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 5 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #311

Apr 152012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles


I understand the transmission problem is fairly common on the 2004 explorer. My dealer says that he is unaware of any problem.

- , Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

problem #310

Jul 072011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

We have the same problem so many others have with their Exploder tranny. We no longer drive the vehicle more than 25 miles from the house (expecting a tow when it dies). So, we have a $30K vehicle that should last 200,000 miles, and is now worthless. Hmmm. Would I ever buy a Ford product again? I don't think so. I was wondering if the extended warranties offered any value (they cost the same as a new transmission). I see that they don't. Ford will still stiff you. My daughter just bought a new 2012 Hyundai Tucson. Now my wife wants one to replace the Exploder (both rear windows quit working, the parking brake handle just broke, and the rear heater deflector is broken again. It goes, clunk,...clunk... clunk. What a piece of crap, and no factory support. Remember when Honda replaced/fixed every transmission for their 2003 Acura TL. Wouldn't that be nice.

The most depressing thing about this issue, is that there is not a reliable fix. So, what is the point of fixing these transmissions?

- , Garland, TX, USA

problem #309

Dec 222004

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

My problem is basically the same as mentioned before. Slamming while changing in Reverse or Drive Delay in transmission when shifting gears.

The dealer just told me today that I need a new transmission. The cost of the repairs..approx $5000. I only have 76000 miles on my clock.

I called the customer service number for ford and spoke with a rep and filed a complaint. She stated that one of the reasons why we never see a recall is that most customers head to the internet on forums to complain ...but never call to lodge a formal complain with Ford.

I urge everyone to call them and report the problem.

She also stated that for those who got the problem fixed out of warranty, they should keep the receipts just in case there is a recall.


- , Bronx, NY, USA

problem #308

Jan 012008

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


We bought a 2004 Explorer in 2004. We also paid several grand extra for a 100k mile extended warranty. In 2008 at just over 60k miles the transmission started shifting hard and slipping at certain times. We took it to the local Ford Dealership in Jefferson, GA where we were told they couldn't find anything wrong with it. We continued to drive it for about another year and the problem gradually got worse.

When pressing the gas from a stop the engine would just rev up like it was in neutral for a couple seconds and then slam into gear. At this point it was doing it 1 out of 10 times.

In 2009 we took it back to the same dealership where we were then told it was doing this because the tire tread was less than 50-60% ?!? It was probably around 40-50% tread left. I didn't agree with this and said I wanted the transmission repaired. They refused.

So... we continued to drive it for about another year.

In 2010 at 98k miles (just before the warranty ran out) I took it back in because it was doing the same ole gear slamming but also started slipping and sputtering under normal driving too. Almost like the shift solenoids were going out?!? The dealership said there is nothing wrong with the transmission and would not repair it. And of course would not refund the useless warranty we had bought.

We decided to keep driving it because hey nothing was wrong with it right? Well here we are 2 years later and guess what - took it to 2 different mechanics and the transmission is shot. Maybe it was all the hard shifting for 4 years?!? One of the mechanics said "these transmissions are NOTORIOUS for the original shift solenoids being crap" and said I was lucky it had lasted as long as it did. Great...

Here's the icing on the cake - I just spoke with Ford customer service and this guy just told me he has heard of transmission problems with this model but there is no recall currently. He said there is nothing that can be done and... I should have taken it to a dealer before the warranty ran out!!!!!!!!! I told him I did...3 times. He said "maybe you should have taken it to another authorized dealer sir." I can't believe it. By the way, he stated he saw everything I told him (about taking the car in to be checked) on his records.

I have never driven anything but a Ford since I was 16 years old - which was 20 years ago. My wife has never driven anything but a Ford - for 18 years. They are not the same company Henry Ford made famous with their reliability. Riding a good name with cheap parts. I swear before God Almighty we will NEVER own a Ford again. Toyota here I come.

