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 13 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #68

Jan 022005

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,500 miles


Intermittently the vehicle will surge backwords when placed in reverse. At times when placing the car in reverse the vehicle will delay going in reverse and surge backwards uncontrollably. The dealer claims it needs new transmission parts. 5 week back order because of so many complaints about this. Why isn't there a recall. This is a major safety problem. Manufacturer also claims it is related to transmission oil.

- Danville, CA, USA

problem #67

Feb 122005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 29,669 miles
2004 Ford Explorer transmission does not shift correctly. Delays when put in reverse and then lunges back with a clunking sound. Also, hard shift and clunking in drive.

- Yuba City, CA, USA

problem #66

Feb 182005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 22,000 miles
Driver was backing out of a parking space and vehicle hesitated. Then, the transmission shifted on its own. Mechanic determined that the solenoid body needed to be replaced.

- Ramona, CA, USA

problem #65

Jan 012005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 222 miles


Bought new 2004 Explorer XLT January 1st 2005, upon driving the vehicle home I noticed a hesitation in the changing of the gears at low speeds, and it also seems to slip when making turns at low speeds. I took in to Ford dealership right away and they said throttle body was sticking and replaced it. Also they updated the computer chip and said everything was fine. No change to the vehicle, I took to another Ford dealership they could not replicate the problem so they said. They sent me on my way with no relief in sight, they did suggest that I have the transmission fluid recall and I did, it did not change anything. This is a safety issue no matter what Ford says, if I need acceleration in traffic and my vehicle does not perform and hesitates or spits and sputters, I and my family are in serious danger and that is not acceptable to me and my fellow consumers. I will not be purchasing another Ford product again. If Ford has admitted they have this transmission problem, but will not recall and cannot fix this problem, how can they be allowed to let the consumer take the hit??

- Justin, TX, USA

problem #64

Feb 152005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
My Explorer limited hesitates a few seconds before shifting into reverse. When it finally does shift, it slams into gear. The engines does not rev during this period as I have heard others say theirs does. It seems to only do this when the car is warmed up and not every time. Also, it sometimes slams into gear after you've slowed down to turn onto another street then hit the gas. I have been to a Ford dealer and had the transmission additive put in. This actually made things worse! I paid a lot of money for this car and expect it to perform as such.

- Herculaneum, MO, USA

problem #63

Aug 092004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 200 miles
Transmission does not engage in reverse from park when put in reverse, than after 5-10 seconds will jerk into gear, transmission does not upshift correctly, seems to hesitate between gears.

- Boca Raton, FL, USA

problem #62

Oct 012004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles


Transmission does not always respond when shifting into reverse. Sometimes when shifting vehicle in reverse it does nothing and when you press the accelerator the vehicle then suddenly jerks backwards and makes a poping sound. Also, sometimes when slowing down it feels like it is "dropping" out of gear. This only occurs occasionally. I took it in today for the recall notice I had received to replace the wrong type of transmission fluid that was put in the vehicle at the factory. I am concerned that this will cause an accident when trying to back up in tight places.

- Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

problem #61

Feb 022005


  • miles
Vehicle hestitates between gear changes especially on lower gears. Although an additive was put in by the dealer, going from park to reverse is even worse. The vehicle often sits for 10-15 seconds before engaging either reverse or drive and even then, the change feels "rough."

- Goose Creek, SC, USA

problem #60

Jan 112005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,600 miles
I purchashed my 2004 Ford Explorer on January 11, 2005. After the first week I had to take it back to the service department of the dealership, on Saturday, January 22, 2005. I informed them that the transmission is lagging when automatically shifting and that sometimes there is a loud clunk during the automatic shifting and especially when putting the car in reverse. Also the tire pressure warning light has been coming on; so they checked that and said that they replaced the sensors. That light is still staying on. As for the transmission, I was informed that there is a manufacturer defect and that they were going to order the parts to fix it. As of January 31, 2005, the parts still have not come in. In the meantime I am having to continue to drive this vehicle and the problem seems to be getting worse. I do quite a bit of driving on the highway to get back and forth to work and I am very concerned about the transmission as well as the tire pressure.

- Lynchburg, VA, USA

problem #59

Jan 252005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,000 miles
In addition to hard shifting in the transmission, the rear differential "chatters" loudly when turning at low speed. The vehicle feels extremely loose and sloppy at 14,000 miles.

