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.

7.8

pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
$1,600.00
Average Mileage:
69,659 miles
Total Complaints:
8 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace (4 reports)
  2. not sure (3 reports)
  3. get a different differential case (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #8

Jun 042014

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

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

maintained the car the best i could but rear differential failed around 150000 price was 2200 for rebuild

- , Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #7

Nov 302012

Explorer Sport 4.0L V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 102,000 miles

(Note: Date of failure is approximate.) I began to gradually notice a whining noise when I drive the car, and the sound was diagnosed to be a pinion gear issue by three reputable mechanic shops. It is unbelievable to me that an axle component such as the rear differential is failing at 100K, which according to Ford advertisements, is less than half the life of the car. Estimated repair is between $1250 - $2250 depending on what they find. I also asked them to investigate manual shift because going into first and second is hard. I was told that repairs could be up to $1600, in addition to checking the transmission gears for damage due to clutch malfunction. ( I also had to replace the slave clutch cylinder at 50K miles - cost $750 because they also had to remove the transmission to do it.). Now facing a possibility of more than $4,000 in repairs, I plan to just move the car to my brother's house while I weigh my options - which include scrapping it. This car has been babied and garaged, both at work and at home, the entire time I've owned it (2nd owner since 30K miles). It had a 7-year, 100K warranty on it so it was usually Ford who did any work, and it went in for all scheduled maintenance. It's no wonder that Ford didn't need help during the bailouts -- rather than recall for defects, they've engineered their cars for the owners to replace most significant parts at least once. I've owned Fords my entire life - this is the last one.

- , Fountain Hills, AZ, USA

problem #6

Nov 302011

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,275 miles

Hello, i own a 2003 explorer with only 45,000. I am extremely dissatisfied with this vehicle as it has had numerous problems beginning with the transmission, drive train, windows, paint, lights, etc....tooooo much to even think about. I am the only owner of the vehicle...Being that the car has barely miles for the time that i have had it, i believe FORD or manufacturer or corporation in charge should take into consideration fixing these problems in which i believe is a factory problem.This car has mainly been used to report to work and for that reason believe the problem that it has is from factory. The rear differential is bad and NOT CHEAP. I don't believe i should waste my money in fixing a problem(s) that appears to be a major issue in many FORD vehicles. Please advise me in what i should do with this problem and would greatly appreciate if you could point me into the right direction. I believe someone should take this into consideration and maybe acknowledge if something can be done...thank you!

- , Miami, FL, USA

problem #5

Apr 152007

Explorer LTD 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 29,500 miles

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

I have had 4 Explorers since 1992, but the 2003 was the first one I had major problems with. Since the vehicle was out of warranty I paid to have the differential fixed. I now have nearly 60,000 miles on the vehicle and the problem is back. In discussions with Ford I got the run around and no help. As an engineer with engine design experience it is quite obvious that when Ford designed the independent rear differential they did not bother to check the possible build up of heat in the castings. The problem surfaced in the original 2002's, but Ford continued to used the design through to 2009. So much for quality control and inspection. They should have had a complete recall and replacement of the differential. There is also the problem with the rear window plastic which can easily crack. Another $700 bill. Sorry Ford this is the last vehicle I buy from you.

- , Guelph, ON, Canada

problem #4

Sep 292010

Explorer XLT 4WD 6 4.0L 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Ford Explorer 2003 4WD 6 cyl. differential problem: I am finding out that 100's of people are having the same problem, maybe I should say 1,000's. The problem as stated by a Ford mechanic of 12 years is that the differential housing (case) is made of an aluminum type material much like pot metal.

He said that this metal will expand and contract from heat. Repairs and replacing gears, bearings etc. will correct the problem but for a short time only and it will happen again.

I was going to replace my differential until read that one guy replaced his three times and still having problems. Many people I have read are doing the same, just throwing good money after bad junk.

I checked my housing and he is correct, it looks like aluminum pot metal. As I have 4 wheel drive I am going to drop the drive shaft and continue to drive on front wheel drive until this is resolved.

I am seeking legal help and plan to approach Ford with a Lawyer and a big ass dog. lol

We need to compile a list of people with the same problems and present it to Ford and then maybe they will do a recall, as they should.

Hey!! I don't play........ I quit school because they had recess, so you know I Don't Play.

Help me folks, Earl

- , Stafford, VA, USA

problem #3

Jun 302010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,500 miles

The problem with getting it fixed right now is that the part or parts are back ordered from Ford. There isn't a part to had anywhere in the country. Doing research has shown that ring and pinion failure has been a major problem with the Explorer and yet no recall from Ford. The ring and pinion should not have gone out at 100,000 miles let allone 47500 miles. Up to this point I've been very happy with the Explorer but now I don't think I will buy another Ford of any kind.

- , Elgin, IL, USA

problem #2

Mar 042010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

In 2009, I complained about my 49,000 mile transmission being faulty and had to be replaced. No service help from Ford, etc. I saw that lots of people that had the same trans problem also had a problem with the rear differential. I thought i was lucky... NOT! My car is in the shop as I type getting the rear differential fixed for ME to pay $1100. The shop I use has been awesome to me and prices are very reasonable from what I've seen others post their costs at... so I do feel lucky about that. BUT... I am now vowing AGAIN that i will NEVER buy a Ford product again. it is just very disheartening to know how poor their service offerings are. I've followed the numerous complaints on this site (which I plan to use if i ever buy a used car again to look for problems!) and it is disappointing that the company just doesn't care that they are losing very loyal customers. So to you, Ford, I hope that as us little people quit giving you our business that you will eventually feel the hit and get hurt yourself!!!!

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #1

Jun 012008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

I've had so many things go wrong with this Explorer, I'm never going to buy another Ford again. I was lucky that my vehicle was still under warranty when this happened. The vehicle started making a horrible grinding noise that kept getting worse. One day my brother-in-law, who is a mechanic, rode in my truck and told me what it was. He said it was dangerous and that I should get it fixed immediately. I take good care of this truck, yet its a piece of junk. For all the problems I've had with this thing (differential bad, rear window not working, split liftgate, 3 bad thermostats, bad hood paint), this year, make, and model has never been recalled. Amazing!

- , West Bountiful, UT, USA

Not what you are looking for?