Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety.

CarComplaints.com Notes: The 2003 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 2002-2003 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.

5.1

fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
19,584 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #24

May 242009

Explorer

  • 55,294 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the seals on 3 axles were leaking and needed to be repaired; therefore, the right front axle and both rear axles were repaired. The axles were improperly installed and were repaired again four weeks later. The manufacturer stated that they were unable to provide any assistance regarding the repairs. The contact is aware of the safety risk since the axles could fail while driving and potentially cause a crash. The current mileage was 60,828 and the failure mileage was 55,294.

- Franklin, NC, USA

problem #23

Jul 152007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact heard a loud whining sound coming from the rear of the vehicle while accelerating and decelerating. The service manager stated that he could not find anything in his computer that was related to the failure. There are currently ten NHTSA service bulletins related to the failure. The current mileage was 76,000 and failure mileage was 55,000. Update 09/10/08 the consumer was told the rear axle may have to be replaced. Updated 09/11/08.

- Island Park, NY, USA

problem #22

Dec 212004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles
Vehicle purchased in 2003 after 1 year roaring noise began in rear axle. Vehicle taken to dealer and differential carrier assembly replaced. Vehicle now having the same problem with differential assembly. (roaring noise)

- Milton, FL, USA

problem #21

Sep 202006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Rear axle was making a loud noise, was told that it was due to the seal was broken and needed to be replaced. This was replaced and the noise still continues. Other consumers have had this same problem and nothing has ever happened with this issue. It cost a lot of money to have the axle worked on and it is still not fixed!

- Nashua, NH, USA

problem #20

Jan 152007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Rear pinion gear on 2003 Ford Explorer causes high pitched whining sound, and is well known to Ford dealerships in the area. The stated cost to repair (replace pinion ring, pinion gear, seals) is in excess of $1,100.

- Richmond, KY, USA

problem #19

Mar 072007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles
Noise at rear end of vehicle. Diagnosis rear axle and rear end. Replace rear axle and rear end kit (rebuild). The noise was noticeable for sometime and became worse. I have reviewed numerous similar complaints and this appears to be an issue that the manufacturer should address. There were service bulletins that referenced improper fluid use by manufacturer.

- Myrtle Beach, SC, USA

problem #18

Feb 132007

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

My 2003 Ford Explorer was serviced at dick edwards Ford in junction city, ks to replace a left hand rear axle shaft seal on the 12th of febuary 2007. Vehicle was picked up at the dealership by my wife. On the 13th of febuary she was driving home from work (about 3-5 miles) she called me on her cell phone and said she could hear noises, smelled something burning and the rear of the car was moving around and the brake pedal was low. I told her to proceed home with caution. When she arrived home I looked at the vehicle, and noted the LH rear wheel assembly was at a 30 deg angle. I called dick edward Ford and they informed me to have it towed to the dealership. Today they implied it was a bearing failure. I looked at the vehicle, spoke to the mechanic and I noted it was a rear axle shaft retention nut malfunction. The nut had backed out on the axle to the point that the assembly was about depart from the vehicle. The mechanic wanted to blame the axle bearing, which was destroyed. This nut if improperly torqued, or the assembly is not installed properly prior to torquing the nut, the nut can become loose and back off, especially since it is rh thread, there is not a cotter pin or anything holding this thing together, only a torqued nut. They then told me that they would not pay for it as it was a coincidence this happened. I refuse to pay. I have pictures of the vehicle setting in my driveway. I should have taken pictures at the dealership when it was taken apart. If my loved one had been on the interstate doing 70 mph this would have probably have allowed the wheel assembly to depart from the vehicle resulting in a catastrophic accident. And possible death to her as well as others. How many other vehicles out there with the same poor engineering design ?

- Milford, KS, USA

problem #17

Jul 062006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,266 miles
2003 Ford Explorer rear axle failure at 66,266 miles. Rear end was grinding when taking off from a stop and during a left turn. Dealer had to replace complete interior parts of the axle assembly. Replaced ring and pinion gears, replaced bearings due to pitting, replaced differential clutch pack.

- New Hudson, MI, USA

problem #16

Mar 252006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Rear axle noise, replaced at a price of 1200 dollars.

- East Longmeadow, MA, USA

problem #15

Feb 262006

Explorer

  • miles
Have had mechanical problems with my 2003 Ford Explorer which should not have occurred with the least amount of miles on it. Have had rear brake sensor replaced 2 times under warranty, front axle seal replaced under warranty and rear axle bearing replaced with 44000 miles and now the rear axle seal is leaking on the right side. The mechanic who does my repairs stated the axle seals are on backorder due to the amount of Explorer the seals are defective on. I have not received any recall information on the seals as I believe this is a safety concern. Could you please check into this defect. I believe there were several defective parts used on the 2003 Ford Explorer that have not been recalled or reported. Thank you.

- Union Hill, IL, USA

problem #14

Oct 242005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Repeated failure of rear axle, drive train noise from rear of vehicle between45-65mph.

