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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
83,284 miles
Total Complaints:
28 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace rear differential (14 reports)
  2. not sure (7 reports)
  3. don't buy ford!! (3 reports)
  4. rear end was replaced (2 reports)
  5. repair, never buy a ford 2004 (1 reports)
  6. whole drivetrain went caused by 4x4 transfer case (1 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #28

Apr 052016

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,500 miles


This is the second Explorer I have owned in the last 10 years. The first was a 2006 Eddie Baurer which had serious transmission problems. I actually traded it before it went completely out. I now own the 2004 that is listed and have had it for approximately 1 1/2 years. It only has 94000 original miles and it was a 1 owner when I got it. Shortly after I purchased it the rear differential started whining in it and is now grinding. I have parked the vehicle afraid that it will put me down which will eventually happen. Like lots of other people my wife and I only get Social Security so fixing it right now is impossible. I would hope that Ford would do something all that are having the problem. I have owned Fords all my life and have been very pleased.

- , Williamston, NC, USA

problem #27

May 212014

Explorer Limited 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,500 miles

Bought this in February from Ford dealer in Homer City, PA to replace my 2000 Eddie Bauer Explorer that was totaled in an accident. Earlier this month I began to hear some noises and a whine/howl that starts at 55mph while at highway speeds. A friend who is a mechanic took it for a ride and confirmed my suspicions. Rear differential bearings.

Did some research and found out it's a common problem. Ford really needs to step up here and take care of this as I'm sure the original owner had to have this fixed in the 10 years she owned it before I bought it. I used to drive nothing but Honda's, and thought I'd give Ford a chance since we had good luck with the first 2 Explorers. We still have another 2000 Eddie Bauer with nearly 250000 miles on it with little problems. Just really disgusted having to dump this much money into it already and only having it 3 months.

- , Altoona, PA, USA

problem #26

Dec 102010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I HAD been an avid Ford fan since my teenage years. As of the past 8 years I have gone to avid fan to no fan. I owned a 1997 Explorer, went on vacation,transmission went out on the way home. Pushed it into a Ford Dealership, traded for a 2004 Explorer in 2006, had 30,000 on it. when it hit about 60,000 the transmission went bad. $2000.00 later it was (Drivable) again. 10,000 miles later rear end started whining. Transmission started slipping again, meanwhile rearend started roaring. And now that it will be paid off in a few months, im stuck with a money pit, thanks Ford. Highley disappointed in your lack of stepping to the plate.

- , Maryville, TN, USA

problem #25

Oct 302012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles


Purchased a 2004 Explorer in 2009 and a month later noticed a roar from the rear. Thinking it was noisy tires I didn't bother to pursue it. Since truck was too expensive to drive daily, I parked it much of the time and drove my Miata daily, but when I did drive the truck the noises kept increasing. I have continuously replaced wheel bearings, replaced right and left ball joints, tie rods, rear end seal, and the roar developed into front and rear roar/grinding from every corner of the lousy truck. All repairs were done by local mechanics, since $45 per hour labor is all I could afford, and after emailing FoMoCo about my continous problems I gave in and took their advice and took it to the Ford garage. Since I have read a multitude of complaints by others about their 04 Explorers having similar problems, I asked the Ford garage to check everything, transfer case, AND both differentials, and tranny. After diagnosing I was told it needed the front differential serviced and transfer case repaired with the viscis coupler and front pinion seal replaced. Four tires and repairs came to the tune of nearly $3000. I had to refinance the truck to get the money to repair it (and the truck had been nearly paid off!).

Sooooo, only 300 miles later the grinding/roar in the rear starts again! Called the Ford garage to have them examine the noise and now they say the REAR differential, the whole rear end, needs replaced!!!! I am so angry! How could they miss that in the initial diagnosis???? Especially when I specifically ASKED them to examine the rear diff??? So now that I have already refinanced the truck to pay for the previous major repairs, where am I going to get the money to fix it this time? I can't sell it cuz it's not worth the dirt it is parked on! I now owe twice as much as I did BEFORE I had it fixed the first time.

Ford has repeatedly failed their customers. I have emailed them REPEATEDLY about my problem and they always say they are 'looking into" my complaint. I have asked for recalls on these trucks and always get the same pat answer of "we hear you. We'll se what we can do." Liars... They won't do anything. Sowhat can WE do???? You can tell everyone you know about your problem and how Ford is unwilling to stand by their product and advise everyone you talk to to NEVER buy a Ford. When sales drop maybe they will listen...but don't hold your breath.

Don't any of these executives EVER ask why Hyundai is topping sales and Ford is losing customers? Losers.

- , Romney, WV, USA

problem #24

Feb 052013

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 177,689 miles

This is the second time I've had this issue with this vehicle. The first time I got lucky and I still had 25 miles left on the warranty and it was covered with the exception of a $100 shipping fee. Now the warranty is gone and I'm stuck with driving it till I can afford to get it fixed or I can afford to buy another vehicle. Needless to say my next car will not be a Ford!

