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:
13 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
38,613 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 11 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #108

Oct 162004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,000 miles


The contact complained about transmission failure son several occasions. When shifting the vehicle into reverse the transmission locked for a few seconds, making a loud popping sound and then shifting into reverse. The vehicle has been seen by the dealer six times. The dealer was able to duplicate the problem, but could not been able to locate the source of the problem. The following items were replaced on order to fix the transmission, including the rear speed sensor, the solenoid body, and several components were lubricated. None of these replacements seemed to repair the transmission. During the most recent failure the contact's husband was involved accident when the transmission failed. He attempted to back into the driveway during icy conditions. The transmission locked. He shifted the vehicle into drive and stepped on the gas. The transmission immediately engaged and the vehicle crashed into a tree in the yard. The vehicle sustained heavy damage. The police were not contacted because the accident occurred on private property. The vehicle is now in the possession of the insurance company at their impound lot.

- Whappingers Falls, NY, USA

problem #107

Aug 012004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 17,000 miles
The contact complained about an automatic transmission problem. While driving the vehicle will go in and out of gear without warning. Ford has been contacted.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #106

Nov 022004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,665 miles
2004 Ford Explorer shifting/transmission selanoid shifting problem causing a safety defect with the vehicle. I have sopken with two different service advisor at the dealership who have indicated that this is a very common complaint and have written many of these issues. First incident 11/02/2004, second incident 11/2/2004. Another person in my office has had the same problem. Attorneys have web site requesting people to come forward with 2004 Ford Explorer transmission or shifting problem this is a serious safety concern.

- West Palm Beach, FL, USA

problem #105

Aug 222005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles


The vehicle has transmission problems that the company has recalled, after supposedly fixing the problem, the problem still exists. It jumps when put into gear. I feel it is unsafe and may lead to other issues. I am a single mother and I cant afford to fix it on my own. It is unsafe.

- Pearland, TX, USA

problem #104

Jul 232005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. After I first purchased this vehicle while driving the vehicle when putting vehicle in reverse it slams into reverse. When you put the vehicle in second gear it will slam into gear. My wife almost hit another vehicle while in a parking lot. The vehicle has been taken back to the dealership at least three or four times. They know that theres a problem with the vehicle but theres nothing they can do to fix it. They told me to just drive the vehicle. Also contacted the Ford manufacturer I was told the same thing from the manufacturer. This vehicle is still under warranty.

- Patterson , NY, USA

problem #103

Sep 282005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles
My 2004 Ford Explorer jerks into reverse when shifting from park to reverse. It also slips gears in the lower gears when driving in a lower speed zone. This is an acknowledged problem, but Ford refuses to fix the transmission.

- Crestwood, KY, USA

problem #102

Oct 132005

Explorer 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


I have a 2004 Ford Explorer XLT, purchased brand new with only 1 mile on it on 6/25/04. I have experienced violent jerking of the vehicle when turning the wheel, going in reverse, or shifting gears. I temporarily lose control of steering when this jerking occurs. The vehicle's transmission was recalled and subsequently serviced on 2/03/05...then again on 7/18/05... and again on 8/24/05...and I have an appointment in 2 days on 10/15/05... all for the same problem. Apparently the necessary part is on national back-order so Ford constantly puts a "band-aid" on the problem so in the interim, I am subject to major inconveniences and danger because of this defect.

- Spring Valley, NY, USA

problem #101

Feb 042005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 7,981 miles
When we purchased the vehicle it went into gear rough and I asked the sales person about it and he said that is how this vehicle goes into gear. We started to notice hesitation when we accelerated from either a stop or while driving. We brought it in and they said they calibrated the computer. Then we started to get rear end leaks and had to be repaired 3 times. The transmission problems continued and we brought it to another dealer because of the poor service at the purchasing dealership. They replaced a solenoid valve and overhauled main control. This did not help and then the problem began to show new symptoms. Now when we back up it locks up and then jerks back into gear going backwards. I have told both dealerships of my concerns about residual damage to the transmission and was assured that it would not happen. It has. Our last couple of visits we have been lied to and the work order has not been correctly reflecting what we said and what was found by the tech's. there is no mention on the report that two of then had the reveres problems happening to them. I did not want to leave with it like that but they would not change it. I do have a tech's statement written on it and signed. Now they replaced the rear end ABS sensor and followed the 05-3-8 recall 4X4 control module per hotline. They said they did two road tests but I checked my mileage and they only drove 1.9 miles. How can you do two transmission road tests within 1.9 miles" we are very concerned and afraid to drive this vehicle and injure or kill our family and possible someone else. After doing some research we have found out that this is an on going problem with the 2004 Ford Explorer and that there are hundreds of people in the same situation with no resolution in sight. This at the very least will cost us all thousands of dollars for Ford mistake and lack of responsible action. But in truth our families will end up either injured or dead first. Why will no one help us with this problem" R.S.

- Grand Blanc , MI, USA

problem #100

Aug 212005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles
Transmission failed after 41000 miles. While this is outside the warranty, Ford has been known for transmission problems and won't fix the problem.

- Morristown, TN, USA

problem #99

Aug 132005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 16,000 miles
When shifting into reverse, the vehicle pauses and then jumps into gear. It has done this on several occasions.

- Mcdonough, GA, USA

problem #98

Jan 152005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles


Delay/harsh clunk when shifting to reverse.

