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 1 of 6)

problem #101

Nov 022016


  • 170,000 miles


Transmission failure with overdrive light first gear, shifts hard, sometime it wont shift without letting off gas.with codespo731, PO733, PO734, PO745 needs total rebuild this happened while driving down the road at 40 miles a hour, ABS light is on. Codes show wrong line pressure.engine knocking, timming chain issues.

- Corydon, IN, USA

problem #100

Apr 012016


  • 98,000 miles
Transmission failure. Shift solenoid "B" circuit failure transmission does not shift into 2nd gear until vehicle reaches 3000 RPM. O/D light flashes, service engine soon light activates and transmission stays in 3rd gear. Don't use vehicle and is out of extended warranty.

- Racine, WI, USA

problem #99

Jul 142016


  • 172,472 miles
When driving my 2004 Ford Explorer started making a grinding and humming noise on the left front of driver side tire area. ABS and 4X4 high lights came on instrument panel. Truck felt like it was going into 4X4 mode on its own and braking felt like ABS system failed. Took it to a Ford dealership and I was told that both front wheel bearings needed to be replaced at a cost of $1053. Since this truck uses sensors and traction control the sensor on the left driver side had gone out causing this feature no longer to work. It is a good thing this did not result in an accident since the vehicle was going into 4X4 mode on it's own and the brakes ABS no longer functioned. Just a quick search online will result in many found issues regarding this that Ford has not done a recall on yet. What is it going to take to get Ford to stand behind the safety of trucks they sell?

- Delta, CO, USA

problem #98

May 032016


  • 145,000 miles


Paint peeling roof hood differential replaced twice bearings wear out repaired twice back of tailgate panel cracked replaced 3 times

- Allentown, PA, USA

problem #97

Nov 022015


  • miles
When driving and you then shifting from drive to reverse it goes into reverse hard. Sometimes it eases into gear and other times it is very hard. I thought well maybe it was me did my foot slip off brake or something?? it wasn't that I made a very conscious effort to make sure I did it correctly and still had the same problems. I also noticed that the vehicle doesn't shift from drive to park correctly kind of stops you before entering park then will go in after you were denied the gear the first time. Currently still dealing with this was hoping there was a recall for either issue.

- Grandville, MI, USA

problem #96

Mar 122015


  • 178,500 miles
Overdrive light starting blinking car started shifting really hard and jerking. This is a known issue with Ford Explorer and need to be recalled. I dont have another vehiclebi really need help please

- Okc, OK, USA

problem #95

Jan 052015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 115,000 miles


Transmission failure, common for Ford Explorer 2004.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #94

Feb 252015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 139,939 miles
Had my used 2004 Ford Explorer for a week and I noticed the transmission jerking when it shift into the last gear. Sometimes when I put it in reverse, I have to wait for a full minute for it to finally reverse. Sometimes it jerks hard when I put it in reverse or drive. I'm sure the dealership knew about all this but never revealed it. Of course when you buy as is, your screwed.

- Lorain, OH, USA

problem #93

Mar 212014


  • 117,000 miles
I was driving interstate 64 getting off the exist going around the ramp and a knocking noise started as I rounded the curb, then oil pressure dropped, my power was gone and, I barely made it off the ramp, but luckily the vehicle had enough speed to coast the curb to get to a safe place to stop. Upon having it checked out by a local mechanic he suggested that the engine and oil pump needed to be replaced" as a single mother I don't have the money for the repairs, and from others complaints that I've seen it makes me wonder if its worth the trouble to find another engine and will it happen again. I thought had found a good vehicle that only lasted a few months...feeling irritated...get it together Ford because this 2004 Explorer is trouble!! was this just a test dummy model to see what problems would come of it??" we want and need answers to these problems. We're spending so much hard earned money on a vehicle that has more problems that keeps happening often.

- Toano, VA, USA

problem #92

Feb 252015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
I've have my vehicle for 10 years. Paid the dealership $450 to have a warranty for the power train and when I went to the dealership for them to fix it they wouldn't. I find out that my major issues are the mechanical differential. Still having the this issue to this day and can never have my transmission cleaned or flushed because of that. Also, my fuel system gets clogged a lot and gas mileage is horrible. Also, my antifreeze leaks after I paid money to have the cracked seal fixed. This is just scratching the surface. I have many things wrong with my vehicle I feel should be covered by the manufacturer but I would like to know what defects are out there for my vehicle.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #91

Jan 242015


  • 65,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 25 mph, the transmission seized. The contact stated that when the accelerator was depressed, the vehicle hesitated to accelerate. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, where it was diagnosed that the gears failed to shift and the transmission had to be replaced. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 65,000.

