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 2 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #288

Jan 272011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 72,000 miles


In 2005, my 2004 Ford Explorer was part of a recall for the transmission. I took it to Ford service and they put some type of additive. They told me the problem was fixed. From 2005 to 2011 the transmission would have problems, it would turn off when I put it in reverse. Furthermore, when I put the car in reverse it would pause then shift back hard. Unfortunately, I never took the car back to Ford to get it checked because the car would always turn right back on. In January of 2011 my car had 72,000 miles. While I was driving the car suddenly turned off on me. Immediately, the service engine soon light came on. Also, the O/D off light began flashing. When I would restart the vehicle it would turn on. However, when I shifted into drive it would turn off. So I was unable to drive the vehicle. I took the car to Ford service and they explained to me that I need a new (remanufactured) transmission at a cost of $4,000. My car is currently in the service department waiting to be fixed.

- Bronx, NY, USA

problem #287

Jan 262011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 131,186 miles
The problem that I'm concerned about is the transmission and rear end. For the transmission-this is the third time for this problem with our truck. Had it at the dealer ship just after the warranty went out around 37,000 an paid a little over $600 to fix it. Lasted till 80,000 them took it back and paid around $200 to fix. Now at 136,000 and the truck will not move at all. Dealer ship wants another $3,306 to fix it again. The rear end is making a loud wine noise.

- Livingston, TN, USA

problem #286

Dec 312010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 109,000 miles
Transmission failure on 2004 Ford Explorer at ~109K miles. Crash/bang noise heard just before failure: High engine rpms and no forward propulsion, flashing od lamp and illuminated service engine soon lamp. Problem preceded by intermittent failure to engage reverse gear, or sudden jerking/rough engagement, occasional slipping of gears on acceleration. Upon total failure, dealership investigated, says "known problem with this vehicle", recommended complete transmission replacement at $4000. Vehicle is one of those recalled in 2005 for bad transmission fluid formula installed at factory. This vehicle has always had peculiar shift behavior which Ford consistently said was normal for the vehicle. Apparently, as many other owners have since experienced, the rough shifting (perhaps precipitated by bad formula fluid and/or damage this may have done to other components) was indicative of eventual total failure.

- Riverview, FL, USA

problem #285

Dec 132010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 74,692 miles


I have a 2004 Ford Explorer and it recently started making a rumbling noise. I brought it to my mechanic and he looked at it and said it was my transmission. He also said that it was an extremly common problem for 2004 Explorer. If you google "2004 Explorer problems" and click on any of the links the first problem is transmission issues. I have owned this car since it was new in 2004 and have not abused the car. For a 2004 car with only 75000 miles on it to have a transmission go it is a problem. I have been quoted $3000 to fix this problem the fix being a new transmission. When Ford knows about this problem they should do something about it.

- Townsend, MA, USA

problem #284

Jan 062011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
Transmission went out on my 2004 Ford Explorer only a day after I bought it from a dealership. The replacement transmission will cost me $3400 plus the $10550 that I paid for the vehicle the day before. What a big mess this is.

- Marion, OH, USA

problem #283

Apr 162009


  • 27,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving in reverse approximately 2 mph, the transmission exhibited a delay response and would slip violently into gear. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where they informed her that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. One year and six months later, after the new transmission was installed, the vehicle failed to accelerate over 30 mph. The failure was diagnosed by the dealer who stated that the transmission needed to be replaced for the second time. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 27,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Easthampton, MA, USA

problem #282

Dec 152010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 68,200 miles


The transmission on my 2004 Ford Explorer is failing; is will slip out of gear, and then shift back into gear hard enough that it makes the entire vehicle shake and lurch forward. The vehicle only has 68K miles on it, and is only used as a commuter vehicle. It has never been taken off road, and I have never used it to tow anything.

- Lakeside, CA, USA

problem #281

Sep 172010


  • 42,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer XLT. When the contact shifted into reverse gear the vehicle would not move for approximately four to five minutes. The vehicle also made a loud noise and then moved in reverse. The vehicle was previously taken to the dealer in 2007 and the solenoid was replaced per the warranty. The dealer wanted to replace the solenoid a second time for $1000 at the owners expense. The manufacturer was not contacted. The failure mileage was 42,000.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #280

Dec 262010


  • 126,500 miles
My wife owns a 2004 Ford Explorer XLT with what I've found to be a common problem. The overdrive light flashes on the dash board. It usually is a transmission problem that is a very expensive repair. This issue with the Explorer has been going on for over a decade. I think that Ford should be held accountable. After all Ford did take bail out money. I think that a recall would be the proper action for the Ford. Motor company. I am one of thousands of consumers who have been abandoned by another big company.

