of hours they were able to manuever what was left of the gear shift enough to put the car back in park and turn the car off. I called the Ford customer service division and spoke with a representative named [xxx], he preceded to tell me that Ford has never heard of such a problem and that he couldn't help me. He said there are currently no recalls available for this part. I searched the internet and found hundreds of the same complaint on Ford and advised [xxx] and again he said Ford has never heard of such a problem. I am relieved that it happened in a parking lot and it didn't cause an accident. Ford should be ashamed of themselves and their shoddy workmanship and take the necessary steps to resolve this problem. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #56

Oct 202012


  • 136,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 55mph the transmission down shifted to first gear causing the vehicle to slow down and the rear tires to drag. The contact was able to shift gears which brought the vehicle back to speed as he merged into a rest area. The vehicle was towed to the dealer to have a diagnostic performed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure and current mileage was 136,000.

- Circleville, OH, USA

problem #55

Sep 042012


  • 98,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 25 mph, the overdrive warning light illuminated intermittently on the instrument panel. The contact stopped the vehicle on the shoulder and shut the vehicle off. After restarting the vehicle, the warning light continued to illuminate. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The technician stated that the transmission would have to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 98,000.

- San Diego , CA, USA

problem #54

Sep 152012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 106,000 miles
I purchased a 2004 Ford Explorer in July 0F 2011, and traded in my 2001 Oldsmobile of 5 years. I also purchased the 12 month 12,000 mile warranty. Before driving it off the lot I had the dealer fix the ABS system because the light was on. There is a crack going down the back of the trunk but nothing else was wrong at the time so I left the crack alone. In April of 2012 I took it to the dealership for a belt, check trans, shocks, ball joints, and a ticking in the heater when knob was turned to heat (not cool). I told him to just fix what was on the warranty and also give it a oil change. He informed me that the trans was fine. After getting the car back my heat went out and I was told by a mechanic buddy that my brakes, rotters, emergency brake pads and the back tires were shot. So I had him replaced them because this was also not covered on warranty. Just last week my RPM started jumping with miles over 65.(no lights were on at the time)so I took it to 6 different places getting estimates on what could be wrong. All shops said the same thing. "start with fuel filter, oil filters and oil change". the day after I paid for all this the service engine light came on. (egr valve code) the man at auto zone told me to take it off and clean it with spray and let it dry before replacing. I took it to a shop and had them do this. The same day I picked up the car my service engine light came on again, O/D light and the car was driving like I was hauling a bus and jumping. I took it back the next day and he replaced the egr valve new since the same code was showing up. Later that day after getting it back the car started doing the same thing after driving for 5 miles this was Friday 9/21/12.

- Hebron, KY, USA

problem #53

Sep 012012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
I was driving down the highway and all of a sudden my transmission started slipping and the cruise control kicked it because the vehicle started to slow down so it went into high rpms then the transmission grabbed and shot the vehicle forward and I lost control and we spun in circles off the freeway. Had it not of rained all day the SUV would have flipped. Now my transmission is leaking fluid and it must be repaired by dealership or garage only and I cannot afford this repair and I see that there is a major problem these transmissions in these vehicles and me my child or my husband could have been badly hurt if not killed had this been on dry pavement!!!

- Ashtabula, OH, USA

problem #52

Aug 102012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
Transmission went at 74,000 miles.

- Bethlehem, CT, USA

problem #51

Aug 242012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 178,000 miles


I left work on Friday when shifted from reverse to drive noticed I had a hesitation/slippage of gears in the middle of the road. I picked up my children went to the store noticed a mild burnt smell which I was told was transmission fluid burning so I was told to park the car. I finished my shopping came out got the kids in their seats started to back up and had no transmission. My kids and I were stranded 8 miles from home because we had no fair warning that it was going. I had never had any issues with it before. The guy I bought it from had replaced the transmission 2 years before I bought it. Ford needs to issue a recall and get things like this fixed. My kids and I could have been seriously injured has that happened on the road on the way home instead of in a parking lot.

- Jamestown, NY, USA

problem #50

Jul 272012


  • 84,000 miles
Transmission shifts very hard so bad that it jerks me and my children's heads forward when it happens. This occurs the worst when going into reverse and into 2nd and 3rd gears. Brakes lock up/stick after being pressed for 3 seconds.

- Tell City, IN, USA

problem #49

Aug 062010


  • 90,000 miles
Cannot accelerate, feels like transmission is shifting hard. Scares me to be in traffic with two small children in backseat. Put into reverse it jolts into gear after a few seconds. Makes a loud noise when driving down the road. Sometimes there is almost no acceleration making it impossible to get around town.

- Palm Coast, FL, USA

problem #48

Jul 272012

Explorer 4WD

  • 122,789 miles
Driving, and and light came on, 4X4 light blinking 5times every 2/3 miles. Went to reverse and got a hard jerk. Car started making a rubbing noise. Took ithe shop was told it was either the transmission or the transfer case.

- Hobart, IN, USA

problem #47

Jul 052011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
Transmission is slipping, not fully gone yet, only a matter of time before it completely goes. I do not have the $2500 to replace the transmission. Every person I have talked to say this is a common problem with the Ford Explorer. I have taken into the garage over 10 times. Ford should be forced to recall these transmissions and Ford should have to pay for it.

- Rome, NY, USA

problem #46

Jan 012012


  • 75,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the vehicle hesitated to accelerate from stops. The failure occurred while in drive or reverse. The contact also stated that the vehicle jerked violently while shifting gears. The vehicle was not taken to have the failure diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and offered no assistance. The failure mileage was 75,000.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #45

Jul 072011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
The transmissions for Ford Explorer have about a 10% failure rate. The safety issue is that the car may not accelerate when needed. The transmission acts as though it is in neutral when shifting from second to third gears. The symptom also appears during normal acceleration (merging onto highways, trying to pass other vehicles). The danger is that you may not be able move out of the way of other vehicles. We have not been hit, but we no longer drive this vehicle on the highway. We expect a total failure at any moment, and do not want to be in a situation where the vehicle will need to be towed for a large number of miles. This vehicle is unsafe, and unreliable. Ford should fix this product, much like Honda did for their 2003 Acura TL.

- Garland, TX, USA

problem #44

Mar 022012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 37,000 miles
O/D light came on and the transmission started slipping and slamming in and out of gears and the engine started over revving. I have to pull off the road and turn car off and wait about 10 seconds to start car again in order for problem to clear. This has happened may times since. I bought the car new and have returned it to the Ford dealer 3 times while under warranty and there fixes would not last long. Now they want $3,000 to replace the transmission which I feel they should have done in the first place. I contacted Ford customer service and of course they said there was nothing they could do because it was out of warranty. I feel because of the cars history and low miles on it they should have at least done something. I feel if this happens on a major highway it could cause a major accident.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #43

Nov 112010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 97,000 miles
Bought the car used with about 85,000 miles on it. After one year of average use (no towing or off-roading) the transmission failed (about 97,000 miles). Had it rebuilt and now 2 years and four months later it is failing again (at 122,000 miles).

- Federal Heights, CO, USA

problem #42

Apr 252012

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 83,000 miles
Vehicle's transmission started to slip, as we were driving we would hit the gas harder to compensate and then the transmission would catch causing the vehicle to surge forward unexpectedly.

- East Hampton, CT, USA

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