- , Commerce, GA, USA

problem #307

Apr 012012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I have the same problem as a lot of people here. Transmission on my Ford Explorer shifted hard and was slow. Noticed also that it was slow to put in gear from Reverse to Drive and vice versa. Noticed it would have a downshift clunk from 3rd gear or so to 2nd or 1st. Annoying, especially when it got worse and shifts were harsher, and when the tranny gradually changed into gear slower and slower from R to D and D to R and when downshifting. The good news is I have thought about this for awhile and have come up with why this is happening to a lot of people. In my opinion, the solenoid pack goes bad over time or goes bad for people who shift from R to D and D to R and accelerate quickly instead of waiting for the tranny to gear in. (Should you have to wait; I agree you shouldn't have to wait, reasonably). The solenoid pack reacts slower over time and people will shift from D to R and R to D and accelerate like they did when the car was new. Since the solenoid pack is slower to respond and consequently slower to make the tranny go into gear, this causes the engine reved at a higher RPM (cause you are accelerating at this point with your foot depressing the accelerator pedal) to kick power to the tranny abruptly. This shocks the tranny and over time causes problems to the tranny and that jolt. If you catch the slow response of the solenoid pack in time before it ruins your tranny you might be able to replace your solenoid pack and fix your problem quickly. Make sure you use a genuine solenoid pack from Ford from the dealer; take your chances if you bid for one at an auction online. If you are one of those owners who has the OD light flashing, I am thinking in my opinion, your tranny has already taken a beating and the fix will require more than a solenoid pack replacement. As for me, I replaced the solenoid pack myself and all problems forementioned were fixed. No more slow shifts, not more hard shifts, no more down shift clunks. The solenoid pack fixed the downshift clunk because eventhough the engine told the pack to downshift, it was slow and when it did make the tranny shift, the engine and tranny were past its calibrated shift zone. If you are one who can drop the tranny pan, then this fix is just a few steps and screws more to get to the pack. Replace the filter at the same time and the fluid. Total cost was basically the solenoid pack from the dealer at around $460.00. Filter and fluid extra. Note: This is not your typical tranny. No dip stick = must fill the fluid from the bottom from the inner drain screw; when it starts dripping out then you know you have filled it to the right level. I used a modified week sprayer to pump the fluid into the system. You can buy a bottle pump (looks like a soap pump that fits on top of a tranny fluid quart bottle) at most auto shops. Hope this helps!

- , Torrance, CA, USA

problem #306

Mar 012011

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles

After I heard from my neighbor about their Explorer having shifting problems, I decided to do a search and found out that 2000-2004 Explorers have a LOT of Transmission problems :(

- , Mansfield, TX, US

problem #305

Apr 282012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


It would have cost more to fix but I got a deal from an independent mechanic. This followed the classic symptons described by others in this forum i.e. slips between gears, rough shift, flashing O/D light. Ford should recall and reimburse for repair costs

- , Moore, OK, USA

problem #304

Apr 212012

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

Well it seems I'm the next person in a long line of people who is having transmission issues with the 2004 Explorer and Ford still does not accept any fault for this. Out of the blue the service engine soon light comes on and turns out to be a transmission sensor code. The truck only has 62,000 miles on it. I take it to a transmission specialist and they tell me its about to fail - sensors, slipping, and skipping gears? To correct they would need to rebuild and it would only cost me $2,500. WTF!

- , Carle Place, NY, USA

problem #303

Mar 092012

Explorer XL 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

2004 Ford Exlorer.... Transmission appears to be slipping or skipping first and second gears and going directly to third gear. Tach revs to 4+ and the vehicle is hardly moving. Will come down to 2 on Tach after getting off the gas peddle.

- , Charlton, MA, USA

problem #302

Jul 012011

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

My Ford Explorer been stuck in the lower gears and would lunge to shift to the next gear. During reverse, I have to wait for it to "catch" with a hard thump. Sometimes as long as 3 seconds. Worry it might fail on me soon.

- , Garden Grove, CA, USA

problem #301

Mar 062012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,658 miles


This transmission is junk and its time for ford to man up and recall this car. oh yeah the rear end is junk too!

