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 5 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #228

Dec 182007


  • 78,000 miles


Transmission failure on Ford Explorer 2004... the transmission failed on my Explorer, 3 of the 4 gears were gone!.... this cost $7,000 to be replaced... I believe this is unacceptable for a 3 year old car to have this type of problem at this cost. Not to mention I worked with a guy who had an Explorer and a Mountaineer and the transmission went on both of those vehicles.. they were an 02 and 04. Then this past week I had to have my brakes done. And the repair shop said I needed a few other minor things done... but I told them I had already spent $8,000 (all ball bearings replaced $1000 + 7000 for transmission)on the vehicle recently and can't get it done right now. And they asked if the problem was the transmission... I said, "yes why", they told me they had 5 Explorer from the around the same age as mine that had transmission failures. Now that's a total of 8 Explorer in my area and I have heard of others from other people. Ford needs to make good on this and offer some discount on a fix for this or have all the Explorer from this time period recalled. I bought a new transmission even though is was $4000 more than a rebuilt one, because it came with a life-time warranty.... I would appreciate it if there was an investigation made into Ford's Explorer so, that past and future problems can be rectified.

- Troy, NY, USA

problem #227

Aug 102009


  • miles
I purchased a 2004 Ford Explorer 30jun08, in March 2009, in less than a year I have had to replace the module/engine control, the battery and the alternator at the willowbrook Ford dealership. I paid a total of $2033.60 in repairs. When I got home last Friday night and was parking my car, as I went into reverse I felt a jolt in shifting from the transmission. Yesterday driving to work again I felt the transmission slipping and hard shifting. The O/D light begin to flash and I couldn't accelerate over 40mph. On my way home from work, again I could not accelerate over 30mph but now its making a horrible noise and the service engine and O/D lights are flashing. This is a well known problem as I have read numerous complaints about it online. Why hasn't Ford recalled these faulty transmission? I have until jul10 before this car is paid off and still owe over $6000. This is the fifth Ford I've owned and I am totally disgusted by this whole situation. As a single mom of 3, I don't have any thousands of dollars sitting around waiting to throw it away in Ford repairs. Someone has to step in for us consumers who are being ripped off. Please help us.

- Westmont, IL, USA

problem #226

Aug 042009


  • 36,000 miles
I was dropping my son off at his friend's house. I pulled into the driveway and put the truck in park. I opened my door, got out, walked around the front of my vehicle and accompanied my son up to the front door. All of a sudden, the truck started to roll forward on the driveway and crash into the homeowners fence. When I got into the truck, it was still in park. There was damage to my front bumper as well as the fence that it crashed into. Thank god it didn't happen while I was walking in front of it! this transmission on this vehicle has been a problem since the beginning. I too experienced the "thump" as it slammed into reverse, only for Ford to deny there was a problem and finally put the additive into the tranny. What a way to fix the problem!...never again will I buy a Ford. I just hope no one has to lose their life for Ford to do something about this.

- East Northport, NY, USA

problem #225

Jul 032008


  • 45,000 miles


We own a 2004 Ford Explorer. The Ford recall to remedy factory transmission fluid problem was a band-aid to fix liver cancer. The transmission jumps into reverse a few seconds after shifting, and the shifts when going forward are "jerky". Ford has tried to placate owners with an additive. The problem is ongoing. Nothing has been done to correct the problem.

- Marshfield, WI, USA

problem #224

Jul 272009


  • 54,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer with 54K miles has slip in transmission when shifted from park to reverse and will slip when the transmission shifts automatically. It catches and will produce a loud bump. It takes several seconds to catch when shifted to reverse.

- Cumming, GA, USA

problem #223

May 152009


  • 70,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer has extreme engagement into reverse. Have had multiple trips to dealership for repair prior to this final repair by independent repair shop. If driver doesn't anticipate this condition personal injury and/or property damage could occur.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #222

Jun 042009


  • miles


I own a 2004 Ford Explorer eddie bauer with V-8. have taken to the dealer numerous times about abrupt and delayed shifting with transmission. Dealer re-programmed transmission with no luck, no recall from Ford but have heard hundreds of complaints on-line about same problem. Truck now has over 90,000 miles and still has same problem. Replaced leaking transmission pump last decembe08 and still hard shifting. Will not return to Ford for repairs when transmission or other drive train parts fail due to the hard up and down shifts, please help!

