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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
72,980 miles
Total Complaints:
391 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (198 reports)
  2. rebuild transmission (59 reports)
  3. replace shift solenoid (58 reports)
  4. replace transmission (57 reports)
  5. replace shift solenoid and bands (9 reports)
  6. had transmission rebuilt $2012 (3 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 3 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #351

Jun 262014

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,412 miles


While shifting gears especially in reverse the transmission shakes very hard.

- , Jackson, MS, USA

problem #350

Jun 022014

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles

I cannot believe that with only 108000 miles this transmission is already going. I see from the responses that this is a known issue and should be covered by FORD.

- , royal oak, MI, USA

problem #349

Jun 012009

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Engine flairs to 3,000 rpm while attempting to shift from 1st to 2nd gear under light acceleration. Careful control of the throttle often mitigates the problem, though not entirely. Transmission fluid and filter were recently changed along with the solenoid pack (which fixed other shifting problems). The solution to the issue likely lies in the OD solenoid piston, which often goes bad in these models.

- , Manhattan, KS, USA

problem #348

Mar 152014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles


We purchased this car used on March 15, 2014 for my son. The day we brought it home from the dealership it started HARD shifting into reverse. Really Hard! I thought I'd done my research on the Explorers but somehow I missed this transmission problem. If you don't search the internet using the right words you don't see the threads expounding on the transmission issue. I've now spent $7500 on a SUV that is likely to have the transmission replaced. NOT GOOD FORD. You know you have a problem and you need to make these transmission right.

- , Charlotte, North Carolina, US, USA

problem #347

Oct 032013

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

This is the secord Explorer that I have owned and they all do the same damn thing. Around the 70,000 mile marker the whole transmission starts grinding and eventually it seizes up, in traffic no less. This is a serious problem with these Explorers, but it seems if no one gets killed or disabled by one FORD won't recall the damn thing. I really don't know that I would buy another ford just because of this issue that won't seem to be addressed.

- , Grain Valley, MO, USA

problem #346

Dec 112013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles

The transmission is starting to show signs of a problem. A transmission specialist told me that it may last a while or might fail soon. The minimum repair cost would be $1200, but likely could require the transmission to be replaced with a rebuilt one at cost of about $3000.

- , Madison, WI, USA

problem #345

Apr 062010

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles


Ford built a pile of sh*t when they built the Ford Explorer. They need to recall them all. The government needs to force Ford to recall these transmissions and fix them at no cost...

- , Lagrange, GA, USA

problem #344

Apr 162012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,500 miles

I was driving today and all of sudden a car jumps out of nowhere where I had to apply the brakes hard, so when I went ahead to accelerate the engine was revving but the car was moving slowly. What gives? What could be the problem? Also, My ABS light comes on regularly and my cruise control works occasionally also. Can this be all a related problem?

- , Copperas Cove, TX, US

problem #343

Dec 062009

Explorer LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

This problem seems to be a routine occurrence with Explorer owners. With all the same problem with the transmission, slipping and jerking, why can't we get together and have a class action suit against the Ford Motor Co. since they know about it and are doing absolutely nothing. It sounds like any day now the transmission will stop functioning and leave us stranded. As much as this vehicle cost, it is no excuse why Ford should not stand behind their product. The jerking is so loud you can hear it when you start driving. It is embarrassing!

- , Laurel, DE, US

problem #342

May 182013

Explorer Edie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,230 miles

Have been wondering if other owners have had this same problem. Really takes away from the value of the vehicle. Getting a little fed up with Ford products!

