Ford Explorer Transmission Problems [8 Common Issues]

The Ford Explorer has been in production since 1991 and has remained one of the top sports utility vehicles today. However, the Ford Explorer has some issues, such as transmission problems.

In this post, we’ll look at common issues with the Ford Explorer transmission and what you can do to fix them.

Ford Explorer

But first, you want to know why your Ford Explorer transmission may go bad.

Here are some common causes of transmission issues in a Ford Explorer:

  • Low transmission fluid.
  • Poor fluid maintenance.
  • Transmission fluid leakages.
  • Clogged transmission filter.

That said, let’s look at some issues you may experience that show your Ford Explorer transmission needs to be fixed.

Ford Explorer Transmission Problems

1. Grinding and Jerking

When your Ford Explorer starts jerking and your gears are grinding unnecessarily, your SUV’s transmission is no longer functioning as it should. Automatic transmissions guarantee smoother drive than their manual counterparts.

Get your Ford Explorer to a reliable service center as soon as possible. Your transmission’s internal mechanical components may be worn out. Fixing this problem requires an experienced mechanic.

2. Engine Noise

This transmission problem was noted in the 2020 Ford Explorer. When driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission, as soon as the engine reaches the suitable RPMs for a gear shift to take place, it does so smoothly. That is basically the essence of an automatic transmission.

The transmission swiftly recognizes that your automobile is up to the required speed and accesses the shifting gears.

However, the transmission of the 2020 Ford Explorer stays in a lower gear longer than it should, which causes serious engine noises.

Having a louder and raspy engine is never good, so you should get your Ford Explorer to your mechanic for inspection.

3. Unexpected Transmission Shift

If you experience serious shifting while driving, especially when your transmission shifts on its own between ‘drive’ and ‘park’, something is wrong with the transmission. If you keep driving your Ford Explorer in this condition, you may risk a sudden and total transmission shutdown.

Transmission fluid leaks may cause this issue. This is why you should manage to safety as soon as you notice your transmission shifting unexpectedly. You may need to get your Ford Explorer towed to a mechanic.

4. Burning Smell

If you perceive a burning odor while driving, it could be that the transmission fluid is overheating. This problem usually occurs when your transmission fluid has debris, sludge, and broken-down metallic components.

You should check the transmission fluid to see whether it is at the appropriate level. If not, fill it up with the recommended Ford Explorer transmission fluid.

But if the transmission fluid is murky (clouded with sediment or debris), you may have to change it entirely. First, drain the transmission fluid until it is empty. Then fill it with the recommended transmission fluid.

If the problem persists, get your Ford Explorer to your auto mechanic for a more exhaustive check-up.

5. Shifting Gears with Difficulty

An automatic transmission guarantees an easy shift at low throttle input. But if you suddenly start shifting gears with difficulty, even at low speed, or the transmission shifts gears harshly, there could be a problem with the pressure sensor.

Replace your Ford Explorer’s transmission pressure sensor. If the problem persists, check out the servo assembly of that specific gear for an oil leak. A trusted mechanic can help get these done.

6. Slow Response

Driving your Ford Explorer should be a pleasant experience. But if your SUV gives slow responses while pressing the gas pedal, the transmission could be the problem.

The most efficient way of resolving the problem is by checking the gear ratio sensors. You may also need to reset the software settings of your Ford Explorer.

7. Transmission Slippage

If you experience transmission slippage, it could cause your Ford Explorer transmission system to respond slowly. As a result, you will hear a clunking or shifting sound from the engine while driving your Ford Explorer, which can severely damage the transmission system.

In addition, an error code will sometimes be displayed if you make use of a diagnostic tool. This problem generally occurs when your Ford Explorer is barely under 100,000 miles.

The mechanical components of your Ford Explorer transmission, including the solenoids of the 2 gears, may be worn out and require replacement.

Also, a low transmission fluid could cause this problem. So, check the transmission fluid to ensure it is at its appropriate level. Also, ensure there are no transmission fluid leaks.