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #221

May 252009


  • 70,000 miles
I have a 2004 Ford Explorer. I have two complaints with this vehicle. The first is that the back gate cracked from the window. The second complaint is that my truck is making a loud thump in reverse, and after I put it in drive after being in reverse, the transmission is slipping making it dangerous to pull out into traffic. I was almost hit twice pulling into traffic from the engine slipping.

- Coraopolis, PA, USA

problem #220

Mar 072009


  • 97,000 miles
Vehicle had a history of suddenly jerking harshly while driving at highway speeds (65 mph), but at irregular intervals and problem could not be forced to replicate. At approximately 97,000 miles while on an out of state trip, the vehicle began to refuse to accelerate properly from a standstill, appearing to "limp" (in Ford's words) until it reached 10-15 mph, then it would suddenly engage and accelerate rapidly, but would still quit accelerating briefly until reaching speeds >40 mph. At interstate speeds, the transmission seemed to run fine until going into mountains, where it would not find the right gear for maintaining speed. Car continued to worsen until finally reaching a dealership that was willing to look at the problem. No error codes were observed, so was told the transmission had to be overhauled or replaced. The overhaul was not going to be guaranteed nor would the dealership promise when the car would be repaired and recommended a Ford rebuilt transmission, which I was forced to select. The vehicle still has problems, though not as severe as formerly, but there are still no error or service codes being returned by any of the car's electronics. I have no options other than to drive it until it fails completely again, wherever that may happen.

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #219

Mar 162009


  • 88,000 miles
Trans in 2002 to 2005 Ford Explorer are bad. They slip in and out of gear. Sometime you have to wait 5 to 10 seconds before it will move and this almost got me hit in mine by a 18 wheeler more than once. Talked with Ford dealers they all clam its a Ford mess up but there is no recalls yet. And this is with them beginning with in 20,000 to 90,000 miles on the Explorer. I know of over 900 cases of this first hand and someone needs to get Ford off their butt and do something. Noone can keep putting out $3500 for a rebuilt trans while their still paying on the vehicles. All of them go bad right after the warranty runs out. Being in law enforcement I see this every day and its not sage for family's in these vehicles. If something isn't done asap someone going to get hurt or die. They slip all the time when you back up your sitting in the road for 10 seconds waiting for it to go in drive then drive slips until you get to 35 miles an hour then their fine until you stop again. Call Ford Motor Company and they just say sorry cant help you should have got the extra warranty on the vehicle. Me personally if it happens again im going to Ford Motor Company and drive it right through the front doors and leave it there.

- Glade Hill, VA, USA

problem #218

May 012009


  • 78,000 miles


Transmission slips - lurches into reverse - recently slipped and wouldn't pull going up hill - 2 times in 2 days.

- Bristow, OK, USA

problem #217

May 122006


  • miles
Vehicle goes forward after put in park and turned off. The transmission has been checked at Ford dealership. Have letter explaining that if transmission fluid was not changed out that serious consequences may occur. Ford dealership not aware as this was not displayed as a recall. Herefore, transmission fluid was not changed at that time.

- Bonaire, GA, USA

problem #216

Jan 172009


  • 55,000 miles
On January 17, 2009, I was attempting to back my 2004 Ford Explorer out of my driveway. When I attempted to put the truck into reverse, the steering column-mounted gear shift mechanism broke. The "wand" broke completely away from the column, with only the rubber covering holding it in place. Later, when a mechanic opened up the steering column, it was apparent that the gear shift mechanism failed because a piece of metal broke in half; it looked to be made of some soft metal. Because of the way Ford designed the transmission, the entire steering column had to be replaced. The Explorer had only 55,000 miles on it at the time of the incident. Total expenses for repairs were in excess of $1,600.

