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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
39,701 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

problem #4

May 162005


  • 8,804 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. After starting the engine, the gear shifted from the "park" position to "reverse". there was a forceful forward shifting motion when that occurred. In addition, when the gear shift was placed in the "reverse position" and shifting into the "drive" position there was immediate hesitation. There were no warning light indicators illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for inspection. The technician stated the failure was contributed to the shift solenoid which was replaced. An authorized dealer previously replaced the solenoid for identical failure. The contact is aware of the safety risk. The failure mileage was 8,804 and the current mileage was 55,000.

- Phoenix City, AL, USA

problem #3

Dec 062007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles
Driving vehicle, stopped, put vehicle in park, got out of vehicle briefly, got back in vehicle, pulled on gear shift leaver to put in drive would not go in drive or any other gear, prndl leaver broke off, could not remove key, could shut off the motor, had to have vehicle towed to Ford dealer for repairs. Total cost of repair $1,501.19. I did not by this vehicle from ourisman Ford. I bought it from a private owner.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #2

Sep 212007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start. She depressed the accelerator pedal and the vehicle started and began to vibrate. She then placed the vehicle in reverse and heard a loud clunking noise. She smelled a strong gas odor inside the passenger compartment. The contact looked in her rearview mirror and noticed a large amount of smoke coming from the exhaust system. She parked the vehicle and had it towed. She then noticed that all of the radiator fluid leaked out. The mechanic stated that the valve failed and damaged the entire engine. The mechanic also stated that the engine needed to be replaced and appeared to be a manufacturer defect. The current and failure mileages were 63,000. The consumer also stated had problems prior to incident with sun visor falling off, gear shaft would not shift into park, engine sluggish, and while using cruise control vehicle would just shut off. Updated 10/22/07

- The Woodlands, TX, USA

problem #1

Jul 262004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles
When shifting gears from drive to reverse a heavy knocking noise is produced. The gear selector would hang up in drive and the selector did not return. The vehicle would also unexpectedly jump out of drive. The shift solenoid was replaced but the problem remained the same.

- San Jose, CA, USA

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