- , Adairsville, GA, US

problem #23

Oct 012004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,000 miles

This was the first of 5 rear transmission changes. I was told it was my driving; made phone calls and wrote letters all the way to the Pres. of Ford Motor Co. at that time. I finally ran into a service tech who fessed up and said there were a lot of problems with the rear transmission ( grinding, limited slip not working etc, etc.), Finally found a dealership in Richmond, VA (Richmond Ford) who fixed problem and have not had problem since. Over the years, too many things keep screwing up to make me want to return to Ford products. Love them for not taking bail-outs; but please never tell me 'it's my driving habits.' Have a Toyota Camary (same year 2004) with 257,000 miles-hasn't even given me a hickup yet.

Brittle Jr

- , Richmond, VA, USA

problem #22

Sep 212012

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 190,000 miles


alot of people have had this problem and i feel that ford motor company should pay to have this fixed. I have never had a rear end go out just like that in all my like until now with this explorer.

- , Hartford, MI, USA

problem #21

Jun 152012

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

I am 18 and got my 2004 ford explorer as my first vehicle. It ran great for the first 2 years that I have had it but the past 10 months have been hell. Last October the engine needed to be replaced along with the catalytic converter. That cost $4200. Also my truck got stuck in park and needed a new steering column. That cost $300. Last weekend i replaced the left hub assembly,both sway bar links, and the front left and right ball joints.This cost about $400. A few days after that got fixed i heard a loud dragging sound and squeaking as i was driving home from breakfast. I put my hazard lights on thinking i wasn't going to make it home.Luckily i did. I had our neighbor who is a mechanic look at it. He tells me I need a new differential, transfer case, and my 4x4 is going out so soon will have to rebuild the whole rear end. Also my transmission will be going out within the next 6-8 months. This fix is estimated to cost $3000.Ford needs to do something about this. If they wont then it is time for the people to stand up and get their money back for these poorly made suvs.I have $4000 to pay off on this vehicle and can no longer afford to put any more money into this pile of crap. I will NEVER purchase another ford ever again.It is time for a class action lawsuit.

- , Waukesha, WI, US

problem #20

Sep 022011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

This is apparently a very common problem with this model. It has to do with the design of the diff and using metal and aluminum parts together a poor mix.. The bad thing is after spending $2000 and maybe putting 5000 miles on the diff I think the noise is coming back again. This vehicle has had most of the work done at Ford including all regularly scheduled maintenance as per the guidelines in the operators manual and still problems.

So much for Ford's motto of Quality is job one.

I like to buy North american products and keep are people working here but will deffinately look at foreign next time

- , Vimy, AB, Canada

problem #19

Dec 012011

Explorer LS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

We have a 2002 Pontiac Bonneville w/251,000 miles 3.8 V6 getting 30 MPG on Interstate with original factory drivetrain and engine.

We also have a 2000 GMC Jimmy with 181,000 miles 3.8 V6 and with original factory drivetrain & engine.

Bought 2004 Ford Explorer w/68,000 miles in September 2010. Bought Ford since they refused Obama money & we had doubts that GM & Chrysler would make it.

In one year we will have spent more money on the Ford Explorer than ALL the years with our GM vehicles. Had to replace Ford Exploere's fuel tank at +$600, wheel bearing at +$300 and now a complete new differential at near $2,000.

Needless to say we will NEVER purchase another Ford product AND we have already alerted our friends & family of the `Fix Or Repair Daily' products & problems.

- , Richmond, KY, USA

problem #18

Sep 022011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 5.3L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles


had to replace rear differential and still did not take care of the noise which was actually coming up front. Have now learned that the front differential bearings are going out and would need to be either rebuilt or replace the whole differential.

- , Peru, IL, USA

problem #17

Dec 282011

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

The rear differential began grinding on turns about 10k miles ago. Today, at work, I'm trying to pull out and it sounded like a pile of metal was being dragged under my vehicle. Ford shop told us a year ago it was on it's way out, but that we might as well wait. Estimate was $1K. Couldn't afford to repair it then, can't afford the repair now. Happy Holidays! Right? Got another estimate for about $800 from non-Ford shop. Mentioned to Ford shop. They gave us some crap about how their parts are better! Ha! Like the ones that just went out? After reading all the complaints I feel like Ford just flipped us all the bird.

- , Glenwood, IA, USA

problem #16

Apr 032008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,477 miles

At 53,477 miles with an extened warrenty the rear Diff went out, ford replace the ring and pinion along with the rear axle seals for leaking per (TBS) what is TBS This is Bull Sh*t?? I had to pay 106.25 fot the deductible. OK that was not bad NOW another 49,000 miles later it's happening again what the hell.. I really think ford should help out on this because the same probblem should not happen twice.

HELP can some one tell me what was not done right the first time!! MY explorer lookes brand new and is garaged every day, my oil changes done regular by ford dealer all other maintaince kept UP on. I have owned 2 Ford Explorers prior. This will be my last Ford!!