- Oakland, CA, USA

problem #58

Oct 012004

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


My transmission does not work properly, and I feel I am in danger while operating my vehicle. The transmission jerks into drive and reverse and usually has long hesitations while using these positions, as well as the automatic shifting while driving.

- Dorset, VT, USA

problem #57

Oct 192004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles
My transmission slams into reverse and also has problems in the forward gears. Ford has a recall on the transmisson to put a lubricant in the transmission. I don't see how this will solve the problem. Vehicle has been to the repair shop with no positive results.

- Apo, 00, USA

problem #56

Jan 252005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,100 miles
When reversing, loud banging clunking noise is heard from the back. The car jerks back harshly after long delay in going back into drive.

- Manassas, VA, USA

problem #55

Oct 102004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 17,144 miles
Delay in transmission engaging in either reverse or forward gear is highly dangerous because auto suddenly slams into gear and lurches forward. This has also occurred at highway speeds when the gear suddenly engages and causes a severe lurch forward with a bang so severe I thought I had hit something. Also, there is a chatter when accelerating during a turn and vibration of the driveshaft at varying speeds. I was told by the service dept. When I complained after purchasing the car that this delay was normal. On the second visit, they replaced the differential which caused a vibration and whine in the drive train. I returned it and the differential again was replaced and the drive shaft balanced with no improvement. I have been waiting for parts for quite sometime. The fluid additive is not available nor has the solenoid been replaced, but I understand this does not work either.

- Broken Arrow, OK, USA

problem #54

Jan 252005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles
When placing my 2004 Ford Explorer in reverse, it hesitates then engages in gear with a noticeable jump and "clanging" noise. Purchased vehicle new in 8/2004.

- Woodstock, NY, USA

problem #53

Jan 102005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles
Car transmission was not responding correctly. After several trips to the dealer to have it checked out, the replaced the solenoid pack several weeks later warning light came on with a battery symbol and said hi temp low oil. Engine died when going to park and then again at stop light the next day. Dealer could not replicate problem. Two weeks later, engine again died with a wrench symbol and said engine failsafe mode. Dealer has had it a week and cannot replicate problem. Did find a problem with and replaced ABS in computer system.

- Mechanicsville, VA, USA

problem #52

Jul 012004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
In may of 2004, I bought a new 2004 Ford Explorer. Two months later in July of 2004, I found problems shifting the car into reverse. It would pause for about 5 seconds, then jerk very hard before reversing. I complained to the dealership that I bought the new car from, who proceeded to tell me it was "nothing". the problem continued, and I continued to bring the car into the dealership where I bought it from with no resolve. This continued until January of 2005. I finally took the car to an out of town Ford dealership 2 hours away, who took my car for 5 days due to them having to replace the transmission solenoid. I waited for almost an hour the day I picked up my car for a service advisor to explain to me what this was, and the only answer I received was that it was a programming error. I since then looked up on the internet what this transmission problem was, and read an article that Ford knew about this problem and was not recalling cars since it is not a danger. This is a danger. It can cause numerous neck problems from the jerking. I have suffered from lower back pain before buying the car, and the jerking from putting the car in reverse was not helpful. If anyone or anything is around the car while putting it in reverse, they can be damaged badly. This issue needs to go public. The dealerships need to take responsibility before there are serious injuries due to responsibility neglect for a poor product.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #51

Nov 162004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 16,000 miles
My 2004 Ford Explorer XLT 4X4 experienced delayed/harsh engagement when shifting into reverse. It would have a delay of up to 5 seconds and then would engage and make a terrible clanging noise. On several occasions it would squeal tires and then jerk backwards. This put me in danger of being in a wreck because when I would shift into reverse I would expect it to actually shift, but it did not. I took it to a Ford dealership and the pcc solenoid was replaced and transmission fluid replaced.

- Cave City, KY, USA

problem #50

Oct 262004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 0 miles
Power transmission-does not engage reverse every time the car is put into gear. Took to dealer and was told this is a common problem. Had to pay part of the repairs because the car was out of warranty.

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #49

Dec 122004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer clunks when putting into reverse. This problem has been reported before and I think Ford is considering a program. I have taken my Explorer to the dealer, and they said they couldn't replicate the condition. It does it all the time, and I think they are avoiding repairs. The carhas only 9,000 miles and is under warranty. Transmission has wrong fluid and faulty shift solenoid per Ford's own press releases.

- Camp Hill, PA, USA

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