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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
37,349 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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2004 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #10

Jun 142010


  • 73,292 miles


Both rear wheel bearings were worn and noisy at less than 74,000 miles. These bearings should have lasted much longer. $800 to repair/replace.

- Jackson, TN, USA

problem #9

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 #8

Aug 172009


  • 65,000 miles
I am handicapped and live on social security, this is important because of the bill I had to pay. I am making payments on a used 04 Explorer, they are quite high so I got the extended service plan. The rear axle has whined ever since I got it. When it was drowning out the radio and finally started leaking the dealer, don jenkins Ford finally agreed to look at it. I was reduced to laying on the floor while I waited because if I brought my wheelchair I would have no way to get it home. The dealer replaced the ring and pinion under the warranty company even though it was a factory defect, the car only has 65K miles. The parking brake fell apart when they removed the axles but they couldn't get the warranty company to pay for another factory defect so I had to give them almost $400 to get my car back. It was okay for the warranty company to pay for shoddy parts and questionable workmanship but not Ford. I am disgusted with this modern morality, in my day they called these people by their proper name, thieves. No wonder the car companies are in trouble, cars cost almost one third the price of a starter home and are made with second rate chinese parts just to support the unions. It will be a cold day in !@#$% and the devil will come upstairs selling snowcones before I will buy another car made in the last ten years.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #7

Aug 152009


  • 50,000 miles


There is no failure yet for our vehicle but there are many out there that has. Do a internet search for the 2004 Ford Explorer complaints and see for yourself the complaints for wheel bearing failure and rear differential failure that will eventually get someone killed. This is a very common problem and Ford will not acknowledge or do anything about it.

- Campbellsville, KY, USA

problem #6

Aug 132008


  • miles
My complaint is with the 2004 Ford Explorer and is a universal complaint for Explorer from 2002-2005. These vehicles have problems with their rear differentials causing them to whine loudly at various speeds. In some cases they will leak and in extreme cases even seize up causing a dangerous situation for the drivers. There are multiple articles on this situation online and I myself have had my differential parts replaced twice already. I still experience a slight "whine" in the rear end around 60mph, not as bad as before but still there however. Apparently when the factory warranty has expired Ford dealers will only repair this problem again if they are paid to do so. This is a major problem with these vehicles and has been for some time. Ford needs to accept ownership of this situation and have a recall sent out to all owners advising them the problem will be fixed at no expense to the owners. It is a downright annoying, costly and sometimes dangerous situation that needs to be addressed now as there are many of these vehicles on the road with unhappy owners at the wheel. Myself included. Thank you for your time.

- Fogelsville, PA, USA

problem #5

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 #4

Feb 022008


  • 12,000 miles


There is alot of whistling and squeaking in my front end and everytime I have it looked at I am told it just needs lubrication and after a few weeks the noise is back which I am sure means something is wrong and no one seems to find it. The squeaking is driving me nuts at every turn whenever you brake sometimes just accelerating will cause it to squeak.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #3

Feb 202008


  • 54,000 miles
I own a 2004 Ford Explorer. Car started vibrating at low speeds especially after a stop and when turning. I have taken it to two mechanics and both told me the rear differential needs to be replaced. I am a college student and just purchased the vehicle so I will be unable to pay for the costly repair. I have read online that many many other Ford customers have had the same problem and Ford has done nothing about it.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #2

Nov 082004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,095 miles
Car has a hard time engaging into gear, when backing up it feels like I've hit another vehicle. The vehicle just jumps in revers.I have almost ran over someone because of a delay in engaging into reverse. In drive it does the same thing. I worry that I am going to hit a car that might be parked in front of me or even a person. Not only that I worry that if I did hit another car I wouldn't know that I did it. The car has had problems starting. It has left us almost stranded twice. The cars battery has died for no reason, even after driving a couple of hours prior to trying to restart it. The front and rear window motors have gone out, the rear windows were stuck open in a rain storm with my two children in the back seat. The vehicle has lost power driving down the interstate and a warning light came on in the dash, the vehicle had only 5,000 miles on the odometer. The keyless entry quite working, wich also kept our key chain lockers from working. The car would not turn over, it would just make a click, when it would turn over, it sounded like gears were grinding. The vehicle went in for to be serviced for the first time a month after we bought the vehicle, Dec. 5, 2003 and has gone in atleast once every two months since. The car has been in for servicing a total of 3 months out of the year that we have owned it. We have requested since it has been for the same problem 8 times and it has not been fixed that the dealership lemon the vehicle. But nothing has been done about it. The dealership doesn't know what the problem is and they have told us that they cannot fix it.we still have the same problem now. It can potentially hurt someone.

- Boise, ID, USA

problem #1

Mar 292004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,100 miles
Whining noise from rear of vehicle. Dealer stated that Ford knows of this problem but doesn't currently have a fix for it! they asked me to call them back in 30 days.

- Severn, MD, USA

Not what you are looking for?