- Lincoln, NE, USA

problem #90

Jan 012015


  • 186,000 miles
Rear panel cracked in the shed. I have had to replace my transmission a year ago replace front hubs several times. And just last week I had to replace the back wheel bearing again. I don't understand why Ford has not done a recall on these things.I see a lot of Ford with the same crack on the back hatch.this is just crazy. If I new we couldn't check transmission fluid I would have never got this truck.I will never buy a Ford again. We also have a 1994 diesel that we had to put a transmission in at 80,000 miles it sits in the shed and now my husband drives a Chevy.our Ford diesel only has 134,000 on it what ashamed. It will not even crank when its cold. Bad work Ford!!!!

- Cleveland, NC, USA

problem #89

Dec 022014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 39,000 miles
The car is in parking condition at work and after a long awhile it would not start even the full battery. I have attempted to make lots of checks for all component like relays, fuses and wiring connection they are all fine, in good condition. But finding out the starter relay had no power, no current flowing through it. I belief that the faulty is ( PCM unit ) power train control module that blocked a current from the starter relay.

- Cedar Park, TX, USA

problem #88

Apr 172010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 88,000 miles
The transmission failed early on at about 88000 miles, we purchased and replaced this. My husband had been in auto repair and parts for over 20 years, so him and my son done the repair, without counting anything for labor the total cost for the repair was around $2000. From that point on we have had lots of major problems that had to be repaired or parts replaced. The intake and parts cost us around $700, no charge for labor. The timing C+hain failed and we choose this time to take it to the repair shop which cost us $1100!!! now at 156000 miles the transmission has failed, this one has around 68000 miles on it. We have never had one dime in help from Ford on anything. This is the third Explorer we have owned in the past 15 years. We also own 3 F-150's and a mustang. We have never had this kind of problems with any of the other vehicles. I can honestly say we are very disappointed in this 2004 Explorer and I feel we will most likely not purchase another Ford vehicle in the future!!!!!

- Frenchburg, KY, USA

problem #87

Nov 182014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 214,000 miles
This is the second occurrence of this event. First one failed at 90,000 3 years ago. This was a rebuild Ford transmission installed by the dealer. It failed again, this time the car was able to get safely to the side of the road, safety was an issue as it was not a movable car and stranded on side of busy road.

- Quakertown, PW, USA

problem #86

Oct 092014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 124,000 miles
I was at a stoplight and when the light turned green my car would not move. The car was in drive and it would just rev. The cars behind me started honking. I put it in the lower gears and finally started moving forward and drove it to the dealership. As I was driving to the dealership in the lower gears the car shifted out of gear while in traffic, I put it in neutral and back into 3 and it started moving forward again. This is very dangerous since the car will just shift in and out of gear and stop moving forward. At the dealership the car would not move while in drive or reverse. They told me the transmission needs to be replaced at a cost of $4,200, this is after I just had the throttle body replaced two months ago at a cost of $1,800. Ford need to do a recall in these transmissions it could lead to an accident.

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #85

Sep 082014


  • 78,000 miles
When I shift into reverse it takes a few seconds to shift gear and when it shifts into gear it feels like the transmission fell on the ground. There's a big jolt right before it shifts into reverse.

- Windsor, CA, USA

problem #84

Jul 182007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 17,000 miles
Exact dates are various, vehicle has 39000 miles on it presently, have multiple vehicles, drive over the road truck driver... changed brakes and rotors twice, emergency brake not working, had fixed, had to have ekg replaced and some exhaust sensor, tires wore out at 29000, exhaust system replaced, both ball joints replaced, pinion gear gasket leaking from rear end, both cv joints leaking, appears right cv joint needs replacing, gets 14 mpg ( 4.0 liter ) paint peeling from roof for quite awhile now, rusting around fuel tank door, as all are...... vehicle has been a nightmare, getting rid of this at 39000 miles, Ford has a better idea, buy another one !

- Cheektowaga , NY, USA

problem #83

Jan 142014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • miles
Every since we've financed this lousy SUV 08/2012 we've had a clicking noise from the rear and still cant figured out what that is, but the transmission has been slipping and shifting hard, we have replace front left wheel bearing and ABS sensor just a few months ago and the bearing is bad again and the front right wheel has a bad ball joint and the visibility thru windshield is horrible, always have a hard time seeing, cna only see a few inches ahead!!! this car needs serious recalls the air conditioner stopped working in less then a yr!!! and we bought this car with only 68,506 miles!! we already spend over a grand for a fuel pump!!! this car sucks!!! plz help we still owe thousands and everytime we blink an eye it's not safe to drive because of wheel problems!!!!

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #82

Jan 012014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the rear wheel wells and frame were rusted. And the rear hatch was fractured. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The failure mileage was 40,000 and the current mileage was 100,000. Updated 09/30/14 the consumers stated the transmission jerks into gear. Updated 02/25/2015

- Green Belt, MD, USA

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