- Wheatley Heights, NY, USA

problem #279

Jan 052005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 30 mph, he could feel a slip in the gears. He also stated that when shifting into reverse, there was a violent shift in the vehicle. The vehicle was inspected by a dealer who informed the contact that he needed to replace the transmission. The vehicle had not been repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 10,000. Updated 12/14/2011 updated 02/23/11

- Salisbury, NC, USA

problem #278

Dec 142010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 96,500 miles


1) 2004 Explorer eddie bauer transmission badly slipping and delay in engaging resulting in vehicle lunging forward once it engages. 2) has been happening for about 3-4 years intermittently. Dealer said this was normal in first time I complained. Now it happens every day. 3) had to have the trans rebuilt at a cost of $2328.25.

- Redford, MI, USA

problem #277

Sep 182009

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 50,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer XLS with V6, bought new. Incorrect transmission fluid put in all 2004 Explorer at factory. Recalled and put in additive around 40,000 miles. Transmission problems started one year ago, around 50,000 miles. Takes several seconds to engage and then shifts hard (clunks) into reverse. Happens 75% of the time. Have been told we need a new (or rebuilt) transmission.

- La Verne, CA, USA

problem #276

Jan 122005


  • miles
2004 Ford Explorer, purchased new. Every since I have owned the car it has had a transmission problem and will not gear down when turning or slowing down from a normal rate of speed. Then takes apx 20-25 seconds to catch back up when accelerator pressed..has caused me to almost be hit several times.. because it won't go when it does catch up there is a hard bump in the car and loud sound..very aggravating and scary. Has been back to the dealership and told its a (sp) solenoid problem and had been fixed, but it hasn't have been disgusted and been driving it this way because I don't have $2000 for repairs.

- Northport, AL, USA

problem #275

Oct 152010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact observed a long hair line fracture along the panel below the rear windshield. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where they informed the contact that the rear windshield panel would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 44,000. The consumer also stated he had difficulty shifting the gear into reverse. Updated 01/06/11 updated 01/24/11 updated 02/03/11

- Douglaston , NY, USA

problem #274

Oct 052010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 69,000 miles
I have 2004 AWD limited edition Ford Explorer with 69,000 miles. I am now faced with replacing the transmission at a cost of $5,000. This car is far too new, with far too few miles to be in need of a new transmission.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #273

Sep 212010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 56,497 miles
Ford Explorer 2004 - transmission failure - premature transmission failure with only 56,497 miles on vehicle. Driven normally with no off road driving. No recalls or class actions at this time according to Ford. Numerous complaints of this problem posted on legitimate internet sites. Cost of repair $2800.

- Maple Grove, MN, USA

problem #272

Jul 092010


  • 114,000 miles
Vehicles exhibit an axle whine or hum during acceleration, deceleration and/or cruise.

- Justin, TX, USA

problem #271

Aug 152010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
This is in regards to transmission problems with Ford Explorer especially from the year 2000 to 2005. There have been few thousand complaints that I have seen on the internet and heard and also experience myself about the transmission an these vehicles and its ridiculous. The transmission bangs into gears like something is falling underneath bogs down when changing gears. Hesitates when changing gears and just plain transmission failure in which its happening before the vehicle even gets to 60K. I know hundreds of people that have had their transmission replaced at least twice before 100K so consumers please make note of these transmission problems on here because this is a real safety problem for you and your children. Thanks

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #270

Aug 092010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 63,323 miles
At 25526 miles took vehicle to dealer for delay in shifting. Dealer flushed with bg conditioner. At 26073 miles returned to dealer for clunking on shifting, dealer removed pan found debris, overhauled valve body and replaced solenoid pack. Continued to have issues but dealer was unable to replicate. Transmission failure at 63323 miles on 04 Ford Explorer, total replacement of transmission for the cost of $3527.60 out of our pocket, no warranties honored.

- Alton, NH, USA

problem #269

Aug 202010

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2004 Ford Explorer. Consumer states transmission problem the consumer stated the transmission would slip out of gear and then there was a harsh bang when it was put into reverse. The consumer began to experience problems not long after the vehicle was purchased. He took the vehicle to the dealer and upon inspection it was discovered the factory put in the wrong fluid. However, two years later the problem resurfaced. The consumer went back to the dealer and they replaced the transmission fluid. The problem went away for a weeks, but soon returned.

- Greenwich, CT, USA

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