- , Abbeville, SC, USA

problem #341

Sep 012011

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles


the transmission seemed not to be shifting, I took the truck in for other issues and asked the dealer to check trans also, especially since extended warranty was almost up. THE SERVICE ADVISOR SAID THEY TEST DROVE IT AND DID NOT feel anything wrong, so they could not do anything for me, I kept complaining and was told to bring it by when I felt it again,I did and it didnt happen when they drove it so would not check transmission because he said warranty company would not pay for it. I called and told him how i came off interstate and stopped at light, trans wouldnt shift, then he asked if it shifted really hard after that and I said yes,he said oh bring it in and see if it does again, I drove there again, it did not act up for them on test drive, so once again they did nothing, he knew exactly what I was talking about and finished my sentence but would do nothing!!! Now my warranty is up and problem is worse, I feel like Im going to get in an accident when I pull out in traffic because it doesn't want to shift!

- , Longwood, FL, USA

problem #340

May 022006

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

When shifting into reverse there is a second of hesitation and then it grabs with a thud and takes off. We took it into the dealer while it was still under extended warranty and they told my wife it was normal. Once I found out I told her it was not normal. We took it back and of course it was not in under warranty anymore. They changed the shift solenoid but it didn't help much. Bottom line is that I've seen tons of complaints on the internet about the same problem but Ford ignores it. It cost them my business. I have a toyota truck that has 270,000 miles with very little problem. Me and my wife are getting ready to purchase new cars. Since ford didn't take care of me we are going to toyota. That's two new vehicles ford will not get to sell.

- , New Bern, NC, USA

problem #339

Feb 012012

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

This transmission in this vehicle is horrible. I bought this to have reliable transportation for family and work. Not only is this the worst vehicle I have owned, I see that many hundreds, if not tens of thousands of Explorer owners are experiencing the same transmission problems. If Ford ever wants my loyalty from them in the future to purchase another Ford product they need to own up to this horrific transmission and recall it. Hard working Americans have spent their earnings on this piece of sh*t vehicle only to be let down.

I bought this vehicle used with 80,000 miles on it. I now have a payment for a scrap vehicle which I cannot afford to fix and the need for reliable transportation. Unbelievable. I will let everyone I can know about the reliability of the Ford vehicles. It's no wonder people are buying foreign cars, what an absolute shame. Way to contribute to the absolute decline of this great country. When you can legally build junk and sell it, and not stand behind it; pathetic. I can see the only reason you did not need bail out money was because you were ripping off the American consumer. Do this country and the people in it a favor; start recalling some of this crap and treat your customers fairly, return to the reputable car company you once were!

- , Canton, OH, US

problem #338

Jan 072013

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,101 miles

I bought a 2004 Ford Explorer last April 2012 and i didn't buy it in ford dealership, now i don't know if i have warranty. Sometime on January 2013 the problem start, after driving my car or sometimes if i just move my car forward a little bit, once i stop my shift gear won't go on park and reverse but it works on drive, shift gear move till neutral and that's it. Now i have to move forward and stop little by little until the shift gear move to park or reverse....

- , Seattle, WA, US

problem #337

Jun 232013

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,882 miles

So I was getting ready to park the Ford Explorer and moved the shift selector to reverse and it just sat there for about 5 seconds and then BAM!!! it hit reverse and started backing up. I decided to pull forward to see if it was just a fluke and shifted back to reverse and it sat there for a few seconds then BAM!! same thing.

- , Santa Rosa, CA, USA

problem #336

Sep 202012

Explorer XLT 4.0L Cologne V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,596 miles

It's the XLT model, simple with enough features for practical usage and toting the kids around town. Some call it a glorified minivan, I call it an unreliable scam. The truck was purchased new in Nov 2004. It's been in two accidents (idiots rear ended us twice within the first year of ownership). It was always maintained at the original dealer until we moved and had it maintained at the Ford dealer there until it was paid off in 2010 (now it's a regular Midas guest). It's had many expensive repairs throughout its life, but I'm not here to gripe about those, I'm here to complain about the transmission.

The transmission has always shifted a little rough (well, it's a Ford transmission, they all suck) but at 133,000 miles it started to whine and wouldn't get into reverse. We would need to step on the gas and wait for the gear to catch, eventually it would with a nice thud and being jerked backwards at 10mph. It's now at 140,000 miles and we're waiting for it to die. Not to mention the gas mileage has gone out the window since then, making about 10mpg highway.

