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 5 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #21

May 222011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 81,000 miles


While attempting to shift from "park, " into "reverse, " the column-mounted gear selector, broke away from the column and into my mother's hand. The vehicle sat in a parking lot for a few hours. Later on, we found a temporary workaround utilizing a pair of "vise-grips, " and we were able to drive the vehicle home. The gear selector has not been repaired; and the vehicle just sits there, because the she is too afraid to drive it.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #20

Apr 082011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 92,233 miles
I have had the shifter lock actuator replaced twice in less than 2 years. This actuator defect prevents my Explorer from coming out of park.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #19

Sep 012010


  • 67,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that when shifting into reverse, the vehicle would not respond. When shifting, the vehicle would sporadically engage backward rapidly. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who performed a diagnostic test and advised that there was not a sufficient amount of transmission fluid in the vehicle. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted but would not provide any assistance. The failure mileage was 67,000 and the current mileage was 76,602.

- Lafayette, LA, USA

problem #18

Sep 012004


  • 15,000 miles


The truck jerks into gear when put into reverse - it also jerks in drive but is more pronounced when backing up. The gears don't shift until I'm at 20 -30 mph and then they slip incredibly just to get get there. And even when I'm driving the car jerks as it is shifting gears. When I back into my parking space there is a full 10 second delay before the car to finally catapults into reverse. If there is ever anyone behind me they will literally be hit because of the jerking. The slow shifting into gears and jerking have been a consistent problem since taken brand new off the show room floor. Although the Ford dealership service department "tested trans; performed pinpoint test; R&R trans pan; and added a replaced solenoid body" - nothing has stopped this problem. It still persists to this day. And it has only gotten progressively worse.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #17

Dec 012009


  • 68,000 miles
As everyone else, I am have a lot of problems with my transmission. It shifts very hard and jerks when put into reverse. Also having issues shifting from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd. Problem is steadily getting worse. This morning the O/D off light started blinking. I killed the car and restarted it and it stopped. I dont understand why there has not been a recall on this. Ford obviously knows that there is a problem. How could they not? I have found tons of message boards on the internet with everyone else having the same problem.

- Lewisville, TX, USA

problem #16

Nov 162010


  • 129,000 miles
While driving down a 4-lane highway, transmission failed. No warning, just thump and done. My research reveals that dealership are reporting that 1 in 10 2004 Explorer have transmission failure. Also, heater blower motor went out over 1 year ago, leaving no default heat for defrosting the windshield.

- Abbeville, SC, USA

problem #15

Oct 012007


  • 15,690 miles


There are numerous complaints on the internet regarding the 2004 Ford Explorer. The car jerks violently when going into first, second and reverse gears. The first repair was on 10/07 at 15,690 miles. The dealership replaced the solenoid and assured the problem was resolved. At 24,190 miles the same problem recurred and the dealership recalibrated and charged $118. Now at 26,900 miles the problem has recurred and again they are going to replace the solenoid. Of course at my expense. There is obviously something wrong and Ford is refusing to address the problem. They should at least guarantee the work that was done under warranty.

- Kenilworth, IL, USA

problem #14

Mar 012008


  • 50,000 miles
The back hatch has a crack underneath the window in the middle around the Ford emblem. Just I've noticed several Ford 2004 Explorer in this area have the exact same defect. Recall is very much necessary. As well as the car jolting into drive and reverse....I still owe several thousand dollars on this loan and refuse to pay for any repairs....Ford should do a recall on both...they need to hire some Japanese workers since their cars seem not to have these types of issues.....I bought this car in Feb of 2008 and had the transmission problems right after only had 48K miles on it.

- Norfolk, VA, USA

problem #13

Sep 042009


  • 49,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer with 49,000 miles. Howling noise from rear. Took it to Ford; they rebuilt the rear differential at a cost of $1600. Car has always been serviced at Ford for routine maintenance. Don't understand how this vehicle with such low mileage had to have rear differential replaced. In looking at service bulletins; this sounds like a defect that Ford has not acknowledged.

- Arlington Heights, IL, USA

problem #12

Jul 272009


  • 54,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer with 54K miles has slip in transmission when shifted from park to reverse and will slip when the transmission shifts automatically. It catches and will produce a loud bump. It takes several seconds to catch when shifted to reverse.

- Cumming, GA, USA

problem #11

Jun 012007


  • 54,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. When the vehicle is parked on an incline, it moves in reverse on its own. The vehicle has been to the dealer seven times, but they cannot determine the cause of the failure. The failure mileage was 54,000 and current mileage was 86,000.

- Hayesville, NC, USA

problem #10

Jun 012008


  • 56,000 miles
Back rear hatch cracked. Just like the 100's of others I found on my internet search of the problem. Our transmission also failed and had to be replaced, at our own cost.