- Sayville, NY, USA

problem #13

Jul 092004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
I purchased a new 2003 Ford Explorer XLT 2wd in September 1, 2003. With 20,000 miles on the vehicle I noticed a whine from the rear end that was audible from 45 mph to 65 mph. The noise would stop when I let off on the gas and would resume when the gas was reapplied indicating a bearing failure. I took the vehicle to leith Ford of wendell, nc, where I purchased the vehicle. They replaced the rear axle assembly under warranty on July 9, 2004 with 21,899 miles on the vehicle. The replacement rear axle made the same whine from 45 mph to 65 mph indicating rear bearing failure. The complete rear axle assembly was replaced by leith Ford under warranty. The rear axle assembly was ordered from Ford on October 20, 2004 with 32980 miles on the vehicle. The assembly was received and installed with 36,000 miles on the vehicle. With 63,280 miles on the vehicle I returned the vehicle on October 17, 2005 to leith Ford to check out the same whine in the rear end from 45 mph to 65 mph. They confirmed that the rear bearings were failing and ordered a rear differential kit to rebuild the rear axle assembly.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #12

Apr 152005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 18 miles
I have had numerous mechanical failures with my 2003 Ford explorere. The front wheel brearings and front axle bearing have failed. The rear axle has been rebuild twice and replaced once. Another rebuild is needed. Total mileage is 49,000 miles.

- Royal Oak, MI, USA

problem #11

Jul 202004

Explorer

  • 12,000 miles
While driving consumer heard a loud noise coming from the rear axle/driveshaft. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- Medford, MA, USA

problem #10

Aug 112004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
Purchased a 2003 Ford Explorer 4X4 January 2004, around 10K miles noticed a shudder/slipping in transmission under hard excelleration. I brought vehicle to pulliam Ford in cola. SC to have transmission and whining rear end repaired. When I called the service writer, he informed me that the technician said that they could not duplicate the transmission vibration, and that the whine was no louder than other Explorer, even though they did acknowlege that the Explorer did have a rear end problem. I am not satisfied and would like to get my 32K worth out of this vehicle, not a excuse for a poor product and poor service.

- Columbia, SC, USA

problem #9

Jul 012004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Various complaints involving the 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. Consumer believed that noise on vehicle was coming from rear. Repairs and/or replacements were made on: Front and rear suspensions, transfer case, and seals in the rear axle due to leak. Now, consumer is waiting for a new axle assembly to be replaced on the vehicle. Also, a cooling system noise on vehicle but dealer coudn't find the source of the problem.

- Statesville, NC, USA

problem #8

Nov 182003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
Soon after purchase the Explorer (2wd) developed an axle whine from 55-70 mph on acceleration. It's quiet on coast. The local dealer found a tsb (#16898). They replaced the driveshaft as specified. The only change was the range of the whine, now 58-63mph. Back to dealer on 1/8/04. They said a fix was in the works, call back in 3 months. Called today (4.21), no fix and no date. Ps: sure sounds like a bad ring/pinion to me...

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #7

Oct 132003

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,743 miles
Purchase vehicle on July 30, 2003. Rear axle whine during speeds between 45 - 60 during acceleration/ decelleration diagnosed on 13 October 2003. Advised that engineers were working on a fix and no service was to be performed. Very displeased at the attitude of Ford customer service representatives and the lack of service received with Ford vehicle. Filed complaint with settlement dispute board and with better business bureau. Next step is to contact attorney to file lemon law. Also, consumers need to get out information to the public that Ford is selling these vehicles knowing there is a problem and is not willing to fix them.

- King George, VA, USA

problem #6

Oct 292003

Explorer

  • miles
About a month after we purchased our 2003 Ford Explorer XLT, we noticed a whining noise from the rear of the vehicle. We notified the dealership and they refused to work on it. They said Ford is investigating the noise and could give no time frame on when if would be fixed. Asked us to just be patient.. this is totally unacceptable, and the way customer relations has been dealing with us, Ford should be embarrassed. We are currently research the lemon laws. We do not want a brand new vehicle that makes this awful whine (which is getting worse day by day). Who knows if it is safe, given Ford's trac record!

- Coatesville, PA, USA

problem #5

Dec 042003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 1 miles
My wife and I bought a new 2003 eddie bauer Explorer VIN [xxx] with 1 mile registered on it. We purchased it 9/15/03, since day one the vehicle has had a whine in the rear, a vibration at 55 mph. Complaints to Ford as well as to the len stoler dealership,11275 reisterstown road, owings mills, md 21117 phone 410-356-2635 has brought nothing but frustration. The vehicle can't be fixed is what we are told! but after 5 visits, it is being worked on now for the vibration 12/04/03, the whine in the rear still cannot be fixed. Notifications from Ford to its service centers: Driveline axle concerns from Ford Motor Company 509000 dealing with problem 17054 quote: 2002- 2004 Explorer 4 dr-rear axle whine, some 2002-2004- Explorer 4dr vehicles may exhibit axle whine at normal or during acceleration. To service, perform normal diagnostics. If specific root cause is not identified, be aware that engineering is currently investigating via the quicker service fix process. A service procedure will be published as soon as it becomes available, please continue to submit concern reports for any vehicle which exhibits this condition. Monitor oasis for updates.-this is one of our problems, dealership cannot fix it at this point, so we are stuck with a whining rear in new vehicle. The second problem with our vehicle is trying to be fixed, quote: 17107 2002-2004 Explorer 4X4 driveline vibration or drone/boom at highway speeds. Some 2002 -2004 Explorer 4X4 vehicles may exhibit a vibration or drone/boom at 55 - 75 mph. Electronic vibration analyzer (eva) reading will fall under 1st order rear driveshaft at 2700 rmp. If concern is till present in 3rd gear and isolated to the driveline, a premium balanced driveshaft is available. Install 3C5Z-4602-aa driveshaft assembly, referring to workshop manual section 205-00 for procedure. If vibration persists after replacing driveshaft, reindex at pinion flange 90 degrees at a time, for 360 degrees, until vibration is minimized. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Finksburg, MD, USA

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