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 1 of 16)

problem #308

Dec 202012


  • 140,000 miles


On the body the tailgate panel keeps cracking this makes my truck look bad compared to the money I put into it. My engine or transmission acts as if something is wrong it is not shifting gear right. On the electrical tire pressure light keeps coming on and it also keeps leaking water from somewhere. Ford needs to go out of business for selling these pieces of junk. It makes no sense.

- Columbus , GA, USA

problem #307

May 012012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
2004 Ford Explorer. Consumer writes in regards to transmission problem the consumer stated there was a delay in the transmission when he attempted to put the gear in reverse. There was also a hard shift when the vehicle was warm and on several occasions, it would slam into gear.

- Bradenton, FL, USA

problem #306

Mar 142012


  • miles
Shortly after I first purchased the vehicle after about 2-3 years ago. I noticed it would jerk & was hard to shift gears. It would sometimes be in gear & not gas. After I took it to a shop to have it looked at it was a wire or cable loose to the trans. Everything seemed ok for awhile thereafter but then it started again. Just recently as I was on the expressway the transmission overheated light sensor came on & then the check transmission sensor followed. I researched and found that 1 out of every 10 customers with a Ford Explorer between 2000-2004 have transmissions issues. Also I called to Ford customer service and was advised that there is no recall even with several complaints and that no goodwill or financial services could be offered to assist me with the repairing of my vehicle, even after I stressed my complete dissatisfaction with the outcome.

- Phila, PA, USA

problem #305

Mar 072012

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 153,435 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the transmission failed without warning. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer and was told that the transmission overheated, the fifth gear failed and the housing rod was fractured. The dealer also stated that the failure was common in the particular year, make and model vehicle. The failure and the current mileage was 153,435. Updated 04/19/12 updated 04/30/12

- Fort Plain , NY, USA

problem #304

Aug 302009


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving approximately 45 to 50 mph when the vehicle became hesitant to acceleration attempts. In addition, the gears were slipping when shifting gears. The vehicle was inspected by a dealer and they advised him that the transmission would need replacing. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and they advised that there were no recalls for the vehicle. The failure mileage was approximately 100,000.

- Stockbridge, GA, USA

problem #303

Jul 212011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 99,000 miles
It seems that my transmission is starting to slip and shift hard.

- Newborn, GA, USA

problem #302

Jun 192011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 47,435 miles


I have a 2004 Ford Explorer with less than 75,000 miles on it. I am a very conservative driver and do not put a lot of miles on my cars. The transmission went out and the guy at aamco said the inside of it was a mess, everything was chewed up. It cost me $3,550 to have it fixed. At the time it failed I was going down the highway at 55 mph and it suddenly dropped to about 25mph.

- Sherwood, OR, USA

problem #301

Jun 042011


  • 64,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving, there was an abnormal increase in engine rpms yet the vehicle would not accelerate. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the transmission solenoid was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure and the vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 64,000.

- Imperial , CA, USA

problem #300

May 312010


  • 49,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. The contact placed the gear shifter into reverse to drive and noticed that the transmission would hesitate before engaging. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the technicians replaced the solenoid in the transmission. After the repairs were performed, the contact continued to experience the failure. There was also an abnormal grinding from the rear of the vehicle. The dealer replaced the rear end bearing, three rear axles, the pinion bar and seals and a shaft kit was installed. The dealer also advised that the failure was caused by an over torque by the manufacturer. In addition, the contact stated that the driver and passenger side sun visor joints were failing sporadically and causing the visors to obstruct the contact's vision of the roadway. The sun visors were not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 49,000.

- Sevierville, TN, USA

problem #299

Oct 192004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 146,639 miles
Original owner of vehicle, car shifts roughly into gear while driving feels like it is dragging, transmission has a hard clunk engagement when putting in reverse then engages hard with a sudden unexpected jolt backwards when car only had 3,945 miles in Oct 2004. When car is in park I start the car it will sometimes jolt forward. Took car to dealer within 90 days of purchase for transmission & they replaced a solenoid in the trans. Took car back 2 more times within a year still having same problems now warranty up & Ford will not help car has 170K= miles & is 6 yrs old still running but same transmission issues daily. This is very unsafe with the car jolting into gear especially when I start the car. They need to recall & replace the transmission.