- , Hamilton, OH, US

problem #15

Oct 082010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

I have owned several Fords but this one is the last. I have had to replace three of four wheel hubs (bearings went bad) and it is in the garage at the present to have the rear end rebuilt. I just received a call that the "kit" I purchased for the rebuild was not enough and guess what... yep, more money.and must get a clutch pack, WTF? This thing has been a money pit since I purchased it!!! I have paint peeling on the roof, turn bulbs blow out monthly and looks like they have seriously overheated, I have put a new alternator in it toom replaced front rotors, u-joints, and all of that was at under 75,000 mi. Now were at 122,000 and it is the biggest peice of shinny crap I have ever owned. Minus the peeling paint on the roof it is a nice looker,just don't plan on driving out on the open highway in it again. If Ford gave a crap about customers they would take care of this drivetrain problem. I talked to five mechanics and they all said the housing is a mojor problem and they have all rebuilt several; they also said sell it! To think, it all started with a little rattle that only I could hear. If it was not for a good friend who is a mechanic I would have well over 3 grand in this for repairs in the last two years I have owned it. TOYOTA HERE I COME!

- , Bloomington, IN, USA

problem #14

Jun 012010

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

first off, going down the interstate the transfer case locked up and snapped the front

drive shaft off the front yolk, which slapped the drive shaft into the oil pan and locked up the tranny, which snatched the rear end which snapped the ring and pinion gear was one mess after another..truck still books for $8800 and the dealer will only give 5k on trade cause they said that year has too many problems..I think that is sh*tty business cause they know the prob exists and they dont do a recall or cost using used parts just to get it back on the road...3k

- , Madisonville, TN, USA

problem #13

Jul 152009

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,100 miles

Well I bought this explorer in 2004 with 100 miles on it. This explorer has been nothing but a problem. When you pay $32,000 for a car you expect it to last. The rear end started making a bad noise when I press the gas so I took it in and they told me the rear end is gone. Ford could fix it for $1,700 with a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty. But after doing the research it could go out again anytime so I checked around on another deal. I found that Jasper (which is world wide) would offer me 3 years or 100,000 mile warranty for $2150.00. That is the one I went with. What's $450 more dollars when the rear end will probably go out again. My advice to anyone looking for a car DON"T BUY A FORD!

- , Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #12

Aug 012009

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

Not sure anyone will belive this but the rear end went out on my 2004 Explorer, 84,000 miles. Not sure what it will cost but should not have to spend anything, have a 1992 ranger with 265,000 miles had to replace one axle bearing at 240k. "FORD TOUGH" my big ole butt. This truck has never been off road or deep water, a little snow in west kentucky and thats it. Had a bronco ll that had water over the hood severl times and never had a problem with the rear end. Wake up Ford. Bad taste in my mouth Used to think First On Race Day now

Fix Or Repair Dily

F___ing Old Rebuilt Dodge

- , wingo, ky, USA

problem #11

Jul 012005

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

WEll what should I do with a 2004 Rear End that was replaced at about 35000 miles under original warranty replaced at about 74000 under extended warranty and NOW at about 110000 the noise that preceeds the failure IS BACK

- , Rancho Cucamonga, CA, USA

problem #10

May 212009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,700 miles

This car, first of all, has never run well. I had the 5 year warranty on it and almost immediately it wouldn't back up properly, so it got a new transmission, under warranty. Brakes never felt right, they would always 'ka-chunk' like the ABS wanted to kick in but nothing was ever found to be wrong. A set of brakes later and still the ka-chunk.

So fast forward to a year or so ago, the car is four years old. The ABS light starts coming on and the 4x4 high starts flashing. I found that if I turned off the car and pumped the brakes, they would reset. So I did this. Until last week, when I started to feel like the rear end of the car was about to fall off when I drove the car. Returned it to the dealer, where it hasn't been in a while because I lost faith in them. An independent repair shop failed to pick up a problem with the ABS over the past year.

We were told $450 to fix a sensor. Fixed it, but oh! Car still broken. $600 to take apart rear differential. Growl. Fine. What choice to we have? BUT NOW? Today? $1,800 to REPLACE trashed rear differential. What to do?

Have to add, car stinks like baby puke to to exploded milk containers. Who would want it? I'm stuck. (not Ford's fault, I know)

Then some online research and now I have a cause for the road noise. I always thought this was just a really loud truck. Accleration on highways sounded like a plane on the runway preparing for takeoff. I now see that this is all related to one major lemon of a car. Only now it's over five years old, smells like baby puke, and has nearly $80,000 miles on it. Just great.

So I don't know what we're going to end up doing, but might as well add this complaint, in the hopes that someone else will see this before they have to go through the misdiagnosis process. Although after reading some of these, I have to wonder if replacement of the differential will be a permanent fix anyway? This was my first, and will be my last, Ford.

Update from Dec 30, 2009: Update: we had the entire rear differential replaced. It ended up costing about $800 but the dealership supposedly worked with Ford to get them to split the cost with us although it was out of warranty. The dealership is under new management now and the manager was most helpful. However - stopped in today with a different issue (peeling paint and bobbling side view mirror) and it was like being in the Twilight Zone. Nobody wanted to commit to answering anything.

- , Lincroft, NJ, USA

problem #9

Jan 012009

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

This has been a well maintained car used only to drive the 35 mile round trip to work daily. No off road driving, pulling heavy loads, etc.

- , Linden, MI, USA

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