2021 Ford Explorer Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Engine and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

When customers purchase a 2021 Ford Explorer, they expect to find the reliability they received with older models. After all, Ford dubs this Explorer the “ultimate exploration vehicle.” Yet, customers are left scratching their heads as they deal with faulty engines and defective powertrains.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2020   2022   2023

Engine Problems

If an SUV doesn’t have a powerful and reliable engine, it’s not worth the expense. Right out of the gate, the 2021 Ford Explorer arrived with engine troubles.

One Edmunds user states, “Brand new 2021 limited explorer out of commission with less than 200 miles, car says overheating won’t drive… take it to Ford dealer they tell the tow truck they have no space, so they sell the vehicles but don’t want to service them… they blamed COVID.”

One wouldn’t expect a vehicle that’s been in production so long to have major engine issues. After all, shouldn’t Ford have perfected engine manufacturing by now? Yet, NHTSA Campaign Number 20V788000 shows otherwise. This recall illustrates that the right-hand motor mount fasteners weren’t tightened correctly in some vehicles. This poor design can cause the mount to loosen over time, which leads to motor vibration. The excessive vibration then causes the axle to disconnect from the engine, which ceases power. If this occurs while someone is driving, they are at a higher risk for creating an accident. Clearly, this vehicle isn’t meant for exploring, especially if it can’t even be driven out of the driveway.

2021 Ford Explorer Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Power Train
Unknown Or Other
Electrical System
Back Over Prevention
Service Brakes
Back Over Prevention: Rearview System Braking
Vehicle Speed Control
Back Over Prevention: Warnings

Problems with the Powertrain

The transmission is just as important, creating a smooth-shifting experience that provides a seamless drive. But, owners state that the powertrain is just as defective as the engine.

Here’s another Edmunds review to consider. “This 2021 model is not a productive and the previous years. The truck fails to perform in the snow, and intelligent 4wd is terrible. I was stuck 2, where my 2018 would power through.”

Getting stuck in an SUV with four-wheel-drive is just not acceptable. Yet, this is only the start of the transmission problems. Service Bulletin #SSM 49329 states that the transmission creates faults leading to diagnostic trouble codes, an illuminated wrench light and intermittent crank issues. At this point, it would be safe to say that the 2021 Explorer is the “ultimate exploration vehicle” of the dealership’s service department. It likely spends more time there than on the roads.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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  • Barbara R

    While driving, warning comes on “Brakes Applied, Speed Reduced”. I am driving along at 40 – 60 mph when all of a sudden the car brakes. I had Legacy ford look at it but they say that they don’t see anything wrong with it.

  • Steve K

    I have a 2021 Explorer and I opened the passenger door while it was parked in the garage and the accessories turned off. I cannot turn the accessories off. I have to let it timeout. Any suggestions?

  • Rafael G

    I owned a 2021 Ford Explorer XLT and it is a nightmare ……
    I purchased it in June 2021 and in October I bring back to the Jennell Ford dealer for left front noise and all suspension system making noise .
    They told me that the mechanic don’t found nothing and today I had to bring back with worse noise in all strucks and suspension system . I will never again buy another ford vehicle . Ford are building trash . They have a bounch of idiots assembling cars in chicago . I recomend do no purchase any more ford brand . Also brand new 2018 Ford Expedition I payed almost $ 80,000 dollars with 7 months of used it started licking transmission oil and I get frustrate with this suv . Double experience . Mechanics at Jack Madden Ford are sucks and stupid ……Rafael Gonzalez

  • Laura S

    My Ford explorer was in park but then suddenly accelerated and went through my garage door! I have a whole insurance claim pending now. This morning, the damn car won’t even start for whatever reason. It seems there’s a bigger manufacturing issue going on with these cars.

  • Brian K

    Absolutely, my wife and I bought a new Explorer in June fully expecting the same great vehicle we traded-WRONG. At about 2500 miles we started experiencing transmission issues, sluggish backing, slamming into gear, rapid unexpected and unintended acceleration. At 4000 miles they replaced the valve body, seemed to fixed the sluggish backing but the acceleration issue is still there, the ride is not nearly as smooth. My wife is the only driver as I’m blind from a combat injury from Iraq. My nerves are all keyed up anytime she’s out without me as I never know what this car is going to do or where it’s going to leave her stranded at.

  • Chante

    My 2021 Ford (purchased in June 2021) started rolling forward when I would put it in reverse similar to a manual transmission might. I almost hit parked cars and even people! It’s been sitting in the shop for the last 3 weeks at the dealer while they are replacing the transmission.

  • T. V

    I bought my 2021 Ford explorer January 30th. By the end of May I started having problems shifting and the suv would roll backwards as if it was a manual. Then it started not shifting gears and shifting hard but intermittently it wasn’t consistent. I’ve taken it to Ford at least 3 times for a total of 35 days. They’ve now said it’s the valve body in the transmission. I’ve been dealing with Ford since I could drive and both of my parents since before me. I’m done with this vehicles. I’ve been paying for a vehicle that is unsafe and spends more time in the shop than with me. Oh and I have about 15k miles on it.

  • Newton C

    I purchased a brand-new 2021 Ford Explorer ST. At 2k miles, the transmission cooler started leaking and on the same day the engine failed. It appears that one of the values was hitting the valve head which caused the cap to break. That wasn’t the only issue, the cylinder cracked the valve head causing major engine failure and metal to circulate through the entire system.

    That’s a car that I used to drive my son to school 1 mile away and buy groceries at a grocery store less than a mile away, as I work from home. I bought it new because I wanted to avoid previous owner’s lack of care, but here I am having transmission leakage and major engine failure on my brand-new Ford suv before the first oil change even took place…

    I’m currently driving a cheap loaner as Ford states they will only pay for $35 a day for a loaner. I still have to pay $12 a day on top of that $35 because that’s the cheapest rate at Enterprise car rental where they told me to get the loaner.

    I have just made another payment to Ford Finance for a brand new car that I can’t drive and has been sitting at the dealership for 3 weeks now.

    I called Ford and started the buyback process based on the Lemon Law in Nevada where I reside. However, they said that it must be approved first and that they will re-build my engine and/or transmission. This is unacceptable for a brand new $60k car. I’m not going to accept anything but a new car, a refund, or a new motor and new transmission with an additional 200k miles extended warranty on it.

    Anyone else living a nightmare similar to mine?

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