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:
6 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
70,042 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #28

Mar 292011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 103,000 miles


My 2004 Ford Explorer has had a problem since it was new where the cruise control (speed control) would disengage on its own and at the same time kill the engine. The dealerships could not make it happen again and have never been able to fix the problem. It does it much more often at speeds less than 50 mph, so I don't use the cruise at slower speeds; however, it has now started doing it above 50 mph and the ABS light also comes on occasionally. This situation is extremely dangerous because when the engine dies your power-steering no longer works and steering is very difficult. It sounds to me like this should be included in a recall.

- Milton, WA, USA

problem #27

Feb 152007


  • 45,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving approximately 5 mph when the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where the technician replaced the fuel pump, throttle body and several unknown sensors in the vehicle. The failure recurred and the vehicle was towed to the dealer. The technician advised that they would perform extensive diagnostic testing on the vehicle. The vehicle was not repaired. The contact stated that the failure would occur intermittently in cold temperatures less than twenty degrees. The approximate failure mileage was 45,000.

- Port Mommouth, NJ, USA

problem #26

Nov 102010


  • 59,500 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that when the vehicle was in park with the emergency brake engaged, the vehicle would abnormally accelerate without warning. The dealer was not notified of the failure. The manufacturer was contacted who advised the contact to take the vehicle to a dealer for a diagnostic test. The vehicle was not repaired or diagnosed. The current mileage was approximately 60,000 and the failure mileage was approximately 59,500.

- Long Beach, CA, USA

problem #25

Oct 152010


  • 102,000 miles


My 2004 Ford Explorer caught on fire today. The fire began under the hood. Per the fire department, the fire started around the cruise control and brake master cylinder area. Ford does not have a recall out for this year model, unlike the 2003 and older models, but this is definitely a manufacturer problem. The car was driven to several points, drop the kids of at school, one at daycare, and a stop for breakfast. Nothing was wrong with our car. After arriving to work, my wife got a call that her car was on fire. There were no signs, malfunctions that something was wrong with the vehicle. Regularly scheduled maintenance were always performed.

- Spring, TX, USA

problem #24

Oct 132010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 58,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. When the contact depressed the accelerator pedal, the vehicle would not move. When she depressed the pedal again, the vehicle would suddenly take off at a high rate of speed. The contact called the dealer who stated that the problem was common but there was no remedy. The manufacturer had not been notified. The failure mileage was approximately 58,000. Updated 12/30/10 updated -1/10/11

- Limerick, PA, USA

problem #23

May 092010


  • 56,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 70 mph, the check engine light flashed on the instrument panel and the vehicle suddenly shut off. The contact disconnected the battery to reset the computer so the vehicle would start. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was then taken to a local repair shop where the contact was told that the transmission did not need to be replaced but the throttle body did. The vehicle was repaired at that time; the contact had not experienced any further problems since the repair. The failure mileage was approximately 56,000.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #22

Sep 232010


  • 93,830 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving approximately 55-60 mph when the electronic throttle warning light illuminated. The vehicle independently began to decelerate and before stalling. The contact shifted into neutral and coasted to the side of the road. She was able to restart the vehicle after ten minutes. The failure occurred twice. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where they were unable to duplicate the failure. The dealer suggested that the throttle be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 93,830 and the current mileage was 93,839.

- Stanford, VA, USA

problem #21

Mar 302009


  • 75,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving at approximately 20 mph when the throttle body suddenly kicked back. He turned off the ignition and restarted to regain control of the vehicle. The vehicle had not been taken to an authorized dealership and the contact had not called the manufacturer at the time of the complaint. The failure mileage was approximately 75,000. The current mileage was approximately 82,000.

- Aberdeen, MD, USA

problem #20

Mar 202010


  • 60,000 miles
I own a 2004 Ford Explorer. Previous models (2002) were recalled for the ABS light and speed control issue (09S09). I have the same problem on the 2004 Explorer. The problem is intermittent, it is ok for a while then the problem shows up again. Could this be a fire problem?

- Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #19

Feb 052010

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 62,000 miles
I have a 2004 Ford Explorer (V8 eddie bauer) I recently ran into a strange situation. I set the cruise control at 35 mph and as I was going down a small hill, the car stalled. I put it into neutral and it started with no problem at all. It is very dangerous when the 2004 Explorer stalls whenever the cruise control is set and it is going at a slow speed.

- Norfolk, MA, USA

problem #18

Jun 102006


  • 25,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that since the vehicle was purchased it hesitates during acceleration. The dealer confirmed that the vehicle was operating normally and may appear abnormal since it has a V8 engine. The contact stated that the vehicle currently is not accelerating at all. A local mechanic stated the vehicle is a safety hazard due to the lack of acceleration. The contact is concerned of the possibility of a crash occurring. The current mileage was 100,000 and the failure mileage was 25,000.

