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 1 of 3)

problem #48

Aug 162016


  • 180,000 miles


While driving down the street I activated the cruise control feature, but when I deexcellerated using the the steering wheel cruise control buttons down to a speed below 40, the engine shut off and power steering off, while I was still in motion on the street. I had to put the vehicle into park and crank up again (which almost didn't crank back up), to get back running. This is the first time using my cruise control feature and have read other horror stories of their Ford Explorer shutting off mid drive due to using the decel button during cruise control. Must be recalled for highway and interstate safety hazard immediately.

- Milton, FL, USA

problem #47

Apr 012016


  • 159,000 miles
Transmission slippind O/D light flashing RPM's high just bought car not happy

- Albion, MI, USA

problem #46

Feb 262016


  • 119,000 miles
When pressing on the accelerator there is a sometimess a delayed reponse when the vehicle moves it is sudden and unxpected. As result of this I recently backed into a fence causing damage to my car and the fence

- Troy, NY, USA

problem #45

Sep 022013


  • 90,000 miles


My SUV shuts off, at full speed!!! I've been in contact with Ford's corporate office, dealerships and other mechanics..... it is an issue that tens of thousands of Ford Explorer owners have had. There are thousands of complaints online! it is so common that mechanics know what you're talking about, before you finish a description of the problem. It's alsoi common for individuals to replace motors and continue to have their vehicles shut off on them, at full speed!!!. I am afraid for my child's safety, as well as my own.

- Waynesboro, GA, USA

problem #44

Jun 042014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
Driving through town was out in intersection and it just took off speeding slammed on brakes and I shut it off. Started it back up and like lost all power no control of foot feet Explorer started shaking and died tried to start no success. Towed it home had mechanic put it on computer and got P2111 Ford -throttle actuator control system stuck open. And I changed the tps and no luck changed the whole throttle body no luck still won't start. Was doing research and several Ford have been having same problem but when I called dealership he said he couldn't do anything about it because my VIN. # wasn't on the list. If other people are having the same thing happen to them that I am having why can't he help me too.

- Mingo, IA, USA

problem #43

Sep 052014

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 173,000 miles
When starting the vehicle, its not wanting to run. Then when I start to pull out it stalls. I mean, U push the gas pedal and it takes maybe four seconds before anything happens, then the tires spin it jerks forward and my kids scream. It jerks U back in the seat. Ok, we're on the road, I don't know if its going to run. One minute its acting like its getting enough fuel. The nexts its like it isn't. now the service engine light has come on. I call the guy who works on cars, he use to be a head mechanic for has his own shop now, he automatically tells me its the throttle body and says if I cant find a used one, U wont like buyin a new one. An the bad thing is U have to replace them about every 120000 miles. Now isn't that great. The auto parts store says about $725 will take care of the part, what about the labor"?" I bought this vehicle because it had a third row seat. I have three kids. I need it to be safe, not a death trap. Ford knows it has a problem, fix it!!!

- Williamsburg, KY, USA

problem #42

Sep 232013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 131,878 miles


I was driving at approximately 45 mpg and the vehicle started to slow down on it's own in the middle of traffic. I was close to home and able to get it into my driveway. I had to have it towed to the shop where they diagnosed that the electronic throttle body module was bad and replaced it at a cost of repair of $644.

- Sandston, VA, USA

problem #41

Nov 222013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 44,000 miles
This is a county govt vehicle purchased used from a dealer about 2 years ago. I had been highway driving for about 3-4 hours at speeds between 55-70 mph. I made one brief stop during that time, and was mostly using cruise control. Just prior to the incident, the speed limit drops from 70 to 55, and then to 35 in a relatively short distance. I used the cruise control coast to reduce my speed from 55 to 35. The 35 mph speed starts on a bridge- there is a small incline and then a little larger decline. At about the base of the bridge, the engine shut off, I lost steering and coasted to a stop. I don't recall if I had braking. I was with a passenger; it was night, and this occurred in an area that was not safe. I tried restarting the car, and it restarted with no problem. I drove to a nearby gas station. The power steering fluid was low, so I filled that, restarted, and drove the remaining 1 1/2 hrs with no problems. Other employees continued to drive over the next 2 1/2 months locally-very little highway driving, with no issues. On February 21, I was returning from a trip in this vehicle from the same area, with the same circumstances as above. When I was still on the bridge where the speed drops to 35, the engine shut off again. This time I was alone. There was a vehicle following very close behind me but fortunately I continued to coast as this was on the decline of the bridge. I was able to steer slightly to get off the highway. The check gauges; check engine, and battery warning lights were all on. The car restarted with no problems. I drove to the same gas station; checked the gauges-all were normal and no warning lights. I drove the 1 1/2 hrs remaining with no problems. On a web search, I found multiple cases of very similar problems on Explorer with no resolution. I could find no recalls on the VIN. This is an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal problem.

- Manteo, NC, USA

problem #40

Nov 092013

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 84,750 miles
When setting cruise control at around 35 to 40 mph the engine dies. The power steering stops working and is very difficult to steer out of traffic. Turn the vehicle off and then it will restart and run until you try to set the cruise again.