- Monrovia, CA, USA

problem #298

Apr 012011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 84,000 miles


Ford Explorer transmission failed at 84000 miles. This vehicle was released from the factory in 2004 without proper transmission fluid additive. Ford addressed the problem 1 year later, but this transmission is failing well before its time. Repair costs are $4500. Ford will not offer any assistance.

- Chestnut Ridge, NY, USA

problem #297

Apr 132011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 107,600 miles
The transmission on my 2004 Ford Explorer has started slipping. It does not want to go into gear correctly. It only has 107,600 miles on it. I live just outside birmingham, al and the traffic is very heavy and dangerous here. Not a place I want my vehicle breaking down. I just hung up the phone with Ford Motor Co and they have nothing to offer in the way of help. They said to hold on to receipts in case of recall. :-( you bet your life I will! my sister's 2005 did the same thing at just over 100,000 miles.

- Mccalla, AL, USA

problem #296

Jun 132010


  • 68,312 miles
The transmission has a delayed shift and causes the engine to rev before shifting. This causes a hesitation especially when pulling out into traffic from a stop. This occurs every time and the 0/D light flashes as well. The service engine light is now because of the transmission problem. This is situation dangerous.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #295

Feb 012011


  • 68,000 miles
I have had issues with my transmission jumping out of drive when I am going down the highway. I have three children and I feel this is very very unsafe. I have had the car in the shop three times for the same issue and everytime they have told me it was the reardifferential/transmission. I have called Ford customer service line and they will not do anything. My Explorer is now having issues going into reverse and staying in any gear. Please look into these problems with the 2004 Explorer before someone gets killed or injured from this. I have researched this problem and thousands of oither 2003-2004 Explorer owners are having the same issues with the transmission and rear end. The 2004 Ford Explorer is a death trap.

- Darlington, SC, USA

problem #294

Sep 012006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 51,000 miles
Transmission has a hard clunk engagement when putting in gear and total disengagement while driving, then the od light starts to blink, and you have to either let off the gas, or tap the gas to get it to engage again, it started around 50,000 miles, and continues to do so, the is no recall and no warranty for it, dealer ship said it needs rebuilt or replaced $2200 or $4200 dollars, we don't have.

- Loveland, OH, USA

problem #293

Mar 012011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
2004 Ford Explorer. Consumer writes in regards to having to replace the solenoid for the third time. The consumer stated the vehicle would not engage into reverse without jolting and hard shifting.

- Anthem, AZ, USA

problem #292

Feb 222011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 65,000 miles
Transmission slams hard into gear upon acceleration and when braking. Does this all the time. When shifting into reverse, it does not engage immediately and then engages hard with a sudden and unexpected lurch backwards. This happens 8 of 10 times when shifting to reverse. No attempt to correct as it appears there is no fix short of a new transmission = $$$ I don't have.

- Little Rock, AR, USA

problem #291

Feb 202011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 61,672 miles
Transmission failure!!! !the O/D warning began to flash...the recommendation is to service transmission asap. The only issue is that my 2004 Ford Explorer only has 61,672 miles. The estimated repair cost is approximately $2000-3000.

- Braintree, MA, USA

problem #290

Aug 012009

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 76,000 miles
I financed a 2004 Ford Explorer in 2008 and about 6 month later I noticed the transmission starting to slip. Soon after it wouldnt hardly go into gear unless I reved up the engine then it would slam into gear really hard. Now it is getting worse. Im a disabled single father of my son who is also disabled and we are on a fixed income and dont have the money to fix this, [xxx] I still owe on it. I pay almost 300 bucks a month car payment on it. Parts of this document have been redacted to protect personally identifiable information pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #289

Feb 012011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 79,000 miles
The od light is flashing and the trans is slipping. You can not excelerate in a hurry because it wont go making this truck a accident waiting to happen.

- Merrillville, IN, USA

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