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 1 of 2)

problem #28

Oct 032016


  • 100,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving 55 mph with the cruise control activated, the vehicle lost power steering and braking, which resulted in a crash. All the warning indicators illuminated. The vehicle was towed to the contact's residence and then towed to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. A police report was filed. There was one injury that required medical attention. The contact was treated for second degree burns. The failure mileage was approximately 100,000.

- Kissimmee, FL, USA

problem #27

May 172015


  • 109,000 miles
Complete engine failure while driving. Service engine soon light appeared 2 days previous but did not yet make it to the mechanic. Computer reading suggested a sensor problem. Engine shut down, lost power steering and all systems. Engine restarted but now idles rough.

- Ann Arbor, MI, USA

problem #26

Jan 302015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 135,000 miles
Driving down the road at 10:52 pm and with no warning the entire truck shut down/off. All lights inside and out shut off, engine shut off, no power to the entire vehicle. Coasted to a stop, put it in park and turned the key off and then back on - the truck started right up with out a problem.

- Kennett Square, PA, USA

problem #25

Sep 092014


  • 150,000 miles


My vehicle burned through another alternator, everything on the vehicle is 100% factory so I don't know what is causing that. Immediately after I replaced the alternator for the second time in 6 months, the power steering has vanished. I checked all the belts made sure everything is running properly and in the correct place. The power steering pump seems to be pumping but not working.

- Fitchburg, MA, USA

problem #24

Aug 112014


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while having the vehicle inspected, it was discovered that the ball joints were worn out. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 130,000.

- Ozark, MO, USA

problem #23

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 #22

Oct 032013

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 72,000 miles


This is the second Ford Explorer I have owned and both of them had the same transmission problems. Yet Ford has no recall or even anything to fix them except $3,000 to a dealer out of you pocket for their mistake. I guess since no one has been proven to have gotten injured or died due to this issue, then there won't be a recall made on it. This is totally unsatisfactory for the Ford Motor Co. Because they have workers that screw up, the consumer ends up footing the large bill of repairing it. There is a known problem with the transmissions of these Explorer from 2000 - 2005 yet no one seems to want to address it. Ford motor should be ashamed of putting such faulty vehicles out on the road and endangering another humans life for their profit. This is the last time I will buy and Ford product and I will encourage everyone I know not to buy Ford either. I wonder how Ford would like the media exposure for this issue. No good customer service or product.

- Grain Valley, MO, USA

problem #21

Aug 202013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 236,000 miles
I was on my way to work on a Tuesday morning with my son who is a college student at my school on August 20, 2013. I work at a community college and it was the first week of the fall semester 2013 starting. I arrived about 10:15 a.M. and could not find parking. I found a parking stall in the staff parking lot. I put the Ford Explorer in reverse and was going backwards to park in the stall. When I moved the shift gear handle to put the truck into drive into the parking stall, the gear shift was just broke off. I couldn't believe it! I had to act quickly and hit the emergency brake and turn the ignition off from the car to make it stop. I was really scared! luckily, I dropped off my son so he can go to his first class. I had to have the car towed to banning, California and have my mechanic fix it. Still to this day, Ford cannot provide a part to fix the steering column shift level. Ford says its on backorder, no one has the part. They don't know when I will have the part to fix my truck. I need help, I hope you can issue a recall on all 2004 Ford Explorer with gear shift level breaking off. Very upset need your help to get my truck fixed. This matter has made me sick with high blood pressure and would appreciate someone to investigate this matter right away.

- Beaumont, CA, USA

problem #20

Jan 252013


  • 82,500 miles
While driving, the vehicle just shut off. I had no control of the vehicle once it shut off, except to utilize the emergency brake to get me stopped. Once stopped, I put it in park and it started up first try. No check engine light came on. Same thing happens on a regular bases. Usually happens while braking or turning at speeds lower than 30mph, then engine just stalls and everything turns off. This to me is a major safety concern, because without total control of the vehicle and vehicle lighting at night, it could seriously injure or kill someone. I highly recommend investigating this further so we can all continue to be safe. Thanks!

