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:
1 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
133,528 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #8

Nov 252009


  • 700,000 miles


When shifting into reverse there is a hard shift also hard shifts up and down while going forward.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #7

Nov 182009

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 55,000 miles
I own a 2004 Ford Explorer 4WD, XLT 6 cy engine. I was driving it last week and the front end felt loose. I pulled into a parking spot and when I tried to put it in park the shift lever fell apart in my hand and the steering column fell apart. I was only going 5 mph at the time but I wonder what would happen if I was going 40 or so., I had lost control as I parked!! the Ford mechanic said he had never seen this before.

- Hanson, MA, USA

problem #6

Mar 072009


  • 94,271 miles
No accident or injury has occurred. The transmission shifter binds when shifting into park. The interlock solenoid pin has worn a grove in the cam in which it contacts. When shifting from any gear to park, if you release the brake pedal at the right time the vehicle will not go fully into park.

- Rockville Md, MD, USA

problem #5

Aug 242007


  • Manual transmission
  • miles


On Friday, August 24, 2007, I was attempting to back out of a driveway. I put my foot on the brake, started my 2004 Ford Explorer and began shifting the gear out of park into reverse when the shift broke. I could not do anything, the engine wouldn't turn over or anything. Since it was late Friday, I left the SUV parked until Saturday, the next morning, when I had it towed to doug stanley Ford in desoto, Texas, where I purchased the vehicle. A service technician told me they would have to order a needed part to repair the SUV. He said he thought they'd receive the part by Monday or Tuesday. On Monday, he told me they wouldn't get it until November 12. He said that he'd called all around and had to get the part from the manufacturer. I checked online and others have experienced this very same problem. I am thankful I wasn't somewhere far from home when this happened. I have a new baby and need reliable transportation. I have never heard of a dealership needing 2 months to get a part. I truly think this is a serious defect that could eventually get someone hurt.

- Cedar Hill, TX, USA

problem #4

Sep 252006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 26,998 miles
2004 Explorer had problems with brakes and windows. Three months after the vehicle was purchased thee was a recall on the transmission. The ABS malfunctioned and the power windows would not go down. The rear hatch door would not open. The transmission began to slam into gear. The rotors vibrated in the rear. Consumer heard a howling noise at 40-55 mph. The dealer replaced the ring and pinion.

- Lakewood, CA, USA

problem #3

Sep 042005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2004 Ford Explorer - the consumer complained about steering difficulty as well as popping/jolting sensation. This happens regardless of speed, but only occurs in sharp turns. Vehicle has been fixed, but this information is necessary for the public to be informed. This applies to four wheel drive on 2004 and 2005 models. There is a technical service bulletin (tsb) regarding this problem. While trying to make a U turn the vehicle is in two wheel drive because the four wheel drive did not engage on its on.

- Zebulon, NC, USA

problem #2

Oct 162004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles
Steering feels like the power steering unit is not up to speed or the 4 wd is engaged during low speed turns like in shopping center parking lots or tight turns on off ramps.

- Pottstown, PA, USA

problem #1

Mar 172004

(reported on)


  • miles
4the steering wheel sticks intermittently when it's turned to the left or right and does not return without pulling it back. This was a major problem when pulling out in traffic or going around a sharp bend. The vehicle had been to the Ford dealer three times and was told that all the new Explorer were made that way and there was nothing they could do about it. There was a big clunk at times when backing up and turning to the right or left. The ride was very bumpy and caused the occupants to be thrown from side to side while driving.

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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