3/4 Explorers I've personally experienced had transmission issues. The 1st is this one, the second is a 2002 XLT (slipping and eventually replaced), 3rd 2002 Eddie Bauer (unknown), and the 4th 2005 XLT is the same as this 2004.

If you're looking at buying one of these used, please, PLEASE, look elsewhere...but not at a Ford truck. Go Dodge or Chevy, or someone else who knows how to make a decent transmission.

- , Keene, NH, USA

problem #335

Jan 012013

Explorer LS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

Shifting the transmission out of Park or Reverse causes a loud "clunk" and noticeable jump by the car.

I am sure it is only a matter of time before the transmission comes apart. With so many complaints

about early 2000 models of the Explorer, Ford should pony up with a good will fix. If the company

does not do something, I will NEVER buy another Ford product. I also had problems with a Ford

Escape transmission but it was under warranty...lucky me.

- , Walterboro, SC, USA

problem #334

Jan 022012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

My transmission has been acting up for awhile, but I wasn't sure what it was. Finally, I described to my mechanic what was happening, and he said it sounds like the transmission is on it's way out. He is not a transmission specialist, and recommended me to a guy. I still need to take it in, but wanted to talk to Ford first to see if I could get it taken care of. Although it is a common problem and I am the original owner, Ford offered no help. I just hit 80,000 miles, but this has been a problem for awhile. I wish Ford would take care of its legitimate problems and legitimate, original vehicle owner customers. This will probably be a $2,000 expense. My warranty was up at 60,000.

- , Fullerton, CA, USA

problem #333

Apr 222013

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

Started out leasing our 2004 Explorer. When our 97 Ford Explorer had growling problems. Took it to garages to fix. Ford dealership once cost us over $700. Wheel cylinders sure. It would pull anything. Turned out it was the front rearend. Our son-in-law-fixed it. We should have got the hint then. What a pain. Going to cost I know can't afford to sell, buy another. Only has 71,000 miles on it. Ford you really should have made your customers happy. Not stick them with junk. Shame on you! We have had to replace the seatbelt, constantly beeped. Rear wiper fluid runs out on the ground when you fill it. Had to replace the brackets that hold on the running boards. We've also replaced the back window hinges. The clock doesn't stay on time. We should have stuck with the Subarus.

- , Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #332

May 102009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I have owned 3 explorers since 2001. Every (Exploder) as I call them has been a real pain and a real inconvenience for me. it has been a consstant fight to get anything done. I have spent more on repairs than should have been necessary with new cars from Ford. I have had this 2004 for one year and already the transmission is slipping. I know, because my 2003 did the same thing. I spent $600.00 to replace the wheelbearings on the front wheels because it seized up and wouldn't drive. Now this one is not shifting when I put it in reverse. The ABS light keeps coming on and the 4X4 High keeps coming on. It has always shifted hard and the rumbling in the inside of the car is so loud even the radio won't drowned it out. Of course, like every other Explorer owner, my back hatch is also cracked. I catch myself going down the highway to look at otherExloders hatches to see if theirs is cracked too.

Ford should be ashamed of this product and to have it out on the road knowing that the transmission has the shaving in it and will eventually have to be replaced. At the price of the auto to begin with you would think they could at least fix their MISTAKES. I guess if no one gets seriously injured or killed it's worth recalling this. I won't buy another ford in my life. What a piece of crap they have turned out to be. Fix or repair daily, Found on Road Dead. Yep that's their motto. How Proud that makes them. Maybe 20/20 or 48 hours would like to do a story on this problem that seems to be every vehicle at any mileage. I am so disappointed in this vehicle I will black mark the Ford name and I have relatives that work at Ford.

- , Grain Valley, MO, USA

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