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 8 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #168

Aug 202004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,000 miles


Since owning the car, it has had trouble with the transmission. When shifting into reverse it will suddenly lurch backwards. Causing the car to momentarily loose control. It is a concern when backing out of parking spaces, and could potentiality cause an accident. The transmission solenoid and a few gaskets have been replaced, but the dealer does not know the true cause of the problem.

- Cornwall, VT, USA

problem #167

Feb 012008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles
Hi! my 2004 for Explorer has been suffering from transmission problems for over 3 years. The car was taken to the dealer for repair while under warranty multiple times with the dealer doing little to satisfy me or address the issue. The problem has gotten progressively worse to a point that it has become a public hazard to drive. It seems to jump in and out of gear as it wishes with a clunking sound, especially when put into reverse. I took the car to the dealership this past week after being advised to do so when I called Ford's 1-800 number and they are suggesting that I replace the transmission. The catch is that my SUV is now out of warranty at only 46K miles. Bear in mind they failed to remedy the issue in the past. I went online and found that this problem is rampant with this model and year. Many comments from other disgruntled owners may be found at: evidently the problem goes as far back as production of 2004 Ford Explorer. Ford is failing to own up to this. I urge you to please take action so that this issue may be deemed part of a recall. These vehicles are posing a public threat and Ford is doing absolutely nothing about it.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #166

Jan 162008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,335 miles
2004 Ford Explorer transmission failure, shift slippage, delayed acceleration.

- Elkland, MO, USA

problem #165

Jan 052008

Explorer 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles


I own a 2004 Ford Explorer and in 2006 I had to have the solenoid shifters replaced in my vehicle. After researching this problem on the internet I have found that this transmission problem is very common with the 2004 Explorer model. My vehicle is now out of warranty and the same problem has occurred again. My hope is that you will take this complaint and research for yourself the many people experiencing the same problem and place a government recall correct the matter once and for all. It is a dangerous problem and causes the transmission to hesitate between 3rd and 4th gear in my case. This could potentially cause serious issues while at high speeds. Please look into this matter and feel free to contact me with any other questions. Thanks.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #164

Dec 162007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,900 miles
1 - transmission shifts hard into reverse. Starting happening at approx. 11K miles. Took to dealer twice under warranty to have repairs made, but still shifted hard. One repair at 11K and one repair at 34K. Each time I was told that this was 'normal' by dealer (bergstrom Ford of neenah). However, after repeated complaints, dealer (bergstrom Ford of neenah) made repairs that they believed would help resolve the issue. Issue never went away. 2 - complete transmission failure at 67K. Transmission would not shift into reverse. Could no back out of a parking stall at a retail store. Took to Ford dealer (les stumpf Ford) and got no assistance. Vehicle is out of warranty and I had to pay for repairs. Entire transmission needed replacement. No assistance from Ford to make repairs.

- Neenah, WI, USA

problem #163

Dec 202007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles
Took car back to the dealer I purchased it from, complained of a rough shift into reverse, technician said normal with this transmission, took it to another dealer in city where I work they found the problem to be a solenoid in the transmission and it was repaired under warranty. 20000 miles later and 18 months later the same problem diagnosed, not in warranty any longer I contacted Ford and they gave me a decision that there was nothing they could do for me. This same problem appears at lease 3 times on your website as service bulletins.

- Coal Township, PA, USA

problem #162

Oct 152007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,578 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While the vehicle was parked and the engine was running, the vehicle rolled into the contact's home. While driving to the dealer at 15 mph, the vehicle failed and would not move. The vehicle was placed in each gear, but it still would not move and the engine revved. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. When it arrived, the vehicle was placed in reverse and drove backwards. When the gear was placed in drive, it drove forward. The mechanic stated that the vehicle had a defective shift indicator and it was replaced. The vehicle operated normally when it was test driven. Four days later, the failure recurred. The transmission is making noises when driving at any speed, especially when shifting gears. The vehicle is currently back at the dealer. The failure and current mileages were 51,578. Updated 12-12-07.

- High Ridge, MO, USA

problem #161

Oct 132007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,497 miles
On my Explorer it has been to the dealer on 5 occasions now for the transmission. Delayed engagement when going from reverse to drive, sometimes feeling as if someone has rear ended me. On the first trip in an additive was added to the transmission, second trip the transmission solenoid pack was replaced, third trip the transmission solenoid pack was replaced, fourth trip the dealer couldn't reproduce the problem and the fifth trip the problem couldn't be reproduced. Was told by the dealer service manager that this is what the transmission is supposed to do. 1 day after getting my Explorer back same issue. I don't feel that this vehicle is safe to drive.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #160

Dec 052006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 35mph and changing gears, the transmission hesitated. When reverse is engaged, there was a delay, a hard noise and difficult to shift. The dealer has not diagnosed the failure. The current and failure mileages were 36,000.

