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Ford is one of the original and most well-known American automakers. But even a legendary manufacturer like Ford makes mistakes. Here is the one SUV from Ford that you should avoid at all costs.

The horrible history of the Ford Explorer

To say that the history of the Ford Explorer has been problematic would be an understatement. Since 2002, the SUV has been plagued by transmission issues, according to Car Complaints.

Some model years of the Explorer has been relatively problem-free, but there has been so many troubled years that it may just be a matter of time before the problem-free models become problematic, too.

For instance, the 2002 model year of the Explorer had so many issues that Car Complaints named it the worst vehicle on the site. Ford should get some slack for this. After all, 2002 was almost 20 years ago. But the fact that the Explorer’s later model years had similar issues isn’t a good sign for the SUV’s longevity.

Car Complaints reported fewer problems with the 2003 model year than the 2002. But then the 2004 year experienced a rebound in complaints. And while the 2005 and 2006 model years saw fewer complaints overall, Car Complaints named the 2006 Ford Explorer the worst model year due to its constant transmission issues. 

Ford and its transmission issues

The 2020 Ford Explorer hybrid is shown at AutoMobility LA
The 2020 Ford Explorer hybrid at AutoMobility LA | David McNew/Getty Images

These issues shouldn’t be too surprising. In fact, Autoblog recently reported that transmission issues with Ford’s line of sedans were a well-known secret at the plants. Obviously, the issues with the transmissions of Ford’s sedans and the Explorer aren’t the same, but this is just another example of the issues Ford has experienced with its transmissions.

Fortunately for Explorer owners, after the 2006 model year, Ford seemed to have fixed the transmission issues. Car Complaints reported that the number of reported issues in the Explorer, especially regarding its transmission, died down after 2006.

This didn’t mean that the model years after 2006 are problem-free; it just means that compared to the 2002 to 2006 model years, they were far less problematic than before. But this streak changed in 2013. 

The redesigned Ford Explorer is still problematic 

In 2011, the Explorer was redesigned, explains Consumer Reports. The Explorer was fine for a year or two. But in 2013, both Consumer Reports and Car Complaints reported a ton of issues with the Explorer. These problems led to Car Complaints calling the Explorer a clunker. Then, Consumer Reports gave the Explorer a 1 out of 5 for reliability.

The trend of the problematic Explorer happened again, and Consumer Reports gave poor reliability scores for the next few model years. A particularly troublesome model year was the 2016 Explorer. Car Complaints reported a lot of issues, and it received a 1-out-of-5 rating for reliability from Consumer Reports.

Once again, Ford redesigned the Explorer, and this includes the 2019 and 2020 model years. While they’re currently new — and not problematic as far as Consumer Reports and Car Complaints are concerned — this may change as more people buy and drive the newest Explorer. Time will tell, but history hasn’t been kind to this SUV. 

While Ford has obviously updated and upgraded the Explorer, it’s troubling that so many model years and designs have had issues. That’s why it’s probably best to avoid buying a Ford Explorer.