- Cypress, TX, USA

problem #9

Mar 082008


  • 67,000 miles
My concern is in regard to an ongoing problem that my vehicle and thousands of others like it have; the lack of safety one may be faced with if the rear on these vehicles fail due to substandard parts used in the rear differential on the Ford SUV's and F-150's. my understanding is that the costly repair that is required the manufacture will not honor after the basic warranty is over even though this is an ongoing problem. On these vehicles. I was told today that if I continue to drive the vehicle to the point of complete failure I risk the vehicles back wheels locking up. My question to the NHTSA is why has there not been a recall on these vehicles knowing that this is a major problem in the drivetrain of these vehicles. I have 79K on my vehicle and a friend had their rear differential replaced at 22K and the problem is prevalent again on that vehicle again as well. In my estimation this could result in serious injury. What does it take to get a recall on this problem" does hundreds of people have to die or suffer serious injury for something to be done? I have had my vehicle back to Ford for one bang or clang or another since the vehicle had 18K on it. Will the NHTSA ever see fit to make a re-call on these vehicles or again does several people need to suffer injury or loss before something is done"

- Wanaque, NJ, USA

problem #8

Aug 102008


  • 28,000 miles
In 2005 I purchased a 2004 Ford exxltspnbx 11900 from herz car sales. Just few month after that I experienced the first of 20 critical engine shutdowns that I experienced up to now. 2. the failure is that the engine of my car turns off spontaneously at speeds between 50 and 70 mph. The consequences are: - sudden loss of power - sudden loss of steering servo, I.e. a sharp sideways kick if the car is in a curve - sudden loss of braking power - the need to shift to neutral and restart the engine, with the danger to shift to 'R' or even 'P' in panic, and to lock up the steering wheel at full speed (!!!) panic is the right word for the feeling my wife and I have experienced in every occurrence of this failure. 3. after the first two failures I brought the car to a Ford dealership. The car was still under factory warranty, but the workshop couldn't localize the problem. They test-drove he car for 200 miles and concluded he car was ok, in spite of the fact that I told them that I had two events in 20,000 miles. The total frequency has been by now once in every 2,500 miles, on average. The shutdown seems to be occurring with the cruise control on, more likely on slight downhill slopes. 3. no solution for this problem so far.

- Davis, CA, USA

problem #7

Jul 242007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Multiple problems with my Explorer. When shifting into reverse car jolts with a clunking noise. ABS light is on and 4X4 high light flashes. Service engine light on but no hose leaks can be found. Wrench light comes on even after tps replacement suggested by obd-II. Very unhappy with this vehicle. I have owned 7 Ford, this is the worst I have owned.

- Yukon, OK, USA

problem #6

Feb 012005


  • miles
Ford Motor Company regarding dissatisfaction with lack of performance, reliability and quality of 2004 Ford Explorer XLT* consumer states has had multiple problems with 2004 Ford Explorer such as very hard shifting gears from a parked position, the vehicle shut down on I95 highway twice and pedals became inoperable, vehicle also slams into gear at high speed and wants to reimbursed for the multiple problems of his 3 year old truck.

- Fort Washington, MD, USA

problem #5

Oct 122006

Explorer 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Multiple problems with my Explorer. When shifting into reverse car jolts with a clunking noise. While driving car jolts occasionally. When braking car shakes. ABS light is on and 4X4 high light flashes. Explorer was taken in December 2004 and fixed for the truck jolting into reverse. Truck now having the same problem. Truck to be taken back to the dealer next week.

- Iselin, NJ, USA

problem #4

Dec 122005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Vehicle rear-end whine.

- Leonardtown, MD, USA

problem #3

Sep 292005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer in dealership service 5 times for slipping in the rear while driving in low speeds around corners, still not fixed! dealership has also attempted to fix severe delayed jerking after placing the vehicle in reverse on 3 occasions. Had vehicle at dealership for 35,000 service, dealership took it upon themselves to attempt to fix rear end again and replace bearings in the hub with out my permission! going to arbitration with the BBB autoline to request Ford repurchase the vehicle as it is very evident these problems have existed for years and still exist with the newer models. Thank goodness no one was hurt, except my wallet! the dealership offered me an extended warranty for my troubles in July, it is now the last day of September and I have not received it! lemon law - 3 attempts to fix the same problem and you qualify.

- Locust Grove, VA, USA

problem #2

Jun 232005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles
Transmission going into reverse had started to be delayed and abrupt starting around April of 2005 at appr. 12,000 miles. It seemed to not shift into gear properly and would lurch into gear unexpectedly. We received a recall from Ford in May 2005 stating that we had not yet been in for our recall. No notice had come before that one. I immediately called dealer and took in for transmission fluid change 3 days later. There has been no change and if anything things have gotten worse. I need to take my child 75 miles one way frequently for doctors appointments and am quite concerned about the safety of this vehicle.

- Middlesex, NJ, USA

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