- Gordonsville , VA, USA

problem #17

Nov 012009


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Expedition. While parked in the drive-way, she turned on the ignition, and then shifted the vehicle into drive. The vehicle accelerated out of the drive-way for 50 feet, without intention. The vehicle ran over a large roadway curb, and came to a complete stop at the neighbor's property. A police report was filed. The driver sustained no personal injury. The insurance company was notified of the malfunction. The failure and current mileages were 90,000.

- Conyers, GA, USA

problem #16

Feb 282009

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 73,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 65 mph on normal road conditions, the engine failed when the speed control switch was activated. The failure occurred without warning whenever the speed control selector was activated. The engine was able to be restarted and resume normal operation. The manufacturer stated that the VIN was excluded from the recall. The NHTSA campaign id number could not be found online. The failure mileage was 73,000 and current mileage was 80,000. Updated 04/15/09. Updated 04/16/09.

- Tioga, WV, USA

problem #15

Feb 152009


  • 27,500 miles
When you engage cruise control it shuts down the engine.

- Whitman, MA, USA

problem #14

Nov 112006


  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. When the contact started the ignition and depressed the accelerator pedal, the vehicle unexpectedly lunged forward. The failure occurs whenever the gear shifter is in the drive or reverse positions. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for inspection and they were unable to determine the cause of the failure. The vehicle has not been repaired. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 40,000 and current mileage was 50,000.

- Dubois, PA, USA

problem #13

Dec 172008


  • 80,255 miles
On December 17, 2008 at around 6:50 a.M., I was driving my wife to work. We live in a quiet village type residential area. After two minutes or so after I pulled out of our driveway, my 2004 Ford Explorer suddenly accelerated at a very high speed, without my stepping on the gas pedal. I estimate the vehicle reached 45 mph or more in a very short span of time, and apparently increasing. The vehicle speed was out of my control for 3 seconds or more, despite my foot being away from the accelerator. At first I thought I was skidding on black ice, but I realized this couldn't be because the engine was increasingly roaring and getting louder as I gained speed. It reminded me of the sensation when cruise control picks up speed on the freeway. Besides, I wasn't losing control of the steering wheel. It felt like my gas pedal was not only stuck, but was being pressed even further more. When I realized I wasn't skidding, I quickly applied the brakes and vehicle slowed down. Good thing, the street was deserted. The most significant memory was the sudden roaring of the engine and the rapid acceleration despite my foot being off the gas pedal. The temperature outside was 38F, with a slight drizzle.

- South Setauket, NY, USA

problem #12

Jun 102006


  • 75,000 miles
Details: On going problem with throttle control, when you are stopped or just starting out and give gas it dose not start to go so you give it a little bit more gas and then it will jump forward or backward( if you are backing up) to appoint that it will some times squeal the tires. The transmission also would shift so hard it feels like you are hit from behind. In for repair at sellers sexton Ford, St robert mo.

- St Robert, MO, USA

problem #11

Oct 082008


  • 14,000 miles
I have a 2004 Explorer limited and just turned 14,000 miles and my ABS light comes on every time I start the car and accelerate. Also the cruise stopped working. From what I have read it sounds like the ABS module which Ford has apparently been aware off. Not happy!! I would not expect this sort of problem with only 14,000 miles.

- De Pere, WI, USA

problem #10

Sep 012008


  • 47,000 miles
Of the numerous issues with this vehicle, the worst is the transmission (40,000 miles ). same old story. Started with clunking and hesitation and surging when shifting into reverse and now is 'clunking' into gears 2 and 3 during normal driving. The rear drivers side window motor has been replaced twice. The rear window panel has a vertical crack to the left of the Ford symbol that just mysteriously occurred even though we don't even use the window. The truck stalls when the cruise control is applied below 45 miles an hour. My wife and I really loved this truck but like many others we have become embarrassed by our purchase. If this kind of fraud were to occur with any other product we would have some sort of recourse but not surprisingly the motor company's seem to enjoy a certain level of protection. The 'better business bureau' won't even listen to car complaints. Given the severe and ubiquitous nature of the complaints about this vehicle it comes as no surprise that no remediations is forth coming from this organization, the manufacturer or any other. The cost of these vehicles is a burden to say the least and is financially devastating to those of us who purchased them in good faith only to have a 30,000 dollar vehicle become useless and dangerous before reaching 50000 miles. Like all the other 'victims' of fraud, I am wasting yet more of my time by complaining about it.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #9

Sep 152008

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 46,000 miles
I have discovered that my 2004 Ford limited V8 cruise control can kill the engine while the car is in motion. I have been using the coast button on my cruise control to reduce speed as I approach a speed sign lower than my existing speed. If I hold the button as the car slows to a speed below 35mph (approximate) the engine quits leaving me with no power steering or vacuum braking. I've tried it several time and the fault is consistent. Whenever the car slows to below the minimum cruise control the device should disengage, not stall the engine. I think this is a serious issue and owners should be aware of it.

- Livingston, TX, USA

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