8. Transmission Failure

The Ford Explorer’s torque converter may stall unannounced sometimes. When your SUV’s engine stalls constantly at low speeds, it can be a serious problem.

Stalling usually occurs if the clutch on the transmission fails to disengage. In addition, since the transmission and engine are coupled permanently, the differential or half shaft can’t rotate.

Several factors can cause your Ford Explorer to stall. For instance, it could result from transmission failure because of a persistent transmission problem.

In addition, low transmission fluid, poor maintenance of transmission fluid, as well as failed transmission solenoids can cause your Ford Explorer to stall almost without warning.

You will need to check your SUV’s fuel system to discover whether the fuel pump requires replacement. Then check and fix electrical issues, exhaust, and air problems.

But if the problems persist, you may have to rebuild or replace your Ford Explorer’s transmission.

Can You Drive a Ford Explorer with a Bad Transmission?

No, you cannot drive a Ford Explorer with a bad transmission. Driving your SUV with a defective transmission can severely damage some components. This may result in a complete replacement of the transmission.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Ford Explorer Transmission?

According to, the average cost of replacing a Ford Explorer’s transmission ranges from $5,850 to over $6,000. But this depends significantly on your location, model year, and the available components. In addition, labor costs, fees, taxes, and related costs have not been factored in.

Which Ford Explorer Model Year Has the Highest Transmission Issue?

According to, the Ford Explorer model year with the highest transmission issue is the 2002 Ford Explorer, with over 1,500 complaints. In addition, significant issues, such as transmission slipping, transmission failure, shifting difficulties, and other constant transmission issues, were reported frequently.

Other model years with fewer transmission issues are 2003, 2004, 2005, and the 2006 Ford Explorer.

Tips to Make Your Ford Explorer Transmission Last Longer

  • Inspect your Ford Explorer’s transmission fluid from time to time. A good transmission fluid has a bright, transparent reddish color. But if it is muddy or milky, there’s a problem.
  • Most drivers have their feet slightly pressed on the brake pedal. But this does some harm as it stresses your transmission and engine. For example, avoid resting your foot on your Ford Explorer’s brake pedal; this prolongs the lifespan of your transmission and encourages you to drive more cautiously.
  • Take good care of your Ford Explorer’s cooling system. The cooling system cools the transmission fluid and prevents your engine from overheating. In addition, it helps maintain an ideal temperature when your vehicle is stationary or shifting through gears.
  • Only use the transmission fluid recommended for your Ford Explorer. You will find this information when you check out your owner’s manual. Using the wrong type of transmission fluid can cause severe damage to your Ford Explorer’s transmission.
  • Shift through the gears carefully. Always bring your Ford Explorer to a complete stop before shifting into ‘park’ or switching from drive to reverse or vice versa. This is one of the most effective, straightforward, and efficient ways of keeping your vehicle’s transmission in order.
  • Allow your Ford Explorer to warm up before leaving your driveway. Warming up the car properly ensures every component is lubricated and functioning as expected.
  • Do not overuse your Ford Explorer’s spare tire. Spare tires are usually beneficial in a pinch. But extended use of your spare tire can cause serious harm to your SUV’s transmission. Instead, only use the spare tire for what it is designed for; save space and weight, and get your vehicle to the nearest repair center.
  • Avoid towing cargo or another vehicle. Unless your Ford Explorer comes with a factory-fitted heavy-duty cooling system, heavy-duty shocks, springs, and heavy-duty transmission components, including a correctly installed tow hitch, towing cargo will put undue stress on your transmission.
  • Have your mechanic check your Ford Explorer’s transmission at least once a year.

You may also like to read about Acura TLX and Honda Civic transmission issues.

Wrapping Up

The Ford Explorer is one of the reliable sports utility vehicles from Ford, the famous automobile maker. But several models of this SUV come with some transmission problems.

Take note of the signs and get a mechanic to inspect and fix your car as soon as possible.