- Overland Park, KS, USA

problem #159

Jul 152007

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Ford has an obvious design flaw in the transmission for the 2004 Explorer. Similar to thousands of others, when put into reverse the vehicle hesitates for 5 - 10 seconds and then bangs into gear with a sudden power surge. We've barely managed to avoid hitting the house and other vehicles. A "repair" just cost us ~$900. Ford claims no knowledge of a problem. What a joke!

- Pearland, TX, USA

problem #158

Nov 022004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 15,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the vehicle was not repaired after it had been serviced for a recall on the transmission. She placed the vehicle in reverse and five seconds later it jerked backwards. The contact experienced the same failure numerous times. The vehicle was returned to the dealer for inspection. The current mileage was 48,500 and failure mileage was 15,000.

- Cumming, GA, USA

problem #157

Sep 052007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,800 miles
2004 Ford Explorer. When putting into reverse, vehicle bangs, you can hear and feel it. Was in shop, and ffound nothing wrong. Occurred occaisionally, now alot! now my transmission is leaking fluid. My warranty ran out 5,000 miles ago. I don't think this is normal in a newer car.

- Millsboro, DE, USA

problem #156

Jul 312005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Our 2004 Ford Explorer has a significantly delayed response when shifting into reverse. Once the transmission engages there is a loud and hard "clunk". the dealership has diagnosed failure of the transmission solenoid and estimates this repair will cost ~$900.

- Pearland, TX, USA

problem #155

May 012007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles
At 50,000 my 2004 Ford Explorer XLT started having transmission problems. It does a slamming when putting into reverse. The brake has to be pushed all the way to floor to keep the vehicle from lurching into anyone or anything. It also has a slipping and jerking when the vehicle shifts into 2nd and again when it shifts into 3rd. I am not the only person with this issue.

- Holiday, FL, USA

problem #154

Jul 062007

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles view this website. I too have had the same problem at 10000 miles. I had the vehicle serviced, and am now experiencing a slight hesitation when backing again. This needs to be looked at. I did not realize the widespread problem until I saw the recent complaints on this web-site for this vehicle's year/make/model. This wa S a huge safety issue.

- Haverhill, MA, USA

problem #153

Jul 032007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. While driving 15 mph, the vehicle failed to shift into second gear. The check engine and overdrive warning indicators lights illuminated. The dealer stated that the cause of failure was the cylinoid circuit. The current mileage is 41,124 and failure mileage was 41,000.

- Carlsbad, CA, USA

problem #152

Jan 102007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 22,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the vehicle made a loud banging noise, hesitated, and then lunged into reverse without warning. The failure occurred after the vehicle was driven for more than an hour. The dealer was unable to diagnose the failure. The current mileage is 25,300 and failure mileage was 22,000.

- Schiller Park, IL, USA

problem #151

Apr 182007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles
There is a lag between putting the car in reverse and the car actually going backwards. When it does back up the car jerks backwards at an accelerated rate. It also does this when changing gears while driving. This started right after I bought the car, and I brought it back to the dealer, and they replaced the transmission fluid. This has not helped. If fact as the car ages, it is getting worse.

- Hammond, LA, USA

problem #150

Apr 142005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 21,000 miles
After one month of purchasing my Explorer it started having problems going into reverse and also shifting while driving. When put in reverse it will jerk with a loud bang or clank and then surge. It continues to get more frequent. I am very worried about hitting another car or even worse a person. I received a letter from Ford asking that I take to a dealership and they were going to add some additive to the transmission. I did return to the dealer and they serviced the SUV. It did shift correctly for about 1 month, but then the problem started again. When I called the dealership to inquire as to what the problem is they said they were not aware of any problems or recalls from Ford. I find this very hard to believe when I see all the complaints from people who own Explorer. I want Ford to fix this problem. I was having the problem before the warranty ran out and now that the warranty is out I feel that Ford should still be responsible for this major problem. What has to happen before Ford corrects this issue. Does someone have to get hurt?

- Columbus, IN, USA

problem #149

Feb 212006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles
Transmission is sloppy when shifting in general, sometimes has lag time when shifting from forward to reverse and a clunking noise can occur. Dealer had investigated multiple times with minor adjustments helping to reduce about 50-75% of the issue.

- Rowley, MA, USA

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