- , West Terre Haute, IN, USA

problem #300

Jan 232012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

We were the original owners of a 2004 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer V6. We were overall happy with the car, for the exception of the transmission. The first rebuild (due to total failure) was at 75,000 miles in October 2010 and cost us $2,700. The transmission shop gave us a 2 year 25,000 mile warranty (which would take us to 100,000). I was driving the other day and it started slipping gears and revving the engine. It makes loud bangs and thuds when shifting , especially out of reverse. I cannot get out of 1st gear sometimes so I am forced to release the gas pedal and let it shift. It is a major inconvenience and has deterred me from buying a Ford car again.

- , Morris Plains, NJ, USA

problem #299

Feb 042012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

About 3 weeks ago i noticed that it was shifting extremely hard between gears and there was a 4-5 second delay when i'd put it in reverse. This morning when i left for work when it would shift into 3rd gear it would make a weird noise. Coming home from work when shifting into 3rd it missed the gear completely, maxed out the revs and felt like it was in neutral. O/D light started flashing and the check transmission light came on. Car won't go above second gear and also there is no reverse.

- , Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #298

Jan 092012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I started having the problem at about 80k miles and they tell me that it has to be rebuilt at a cost of approx $2000. I understand that ford is aware of the problem and have been for some time. i feel that ford should, at least, bear part of the cost for repair since that a it a design problem. if they don't i will never again buy a ford product and tell everyone i can that ford will not fix their problems.

- , Columbus, IN, USA

problem #297

Apr 172009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,766 miles

When going in drive or reverse, there is a hesitation before the transmission engages. If you are driving on the highway and let up on the gas, when you accelerate again there is a pause and then it bangs in and goes forward. This was fixed the day before my extended waranty expired. When it started happening again, i am told i have to pay because i am no longer covered and i found several people had the same problem, so like them, i am waiting for a recall.

- , Belleville, NJ, USA

problem #296

Feb 052012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

We purchased this vehicle on friday evening 2/03/12 and the transmission began to act up on sunday 2/15/12. Is there a recall on this? I called around and they said this was common amongst these vehicles. If this is a common occurrence why is there not a recall?

- , Macungie, PA, USA

problem #295

Jan 012012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Took our 2004 for to mechanic due to transmission slipping. He checked it out and said we could try replacing the solenoid and if that didn't fix it that we would have to replace the entire transmission. He told us he just had another ford explorer owner in this week with the exact same problem. Cant believe this is happening at on 100,000 miles. Need this car to last.

- , Hendersonville, NC, USA

problem #294

Sep 012011

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

Transmission slips out of 2nd and 3rd gears, and/or cannot 'find' those gears when it tries to shift up into them. That results in a long coast in something resembling Neutral until the transmission 'finds' the gear again, causing the vehicle to lurch hard and make some bad sounding noises. I had the solenoid pack replaced a year ago when it did this before, but now the problem is back. A transmission service has looked at it again and now tells me that they would have to rebuild the transmission case to fix the problem.

The service techs told me that the problem is that the inserts where the control rods enter the transmission casing from the solenoid pack are made of steel, while the transmission case they thread into is made of aluminum. Pretty bad design to put a steel insert into an aluminum receiver if you ask me, since A) steel is stronger than aluminum, and B) they are dissimilar metals (meaning they corrode when put in contact). They tell me that they would need to drill out the casing, put in brass inserts, and then thread the steel rods into the brass inserts. About $2000 of work. Recall this thing and fix it like a responsible car company.

- , Knoxville, TN, US

problem #293

Aug 012011

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles

Just had my transmission rebuilt since the OD planetary gear washers broke off and got caught in 2nd & 3rd gears. Had to tear down tranny and rebuild, including solenoid assy. Had about 59K miles when gears wouldn't shift correctly, and would shift hard. Final straw is when OD light wouldn't stop blinking and couldn't even get into 2nd or 3rd gear, at all.

- , Vancouver, WA, USA

problem #292

Nov 232011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

I just bought this truck in June. I'm a teacher and do not have a lot of money to spend on junk. I needed a reliable car and that is what Fords promise is so I got one. Ever since I have had to deal with this transmission, my back gate cracked, and the abs light stays on all of the time. WHAT A LEMON!!!!!! Now I'm screwed on 3 years of payments for a car that DOES NOT work. Thanks ford for screwing me.

- , Olney, MD, USA

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