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 4 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #248

Feb 152010


  • 90,000 miles


Purchased a 2004 Ford Explorer in 2006, noticed after a couple of months that when put the car in reverse would delay a few seconds and then it would make a clunk sound and then speed into reverse, that was at about 50,000 miles when purchased. In April of 2009 car would not go into reverse, had a transmission rebuild. It is now less then a year since rebuild and it is starting to shift hard again and while at a stop light today when I had my on the brake it made a clunk sound and jumped forward" good thing no other car was in front of me, I checked my rear view mirror and there was no car behind me, so I was not hit. Also car is starting to delay when at a stopped position to start driving the car hesitates to go into gear. Does it take someone to get seriously injured or die before this problem is going to be resolved by an obvious manufacturer error???" I have two children that get driven around on a regular basis and I am now worried that something is going to happen. I am taking my Ford back in to have the transmission guy that repaired it look at the vehicle. Uhaul will not let any Ford Explorer tow their products.

- Thornton, CO, USA

problem #247

Aug 012009


  • 50,000 miles
I bought my 2004 Ford Explorer limited Feb 2008. The only work done was oil changes, tire rotations etc....around 50,000 miles suddenly 1) the cruise control stopped functioning properly. When used it causes the vehicle to stall..... 2) a crack appeared in the hatch for no apparent reason. No accidents, no weather issues.... 3) the O/D light comes on and the transmission symbol lights up. Hesitates went put in reverse then jerks into movement. Repair shop says the transmission needs repairs costing 2000+.

- Saint Lousi, MO, USA

problem #246

Oct 202009


  • 45,000 miles
I left my vehicle running in park to drop off a gift to a friend. I ended up staying longer than intended, and was taken outside by a loud noise. After idling in parked for 20-30 minutes, my Explorer had smashed into my friends garage door causing nearly $500 in damages to the door and scratches to the vehicle. Nothing has been done about the problem, except we will not let the Explorer idle in park.

- Kissimmee, FL, USA

problem #245

Dec 212009


  • 60,000 miles


The transmission was slipping and finally one day I put the car in reverse and the car did not even move. I had to get my transmission rebuilt at 60,000 miles. I also am having a big problem with the paint peeling off the roof of the car near which was not covered under any warranty which is crazy especially when the service dept at my local Ford dealership says that my year and make has paint problems and they have seen it happen many times but no recall was ever issued.

- Denville, NJ, USA

problem #244

Apr 102008


  • 99,240 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving the transmission will slip from second to third gear. The vehicle shifts very roughly into the reverse gear. Also the glass from the rear window has loosened from the frame due to the clips. The manufacturer was notified, but no assistance was provided. The failure mileage was 99,240.

- Lakeworth, FL, USA

problem #243

Sep 132006


  • miles
When shifting into reverse, the car jerks (shifts hard) backwards every time. Eventually, transmission had to be rebuilt. The problem no longer exists.

- Stone Mountain, GA, USA

problem #242

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 #241

Oct 022007


  • 33,000 miles
Explorer jerking and bucking when put into reverse. Problem eventually worsened with bucking once put into drive. Bought used at 31,000 miles. Symptom evidenced at just over 33,000 miles. Transmission replaced at cost of nearly $4,000. Addressed this issue with Ford. Response- sympathetic but nothing they can do" or is there" design or manufacturer error. Either way accountability should not be an issue. Last Ford I will own.

- North Canton, OH, USA

problem #240

Nov 122009


  • 92,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer-serious transmission issues with gears slipping/failing. Huge delay in reverse then a large jolt back is very dangerous.

- Rocklin, CA, USA

problem #239

Sep 172009


  • 32,000 miles
Have a 2004 Ford Explorer with bad transmission. Delay in shifting in reverse and a jolt into gear caused be to slam into items in my garage. Although no one was hurt, it can happen. Ford has know of this issue as well as 2-3 gears slipping which can cause a slowing of the vehicle in traffic.

- Rocklin, CA, USA

problem #238

Nov 062009


  • miles


2004/Ford Explorer fire while parked in parking deck, there was no previous warnings, of any kind. Truck was running well, no service lights ever came on. Truck only has 40,000 miles on it. Never had any sings or symptoms, that anything was going to happen. I have a police report. Fire dept. Report. Also valet parking managers report from 11/6/ truck is at toms Ford, hazlet NJ. We need to know what went wrong, there was no prior warning to this event. Thank god I wasn't on the hwy when this occurred with my granddaughter 27 mths. Please help!