- Redmond, WA, USA

problem #39

Aug 252013


  • 124,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 25 mph, the brakes failed. The vehicle did not stop until after repeated attempts to apply the brakes. The vehicle was restarted after several minutes and operated normally for five miles. The vehicle then accelerated independently, reaching speeds of up to 65 mph before the contact was able to stop the vehicle. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic and the contact was awaiting diagnosis. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 124,000.

- Catawba, NC, USA

problem #38

Jun 222012


  • 88,000 miles


While driving, the cruise control stopped working and car stalled. At the same time the ABS light comes off and on.

- Independence, KY, USA

problem #37

Sep 302012


  • 74,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while stopped, the vehicle accelerated independently and without warning. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was taken to a dealer for diagnosis where the throttle body sensor unit was replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified but offered no assistance. The failure and current mileage was 74,000.

- Highlands Ranch, CO, USA

problem #36

Sep 152012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 106,000 miles
I purchased a 2004 Ford Explorer in July 0F 2011, and traded in my 2001 Oldsmobile of 5 years. I also purchased the 12 month 12,000 mile warranty. Before driving it off the lot I had the dealer fix the ABS system because the light was on. There is a crack going down the back of the trunk but nothing else was wrong at the time so I left the crack alone. In April of 2012 I took it to the dealership for a belt, check trans, shocks, ball joints, and a ticking in the heater when knob was turned to heat (not cool). I told him to just fix what was on the warranty and also give it a oil change. He informed me that the trans was fine. After getting the car back my heat went out and I was told by a mechanic buddy that my brakes, rotters, emergency brake pads and the back tires were shot. So I had him replaced them because this was also not covered on warranty. Just last week my RPM started jumping with miles over 65.(no lights were on at the time)so I took it to 6 different places getting estimates on what could be wrong. All shops said the same thing. "start with fuel filter, oil filters and oil change". the day after I paid for all this the service engine light came on. (egr valve code) the man at auto zone told me to take it off and clean it with spray and let it dry before replacing. I took it to a shop and had them do this. The same day I picked up the car my service engine light came on again, O/D light and the car was driving like I was hauling a bus and jumping. I took it back the next day and he replaced the egr valve new since the same code was showing up. Later that day after getting it back the car started doing the same thing after driving for 5 miles this was Friday 9/21/12.

- Hebron, KY, USA

problem #35

Sep 012012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
I was driving down the highway and all of a sudden my transmission started slipping and the cruise control kicked it because the vehicle started to slow down so it went into high rpms then the transmission grabbed and shot the vehicle forward and I lost control and we spun in circles off the freeway. Had it not of rained all day the SUV would have flipped. Now my transmission is leaking fluid and it must be repaired by dealership or garage only and I cannot afford this repair and I see that there is a major problem these transmissions in these vehicles and me my child or my husband could have been badly hurt if not killed had this been on dry pavement!!!

- Ashtabula, OH, USA

problem #34

Aug 062010


  • 90,000 miles
Cannot accelerate, feels like transmission is shifting hard. Scares me to be in traffic with two small children in backseat. Put into reverse it jolts into gear after a few seconds. Makes a loud noise when driving down the road. Sometimes there is almost no acceleration making it impossible to get around town.

- Palm Coast, FL, USA

problem #33

Jul 212012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 121,500 miles
Traveling with the cruise control set at approximately 58 mph, traffic 100 - 120 feet in front of the vehicle came to an abrupt stop. Pressed the brake to disengage the cruise control and started applying pressure to the brake pedal. The vehicle seemed to initially start to slow, however, as we approached the stopped traffic, the engine continued to rev and we could not stop, causing us to hit the rear-end of the vehicle in front of us. The vehicle we hit moved forward a few feet and we hit the rear-end again as the Explorer's engine continued to rev and drive us forward even with constant pressure applied to the brake pedal. After the second collision, we were able to pull the Explorer off to the side of a road, notify the police, and file a accident report. The Explorer has not yet been taken to the dealership to evaluate what had happened.

- Grand Rapids, MI, USA

problem #32

Oct 312011

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
The engine shuts off while using the cruise control.

- Hamilton, OH, USA

problem #31

Feb 092011


  • 150,000 miles
There is a long hesitation while attempting to accelerate either from a complete stop or while the vehicle is rolling.

- Brazil, IN, USA

problem #30

Aug 262009


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While parked, the vehicle began to roll backward while the contact was standing outside of the vehicle. The vehicle crashed into a gate and then began to roll forward. The contact was able to enter the vehicle and depress the brake pedal causing the vehicle to stop. The contact shut the vehicle off yet the failure recurred a second time. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for diagnostics or repairs. The approximate failure mileage was 90,000. Updated 9/20/11 updated 2/23/12

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #29

Jun 012006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 30,000 miles
Speed control operates only intermittently, disconnects without warning, and occasionally speeds the car up without warning. Rear warning system is also intermittent.

- Paradise, CA, USA

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