2002 Ford Explorer Transmission - Dead in Germany!

I think I’m in realy trouble here… I’m retired US Air Force, living/working in Europe and on vacation in Germany with a US-spec 2002 Ford Explorer Limited; 4.6L V8 with approx. 140,000 miles. I was driving in southern Germany (about 500 miles from “home”) and, with no warning that I can think of, the transmission seems to have failed.

Here are the symptoms:

- Was driving “fine” - no problems shifting as we went along.

- We stopped at a Stop sign, then the truck would no longer move. No clunks, no strange noises…just no moving.

- Strangely, the speedometer did register that we were moving.

- When I tried to put the transmission into Park, there was a grinding sound.

- I tried all the gears - nothing in any of them.

- A local mechanic looked underneath and confirmed that the drive shaft was not moving (not a rear end problem)

The mechanic is now looking for a replacement transmission - new or rebuilt. Ford has told him the price of a new one is 6,000 euros (about $8,000)!! He’s trying to find someplace that can rebuild it.

I have no idea what to do. The Blue Book on the thing is only $4-5,000 - clearly not worth speding the Big Bucks for a new tranny.

Since I’m somewhere it will be very difficult to get a “second opinion” at a shop, can anyone tell me if it sounds like the diagnosis of needing to replace the transmission is right?

Is the Explorer 4x4 ? I’ve see a transfer case problem give the same result.
In the u.s. a Ford reman trans is $2600.00, a transfer case $1500.00. Still a bit pricey for the value of the truck ( if you were trying to sell ) but if you’re keeping it and there’s no other major issues it may be ‘cheaper to keep her’.
Is there any possibility of a used unit in Germany ?

Thanks for the reply. Yes, it is a 4X4. Is there something I can tell the German mechanic working on the vehicle to check to confirm whether it’s the transmission or the transfer case? (I’m not with the vehicle now - rented a car to continue our vacation.) I think he has pulled the transmission by now to have a look - would the problem be obvious to a trained mechanic once he’s done that? (The guy seems competent enough - runs a thriving garage in the town, and was recommended to us by both our hotel and someone else who helped us.)

As far as a used unit…I think the odds are VERY slim. The only way would be if another American had imported, then junked thier Explorer.

There are no other major issues that I know of. (We did have the rear differential rebuilt about 8 months ago - a common problem for this drivetrain, I understand). The body and interior are in great shape, and the engine seems to be running fine. There does seem be a minor electrical problem; the cruise control sometimes turns off while we’re heading down the road - just an occasional annoyance at this point.

Something is broken between the parking cog wheel/speedometer drive gear and the drive shaft. The speedometer is reading because the shaft is still turning and the parking pawl is jumping over the cogs because the cog wheel is turning. What you might try is turn the engine off; put the shifter into park; start the engine; see if the speedometer holds at zero; and shift to Drive and see if the speedometer starts up again. You also could put the transmission into Drive; rev the engine and see if the transmission shifts through the gears (you will see a jump in the speedometer at each shift).

The output shaft of the transmission could be broken as it exits the transmission; the transfer case (if you have one)could have a problem; or the drive shaft U joint yoke could have failed where it connects inside the transmission.

Hope that helps.

Thanks for the ideas.

Because of the grinding noise when trying to shift into Park, I put it in Neutral and turned off the engine - then shifted to Park. After restarting the engine, I did not notice the speedo moving. When I shifted back to Drive, the speedo moved again. (You can well imagine that I tried several iterations of shutting it off, letting it cool down, etc. All with no luck.) I tried all the gears; in “1”, the speedo didn’t move at all until I revved the engine - guess the “speed” was too low to register at idle. The only thing I didn’t try was putting it in Drive and revving to see if it shifted through the gears.

The main thing that still surprises me is that there was nothing I remember that signalled the failure to me - no clunk, bang, jolt, vibration, strange noise, etc. (I am usually very attentive to strange noises coming from the car.) Would one of those items you mention breaking have gone “quietly”?

ken green is right the problem is in the transfer case. This will come out when the transmission is removed. Hopefully, the 4WD shifter wasn’t accidently bumped into ‘neutral’.

Let us know what the mechanic finds.

I think something small, like a cotter pin, has fallen off. That’s why there was no big event when it let go. A cotter pin is a small (~1/4" square) finger that wedges between a shaft and a gear to keep the gear from spinning on the shaft.

Good to hear (at least it would be cheaper than a tranny). I’ll ask the mechanic to confirm…

This Explorer has an electronic buttons for the 4WD - the choices are “Auto”, 4-wheel high, and 4-wheel low. No chance we bumped them.

Thanks much.

OK - time to advertise (more of) my ignorance. Would that still mean a rebuild of the tranny or transfer case? Or is that something that a “normal” mechanic can take care of?

Time to close the case. I talked to the mechanic today…truck is fine! I only wish I still had the truck in my possession when I got the suggestions y’all gave. It turns out the transfer case (?) WAS in neutral (Researcher’s comment about the 4WD shifter being bumped into Neutral was pretty much right.) I should have thought to try switching that to see what would happen.

Only problem is that I can’t see how that could happen…there is just an electric switch with ‘Auto’, ‘High’ and ‘Low’ - ‘Neutral’ is not one of the choices! Maybe either my wife or I bumped it somehow. Guess we’ll never know.

Anyway - thanks for the advice!

My 2002 Xlt (47000 miles) Tran failed going to 3rd gear then it was done. I had it rebuilt for $23oo by Ford A new one was around $3000