- Aberdeen, NJ, USA

problem #237

Jan 312008


  • 52,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. When he activated the cruise control while driving, it deactivated itself without warning. He had to restart the vehicle to re-set the error code. The failure occurred intermittently, and mostly on the interstate. Also when he would turn on the turn signals, the automatic warning system would make an alarm noise and blink until the turn signal would cut off. The automatic transmission appeared to lose fluid, when he shifted into reverse. He heard a roaring noise near the tire area. He was told by the dealer that the hubs needed to be replaced. Lastly, the aesthetic piece on the lower half of the hatch-back had cracked and separated from the vehicle. He took the vehicle back to the dealership and was advised that there was an electrical failure. No repairs were made. The manufacturer referred him to NHTSA. The current mileage was approximately 68,000. The failure mileage was approximately 52,000.

- Florence, SC, USA

problem #236

Aug 152009


  • 38,000 miles
My 2004 Ford Explorer AWD has a transmission issue. When the transmission is placed in reverse or into drive, the transmission will often shift into gear very hard and cause the car to suddenly move backwards or forwards in a violent manner. The car will move while the brake is applied and I fear this transmission issue will cause some type of failure in the future causing the car to go forward or backward with no control. It shifts so hard from park into gear it feels as if another car has ran into the back of my car. I have read identical reports online from numerous other people involving Ford Explorer around this model year timeframe.

- Clemmons, NC, USA

problem #235

Oct 052009


  • 75,000 miles
About 75,000 miles on vehicle, purchased new, regularly serviced. Accelerating, the O/D light came on and the transmission went "thunk" as it tried to shift from 2nd to 3rd. Restarting the car the O/D light went off and the car shifted normally except occasionally the car shifts rough. The Ford dealer wants $1800 to $4200 to repair.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #234

Sep 012009


  • 80,000 miles
My 2004 Ford Explorer has a bad transmission problem !!! jerks very hard in reverse, slips between 2nd & 3rd gears, sometimes slips while in traffic !! I feel this is very dangerous !!

- Ashland, KY, USA

problem #233

Oct 022009


  • 114,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer (solenoid pack) repair 2nd time.

- Murfreesboro, NC, USA

problem #232

Sep 032009


  • 70,509 miles
2004 Ford Explorer nbx. Owner put car in park and gear shift lever came off in hand. Car transmission stuck between park and reverse. Had to get car towed to dealership. Dealer states they have fixed numerous Explorer with same issue in the recent past. In my opinion, this is a design flaw with the material used (appears to be aluminum) for the "donut" shaped ring that connects the gear shift to the steering column. Contacted Ford and they were unwilling help with expense ($1,500) of fixing this manufacturer defect.

- Gastonia, NC, USA

problem #231

Sep 122009


  • 75,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer with, less than 75,000 miles. Needs to have the transmission repaired or replaced. My wife and two children were out driving in traffic when failure began to occur. Unable to accelerate past 30-35mph. This is all after the dealership repeatedly told us no problems, overfilled trans fluid, and added the recall additive from Ford. My wife reported. We informed Ford multiple times about hard shifting or slipping feeling when accelerating, and very hard and loud engagements into reverse. There is an obvious problem, I guess it will just take a tragic event to admit the problem.

- Amelia, OH, USA

problem #230

Aug 252009


  • miles
Abrupt shifting from park to reverse. Took vehicle in four times for repair. Solenoid was replaced twice, transmission fluid additive, then transmission fluid flush. Unintended shifting by transmission resulting in vehicle to swerve at 50 plus miles per hour. Occurs daily on highway after letting off accelerator and coasting.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #229

Oct 162007


  • 96,000 miles
The transmission in my '04 Ford Explorer shifts incredibly hard, will stall in mid shift, and can slip into reverse from park at anytime. I am one of thousands of owners in the 2002-2005 years in which Ford/Mercury put these transmissions into Explorer and Mountaineer and they are junk. Something needs to be done by Ford being they've fixed the problem in their 2006 models. The dealers don't know how to fix the problems.

- Bay Village, OH, USA

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