- Durham, NC, USA

problem #215

Apr 302009


  • miles
I am also having the transmission problem with my 2004 Ford Explorer. My vehicle jumps violently when it is put in reverse. When you first put it in reverse it will not move then all of a sudden it jumps backward. I also have been noticing that the truck feels like it is not in gear feels like it slips. I have made no repairs on my vehicle as of yet, but after reading the newspaper article I see that this problem is occurring with other vehicles, . we all seem to be having the same problems. I hope that Ford will take care of these Ford Explorer problems before their are more accidents. I have not had an incident as of this date 4/30/09, but I can tell you that when I put my vehicle in reverse I am very worried because of how violent the truck jumps backward.

- Delmont, PA, USA

problem #214

Apr 242009


  • 3,000 miles
My 2004 Ford Explorer has a transmission problem. I never know if and when it will go into reverse or park. It hesitates and I then find out what gear it is in. This Explorer is a one-owner car. 32,000+- miles on it. Weekends only. Yes, I went through the earlier recall, but it did little if anything to correct the problem, . at the time, I figured that I had been screwed into buying a defective car whose transmissions wouldn't last after the warranty ran out. Sometimes, the transmission doesn't engage right away and then jumps hard into reverse. Other times, it hesitates before going into drive and/or park. I never know. I am 57 years old. Please tell Ford for me ----not to pee on my leg and tell me that it is raining. They didn't fix the problem. And I believe it to be dangerous. And since bush isn't president anymore, maybe your Agency can stand up again for american consumers. Or will you? feel free to contact me or for Ford to contact me. The truth is the truth.

- Canton, GA, USA

problem #213

Nov 201997

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
-the contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact started the ignition on a warm engine, and then moved the gear shift from the "park" position into the "reverse" position. Immediately, the transmission exhibited extremely hard shifting. There were no prior warnings. The failure occurred intermittently. The vehicle was able to proceed to normal operation. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic tests. The technician stated the failure was related to the automatic transmission solenoid pack. The solenoid pack was replaced for the malfunction. The contact had concern on the safety risk involved. The failure mileage was 60,000. The current mileage was 81,000. Updated 05/15/09 updated 05/18/09.

- Canton, GA, USA

problem #212

Nov 192008


  • 39,000 miles
The contacts owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. After driving in reverse and parking the vehicle it began to move after the back door was opened. She was able to engage the brake pedal to stop the vehicle from moving and confirmed that the gear shift was in park. The body shop mechanic was unable to duplicate or diagnose the failure. The contact stated that it was caused due to slippage of the gears and although the gear indicator reads park it is not fully engaged. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was not contacted. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 39000 and current mileage was 44000.

- Fayetteville, GA, USA

problem #211

Apr 112008


  • 95,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. When placing the vehicle in a parked position the vehicle it rolled backwards even when it was on a level surface. On one occasion the vehicle rolled backward and crashed into another vehicle. There were no injuries. When the failure occurred she notices the over drive light illuminated on the instrument control panel. The dealer stated that her second gear was missing; therefore, she would be responsible for paying $3,700 to replace the transmission. The vehicle has not been repaired. The failure mileage was 95,000 and the current mileage was 100,000.

- Decatur, GA, USA

problem #210

Jan 042005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The transmission in the vehicle is constantly slipping. The vehicle hesitated after numerous attempts to adjust to the correct gear. Due to the failure it takes longer than it should to increase speed. The dealer made an adjustment to the transmission; however, the vehicle was not fully repaired. The failure mileage was 10,000 and the current mileage was 96,000. Updated 05/15/09 updated 05/18/09.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #209

Apr 042009


  • 34,303 miles
Shifting into reverse, the vehicle will not move, when you give it more gas, then suddenly surge. This latest incident, I almost hit a pedestrian. I thought this was a throttle response issue, but now I think it maybe a transmission issue. This has been an issue since the day I bought it....the dealer put some fluid in the transmission and re-calibrated the throttle. Dealer said this is the first year Ford used an electronic throttle. (no cable from gas pedal to throttle body.) after reading the newspaper article, seems that many owners have had similar complaints.

- Lawrenceville, GA, USA

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