- Columbia, MO, USA

problem #97

Jun 162005

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 16,000 miles
Transmission on 2004 Ford Explorer XLT 4.6 AWD doesn't engage in reverse or drive without hesitation. On going problem since about 15K. Took to the dealer after receiving recall notice from Ford. Dealer put "additive" in the transmission fluid said it would take about 3K miles to work out of the problem. I now have 24K on this vehicle and the shifting is getting worse. Worried about pulling out of a parking lot etc, not knowing if the truck will move or not. Leather seat covers were replaced free of charge from the dealer, as after 6 months there were numerous cracks in the leather.

- North East, MD, USA

problem #96

Aug 012005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 22,051 miles
The automatic transmission on my 2004 Ford Explorer hesitates, then jumps into gear, and the problem appears to be worsening over time. It happens when in drive or reverse, but up to now, the problem has been particularly worse when the transmission is in reverse. Up to now this has been more of a nuisance than anything, however, when I attempted to proceed into traffic from a stopped position earlier today, the vehicle hesitated for 3-4 seconds before engaging. Several other Explorer owners that I know have reported similar problems. This is clearly a safety problem.

- Port Barrington, IL, USA

problem #95

Jan 042005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,389 miles
We bought this vehicle new in December of 2004 and it has been in the service dept. 8 times in the past 7 months for warranty repairs. It has been in 4 times for "hard cranks but no start", 4 times for rough idling, 1 time for an RPM problem (and in next week for a different one- it stays around 3 RPM after accelerating- I have to let off of the gas pedal for it to shift down), and it has been in for misc. Issues (whistling noise at front window, rattling console, etc.). each time it has been brought in for the mechanical problems, they "upgrade the PCM". I have contacted the dealership and I have contacted Ford directly numerous times for a repurchase because of my daughter's medical condition. It requires that she has reliable and safe transportation available at all times. The dealership knew about her needs when we bought this SUV. However, I keep getting shuttled back and forth between the dealership, (schimmer Ford, Illinois) and Ford Motor Company. As a long time purchaser of Ford vehicles, I am really disappointed in the treatment that I am receiving.

- Ottawa, IL, USA

problem #94

Jul 262005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,490 miles
Transmission shift lag- 2004 Ford Explorer I presented my 2004 Ford Explorer [xxx] to a local dealer 2/28/05 for the recall involving a change of transmission fluid. This has not alleviated what I have noticed is a chronic and possibly dangerous problem with this vehicle. When placed in reverse, there is often a noticeable shift lag of a few seconds before the transmission actually engages. The most recent incident occurred yesterday, 7/26/05, when the vehicle was parked nose down on a hill, requiring me to back up to leave a parking spot in the city of pittsburgh, well known for its hilly terrain. Because of the transmission lag, I almost drifted into the vehicle in front of me before the vehicle finally went into reverse. I haven't noticed this in any forward gears with this vehicle, but this is the third and most noticeable event to date. Had a pedestrian walked in front of me, there may have been an injury, or even a fatality. After this event, I am returning the vehicle asap to the dealer. I will only use reverse at this time with my left foot on the brake until I feel the transmission engage. Updated 07/19/2012 information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6)

- Imperial, PA, USA

problem #93

Jul 132005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87 miles
Within three days of buying the vehicle, I encountered problems with remote, sometimes it would work and other times, it wouldn't. driver's rear window, sometimes it would work and other times, it wouldn't. I took it back to dealer three times for same things. Rear end makes a very loud whining noise. It has been to dealer's three times also for fixing. Dealer states that there is nothing they can do and all of them are doing it. Vehicle, while in gear, would jump/jerk. Dealer replaced solenoid, it still does it sometimes.

- Leesville, SC, USA

problem #92

May 122005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10 miles
2004 Ford Explorer...well known transmission problems, delay and "bucking" into reverse...Ford dealer has tried to fix but to no avail...

- East Lyme, CT, USA

problem #91

May 142005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 13,988 miles
Problems with a 2004 Ford Explorer transmission operation. While driving at highway speeds the transmission will drop into 1st gear, bringing the vehicile almost to a full stop. The transmission also drops into a netural gear also while driving at highway speeds.

- Ramsey, NJ, USA

problem #90

Oct 252004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 7,000 miles
Within 7,000 miles of purchasing my 2004 Ford Explorer (eddie bauer edition) I began noticing a progressively worsening slamming into gear. At first it was just into reverse, then it was from reverse into forward drive gears, then it would slam every time it changed gears. When I took it in, Ford replaced the valve body for the transmission, the rear differential, and a solenoid. Seemed to correct the problem for about 10K miles. Then the reverse slamming started again and some slight slamming when going from reverse to the forward gear. So I took it back and also asked them to do some routine maintanence inspections, during which time they informed me my rear left wheel bearing was bad and the vehicle was not driveable. At this time they also told me they could not duplicate the transmission problem. Now, 10K miles later, it's back in the shop with slamming gears and whining noises coming from wheel area. The slamming transmission is basically shaking my vehicle apart bit by bit. My fear of course is the safety of the vehicle. I'm hoping I can get resolution before a part actually falls off while I'm going 70 down the highway. I've been reading news releases and owner forums and this seems to be a rather common issue, though luckily no one has been hurt as of yet.

- Raytwon, MO, USA

problem #89

Jun 302005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,578 miles
2004 Ford Explorer, transmission problems since new, visited the dealer for repairs 3 times with no fix

- Milford, OH, USA

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