- Barstow, CA, USA

problem #19

Nov 162012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 106,000 miles
While putting the car in reverse in the parking lot the gear shift completely snapped off and the car was stuck in reverse. The keys were stuck in the ignition and I couldn't turn the car off. I had to put the emergency brake on and call for help on my cell phone. When help arrived after a couple of hours they were able to manuever what was left of the gear shift enough to put the car back in park and turn the car off. I called the Ford customer service division and spoke with a representative named [xxx], he preceded to tell me that Ford has never heard of such a problem and that he couldn't help me. He said there are currently no recalls available for this part. I searched the internet and found hundreds of the same complaint on Ford and advised [xxx] and again he said Ford has never heard of such a problem. I am relieved that it happened in a parking lot and it didn't cause an accident. Ford should be ashamed of themselves and their shoddy workmanship and take the necessary steps to resolve this problem. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #18

Oct 122012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 94,834 miles


Started driving and when I went to make a turn I felt a grab. Thought I might be imaging things but happened again on the next intersection turn this time causing me to have to make a wheel correction. On the third turn it was markedly worse and a grunch sound accompanied it and it was more difficult to make the turn. And then next few turns markedly worse again to the point I am considering pulling over and getting a tow as now it is dangerous. I figured out that it was mostly straight driving to the mechanic garage and three turns so I drove cautiously. A very difficult drive making turns and I could barely turn into the garage drive as the steering barely worked and was accompanied by very loud grunching. It was a quick fix as a bolt in the steering column had come out. Had this happening on a highway this could have been a life threatening situation to navigate off the highway. No injuries.

- Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

problem #17

Mar 092012


  • 900,000 miles
After starting vehicle and moving shift lever from park to reverse - rotating shift handle mount broke off- required towing and $1800 repair cost. Have seen similar instances on consumer complaint boards - Ford fails to recognize as being a safety manufacturing defect.

- Mcdonough, GA, USA

problem #16

Jan 032012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 131,027 miles
I was trying to park the car when I took it from drive to reverse the whole gear shift came right off. It will no longer switch gears nor can I drive it. I searched online and there are numerous other 2004 Explorer that this has happened too. There are 16 different complaints which all were exactly like mine on This is super dangerous, imagine if my children were in the car when I went to switch gears and it broke off and the were no way to move or stop it from hitting someone. The expense to fix this 'little' problem of Ford is costing me more than I make in 2 months.

- Pekin, IN, USA

problem #15

Oct 172011


  • 145,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that smoke emitted from the steering column while the vehicle was parked. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where they confirmed that the multi function switch malfunctioned. The manufacturer was not contacted and the vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 145,000.

- Ladera Ranch, CA, USA

problem #14

Mar 022009


  • 80,000 miles
I currently own a 2004 Ford Explorer and purchased new in 2005. Have had to replace, the 2 front hubs 3 times, the rack and pinion steering and the transmission slips excessively. This vehicle is driven by my wife to school and home and used for transporting my family. I keep seeing the same problems online but no action by Ford. Can you say piece of junk?

- Batavia , NY, USA

problem #13

May 222011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 81,000 miles
While attempting to shift from "park, " into "reverse, " the column-mounted gear selector, broke away from the column and into my mother's hand. The vehicle sat in a parking lot for a few hours. Later on, we found a temporary workaround utilizing a pair of "vise-grips, " and we were able to drive the vehicle home. The gear selector has not been repaired; and the vehicle just sits there, because the she is too afraid to drive it.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #12

Dec 202010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 27,995 miles
Noise in front end, premature failure of tie rod ends.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #11

May 092010


  • 95,547 miles
Gear shifter fell into my hand while trying to put my 2004 Ford eddie bauer Explorer from park into reverse. The vehicle is parked but not in park. It is only being held still by parking brake as it is stuck in between park and reverse. The key can not be removed because the car is not in park. There were zero events leading up to this failure. Fortunately, I was parked in my drive way but I can only imagine the consequences had I been parked on a hill or had the shifter broke while in gear where it would have remained. I have not repaired the problem as of yet it just happened today, but after doing research it appears as if entire steering column needs to be replaced and I am to spend any where from $1000 to $2000 to replace a defective part with a brand new defective part to have it happen again at any time. I was able to locate over 100 complaints on the exact same issue dating back to 2/2007. I am curious as to why there has been no recall for this situation.

- Chester, VA, USA

problem #10

May 012009


  • 82,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving approximately between 55-65 mph. The transmission vibrated excessively. Also, on a separate occasion the vehicle wobbled and made a roaring noise outside of the vehicle. The noise occurred whenever the contact drove more than 55 mph. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic with the replacement of the wheel bearing; however, the failure continued to occur. The vehicle was recently towed to an independent mechanic and the cause of failure has not been determined. The failure mileage was 82,000. The current mileage was 95,000.

- Wanaque, NJ, USA

problem #9

Nov 182009


  • 55,600 miles
In the days prior to the failure, when I turned the wheel far right or left for extreme turns, there would be a slight thump to the extent I thought something let loose. I had the car in for a regular oil change etc(scheduled maint) and told the shop about this event but they said they checked it and could find nothing wrong. I was turning into a head in parking spot and noticed when I turned the wheel to the left, I felt that I had lost control of the steering. When I put the car in park, the gear shift lever fell apart in my hands. It had detached from the steering column and I could not remove the key.

- Hanson, MA, USA

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