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.

10.0

really awful
Crashes / Fires:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
103,807 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 6)

problem #107

Aug 102015

Explorer

  • miles

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

"takata recall"I brought the truck and the airbag light was flashing 4X4 lights flashing also, smelling oil coming from the deferential on the back axle. Now, the transmission started slipping and he changed a part. Then, the transmission started to slip again. Also, I wanted to switch to another vehicle but he declined it. He said " he put to much work into the truck and all the parts are new in which only the tires and muffler was revolved ".

- Albany, NY, USA

problem #106

Jun 122016

Explorer

  • miles
My transmission light has been coming on. I was only at 117K miles when it happened. That's to soon for a transmission to be acting up especially since it's anew one according to carfax this is the second transmission for my Explorer. The first one was put in only at 3 years old. It will sometimes jerk into reverse or take a second to go into drive when I switch gears. My overdrive light also flashes which I assume means my overdrive no longer works. The light only comes on after driving over 40 mph. So if I'm on the highway I can't go the speed limit because I don't want this light coming on. I took it to a transmission shop it needs a torque converter and a rebuild. I contacted Ford and they won't do anything about it. They told me to buy a new car. When I go up hills my Explorer also has trouble even though it shouldn't. I also need a new solenoid pack.

- Lebanon, PA, USA

problem #105

Mar 282016

Explorer

  • 200,183 miles
While driving home from work this evening the O/D off light began steadily blinking and the transmission took way too long to shift (RPM almost red line) and wouldn't shift into 5th gear. I was driving on a city street and first noticed the truck not shifting and within 3 minutes of driving the O/D off light began flashing. If you turn the truck off then back on the O/D off light turns off but the truck still won't shift correctly and the light starts to blink again. My truck only has 133,000 miles. I googled this problem and discovered that the vast majority of 2003 Ford Explorer owners have this same problem.

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #104

Feb 242016

Explorer

  • 132,200 miles

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

While driving home from work this evening the O/D off light began steadily blinking and the transmission took way too long to shift (RPM almost red line) and wouldn't shift into 5th gear. I was driving on a city street and first noticed the truck not shifting and within 3 minutes of driving the O/D off light began flashing. If you turn the truck off then back on the O/D off light turns off but the truck still won't shift correctly and the light starts to blink again. My truck only has 133,000 miles. I googled this problem and discovered that the vast majority of 2003 Ford Explorer owners have this same problem.

- Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #103

Jan 192013

Explorer

  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving on an incline at an unknown speed, the vehicle failed to accelerate and the overdrive warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired, but the failure recurred. The vehicle was taken to another independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the solenoid pack and the oxygen sensors needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired, but the failure recurred. The contact also mentioned that the check transmission and check engine warning lights illuminated. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 80,000. The VIN was not available.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #102

Jul 262015

Explorer

  • 147,000 miles
I bought my Ford Explorer XLT back in June of 2015. Since then I replaced my oxygen sensor do to a fault in the system and melting back in Aug. 20015. The SUV wouldn't start because of it and had to be towed. Since I purchased and had replaced the oxygen sensor by a Ford dealer, I noticed the SUV having power failure even from a complete stop and now the over drive off light flashes; this started in the beginning of Nov. 2015 I noticed that there is over 2755 complaints of transmission problems and failures exactly the same as mine, but not one recall. This is a issue with the SUV themselves and not owner error. I have children and don't want to end up stranded in the street or side of the highway due to transmission failure. There has to be something causing the transmission to break down or fail and I refuse to be the the blame nor pay thousands to Ford dealership to fix a flaw in there own SUV. A recall needs to be made for this problem and it is clearly a manufacture flaw.

- Freeland, PA, USA

problem #101

Nov 012013

Explorer

  • miles

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

1. transmission does not let you accelarate. Pressure builds up while you are pressing on the gas pedal and it doesn't increase your speed until 10 seconds or so of pressing the gas pedal, and than it explodes and you are thrust back with the acceleration. Very dangerous when you are trying to change lanes or are entering the highway. Lack of acceleration has almost got us into a few accidents. 2. sensors are not functioning, constantly telling me that the doors are open. I don't know when a door is actually open or not. 3. the rear hatch is cracked and I'm afraid it doesn't provide enough stable prorectection for the rear glass to be held in place properply.

- Bradenton, FL, USA

problem #100

Oct 102015

Explorer

  • 115,000 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer XLS is having issues with the automatic transmission. When I accelerate from a stopped position, the transmission stalls, slips and delays when it shifts into the next gear. As I searched for issues with the transmission I found 100's of complaints regarding this matter. From what I have found, the transmission is a design flaw

- Corvallis, OR, USA

problem #99

May 012015

Explorer

  • 180,000 miles
We have recurring wheel bearing and hub assembly issue. The timing I put on the form may be off a bit but not much. Its all like a recurring Ford Explorer nightmare at this point! we have replaced bearings, hib assembly, tie rod, then rear end went up ( and shouldn't have)/now again, another bearing and wheel sensor. The truck cuts out when at a slower speed. I lost steering a few months ago while driving and when I try to put it in gear, sometimes it won't move.I have called Ford, nhtsb and no one is willing to make Ford recall these issues and Ford won't do the right thing knowing it's an ongoing problem with a lot of Ford! please someone help! I have multiple sclerosis and a heart issue. I need a safe reliable car and can't afford to get another one. Someone, please do the right thing here! I know its an older model and I question if this is why the recall isn't happening.idk but this isn't right. The truck is sitting out front needing an additional $700 of work. After rear end, tie rod, bearings, brakes in the past several months, we have no way to fix this lemon. Always been Ford but if they or a governing Agency doesn't help.. never a Ford again. Look at all the complaints for the same thing!!!! shameful.

- Reisterstown, MD, USA

problem #98

Oct 012015

Explorer

  • miles
Transmission failure, a common occurrence in these vehicles

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #97

Sep 042015

Explorer

  • 95,000 miles

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

I purchased my 03 Ford Explorer back in 2/15. It looked like I purchased a very very good used vehicle. Everything has been fine with it up until 2 weeks ago. My door ajar light keeps coming on when everything is closed, the od light is blinking non stop and the trunk window opens by itself when I am driving. When im driving it feels like the car is trying to "catch up". like it knows I'm trying to do a certain speed but its way below and after a min. Or so, then it will go the correct speed. I had it hooked up to a diagnostic tool and its giving me the code of P7032 (something like that). Something about 2nd gear of trans" ive been told that this is a known issue with this make, model and year.. ive also ready 100S of reviews and complaints on these issues. What I don't seem to understand is why isn't Ford doing anything about this???" if you are a manufacturer and see all these complaints and reviews (which I'm sure they do) then why aren't these vehicles getting recalled" I'm not rich in any way fashion or form. I'm a single mother of 4 who works full time and receives no gov't assistance. If I would have known that this is a "known" issue I would never have spent my hard earned money.... does anyone know if anything is being done about this?"

- Jersey City, NJ, USA

problem #96

Aug 152015

Explorer

  • 120,000 miles
Being that I am disabled, I'm affraid that when the transmission finally goes completely out, I'll be straned somewhere or the SUV will cause a wreck and hurt/kill me or someone else. There have been thousands of complaints about the transmission on this Explorer that a recall should have been sent out. I can not affored the repair cost or the cost of another SUV/car, please help!

- Max Meadows, VA, USA

problem #95

Jul 162015

Explorer

  • 90,000 miles
The O/D off light & check transmission lights went on, then vehicle wouldn't shift properly and became inoperable.

- Santa Clara, CA, USA

problem #94

Jun 292015

Explorer

  • 152,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 45 mph, the transmission experienced difficulty shifting from first into second gear. When it shifted, an abnormal sound was heard. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it diagnosed that the transmission needed to be rebuilt or replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 152,000.

- Toledo, OH, USA

problem #93

Apr 022015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 124,500 miles
Was leaving gas station, shifted from park to drive, shift lever broke off into my hand. Obviously a defect, as I have over 2 million miles under my belt, driven numerous cars & trucks, and have never had this happen before in over 40 years of driving, both personally and professionally. I see there are hundreds of similar complaints for this, why is there no recall??

- Spring Valley, NY, USA

problem #92

Jan 192015

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 60,000 miles
For years Ford has had a poorly designed hydraulic manual clutch system. Often impossible to shift at red light or while driving and had many near rear end collisions due to not being able to continue shifting and maintaining speed. For over a decade the poorly designed system gets air bound rendering the clutch useless. This is caused because the hydraulic line has low and high spots and air becomes trapped in the high spots and results in loss of clutch operation. The entire system must be removed and elongated to allow air to be released from system. No bleeder valve at master cylinder for one thing. There is a bleeder valve at the slave cylinder but because the line has many twist and turns with high spots bleeding does not eliminate air trapped in high spots. This is a well know problem and a dangerous one. Ford could care less. Its about time Ford answers and modifies this fault. You need only go online and enter Ford Ranger hard shifting problems and you will see it is common place problem. Of course after the 36 K warranty this becomes a common problem and Ford turns there cheek. I cant tell you how frustrating to be at a red light and unable to shift along with not being able to shift at high speeds with cars running up your rear. Please address this before life is lost. Thank you. I urge all Ranger owners to get on board.

- Somers, NY, USA

problem #91

Jul 012014

Explorer

  • 94,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving various speeds, the vehicle failed to accelerate and the transmission malfunctioned while in third gear. Also, while driving up hills, the failure recurred and the overdrive and check engine sensor lights illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician diagnosed that the transmission was faulty. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 94,000.

- Shrewsbury , VT, USA

problem #90

Nov 032008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 224,212 miles
The problem when you driving on the highway around 65 mph you feel the truck hesitating, since this truck did not come with dip stick to check the transmission fluid, it is hard to check unless you take it to a tech or stop on the middle of the road to check it underneath the truck running trans for the fluid to drip, it is really stupid you can be run over by a car or cause an accident, it seems like the manufactures are getting stupid, in a emergency and you are in the highway crossing the state line how can you check the fluid on transmission, it need immediate attention to add the dip stick pretty pronto, it need the Ford company to take responsibility to add the dip stick, I submitted several reports to them they don't care at all.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #89

Aug 062014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 163,300 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 30 mph, the vehicle jerked and quickly shifted into second gear. The check engine indicator was illuminated and the overdrive warning indicator was flashing. The repair shop stated that the transmission needed to be overhauled. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 163,300. Updated 9/12/14 updated 09/23/14

- Cortland, NY, USA

problem #88

Jul 272014

Explorer 4WD 4-cyl

  • 123,000 miles
I have had three incidents with my 2003 Ford Explorer. The first incident involved the suspension ( sway bars snapped, tires had to be repaired). Second incident was the transfer case and a wiggling drive shaft along with rear wheel bearings ( parts deemed defective by mechanics), and emergency brakes that snapped off in my mechanics hands because they were rusty. Now it is transmission work for a possible faulty sensor. Ford needs to recalls before someone is killed due to catasrophic equipment failure! ive called them every time and they are aware of the issues but refuse to do anything other then document them and say have a nice day!

- Boothwyn, PA, USA

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