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. 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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
70,094 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #42

Jun 122016


  • 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 #41

Mar 282016


  • 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 #40

Feb 232016


  • 188,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the door ajar warning light illuminated, which caused the dome light to remain illuminated. The vehicle was not diagnosed nor repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 188,000.

- Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #39

Jul 262015


  • 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 #38

Sep 042015


  • 95,000 miles
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 #37

Sep 092015


  • 162,052 miles
Adjusted HVAC temperature from cold to hot. Approximately 5 seconds later, a loud and repetitive popping sound came from the defroster vents. I was startled and immediately stopped the car (on a 2 lane highway) to investigate. The blend door actuator is failing. This condition will cause a loss of climate control in the cabin. It can get stuck on hot or cold or anywhere in between. If it gets stuck in the cold setting, the windshield defroster will not work which could cause an accident due to loss of visibility. If it gets stuck on the hot setting, heat-sensitive passengers may be injured by heatstroke in the summer months since air will always flow through the vents when the vehicle is moving.

- Menomonie, WI, USA

problem #36

Oct 252014


  • 160,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the key fob failed to unlock or lock the doors. The vehicle stalled and failed to start. The contact mentioned that a chime sounded after the failures occurred. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 160,000.

- Washinton , DC, USA

problem #35

Jul 142014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 120,000 miles
I was driving on a curve and the engine shut off, I was able to stop, and turn the car on again, that was the third time that happened, the other two times the car was at low speed, around 30 mph.

- Framingham, MA, USA

problem #34

Jul 192014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 191,000 miles
Driving home from vacation without problems, O/D off light started flashing, tried to turn it back on but wouldn't do anything. Stopped, turn key off, started no light. After about 150 miles after stopping on traffic light O/D off light started flashing again. 10 miles later engine service light came on and stayed on.

- Chaparral, NM, USA

problem #33

Jul 082014


  • 150,000 miles
The transmission light, 4ΓΏ4 and the od light came on. It does shift gear from 1 to 2 until 3000 RPM.

- Sicklerville, NJ, USA

problem #32

Apr 302014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 195,000 miles


My 2003 Ford Explorer has some serious electrical issues. My right front passenger window will not roll down. It gets very hot in my truck out in the heat. It stopped working all of a sudden and the A/C in the car does not blow. (I didn't break any of these things) my door ajar light is always on the dash... my driver's door sensor went out for some reason and now my vehicle thinks that the door is always open, which drains my battery and my lights will not turn off at times. I have to manually turn them on/off. I dislike doing that because I'll forget sometimes. My rear lift-gate cracked one day too. I believe its from the cheap plastic. It's dangerous and my glass can fall out any day now. I also pinched two blood clots in my hand from opening this cracked rear hatch and had to see a doctor for it. Please help me get these things fixed. Thanks in advance.

- Springfield, IL, USA

problem #31

Jun 012014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 137,000 miles
Truck jerks when trying to pick up speed picks up speed very slow sometimes doesn't want to go in drive.

- Hampton, VA, USA

problem #30

Aug 052013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 125,500 miles
When I started my truck, the interior dome lamp would not go off and door ajar indicator was chiming as if there was a door open. I got out of my vehicle and walked around the car opening and closing all the doors as well as the liftgate and rear hatch glass. I got back in the car and it was still going off. After I started driving and got above 10mph the light and indicator went off. I did a search on the web and found out that its a common problem for Ford Explorer owners regardless of the year it was manufactured. All of the wires that run from the driver's side door and into the body of the vehicle become brittle over time which eventually leads to cracks and breaks in the wires thus resulting in a electrical short. Ford should have addressed this issue given that its a common problem for Explorer manufactured between 2001 and 2009. For those who are electrical savvy, you can run new wires yourself. For those of us who are not, we have to rely that some mechanic isn't gonna rape our pockets and charge some ridiculous price to fix it. Thanks Ford Motor Company!!

- Yonkers, NY, USA

problem #29

Jan 152013


  • 12,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact was driving approximately 40 mph when the navigational system functions disabled without warning. The contact maneuvered to the side of the road and turned the engine off. Once restarted, the navigation system began to operate normally however, the failure recurred intermittently. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer five times for the same problem. The navigational system software was updated. In addition, an unknown part was replaced at a later date. The failure continued to persist after the repairs. The dealer was unable to provide a remedy for the failure. The manufacturer was notified of the defect. The approximate failure mileage was 12,000.

- Chandler, AZ, USA

problem #28

Dec 292011


  • 53,000 miles
Door adjar sensor fails in 2003 Ford Explorer its all over internet.

- Levittown , NY, USA

problem #27

Jul 312003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 500 miles
Multiple issues with my 2003 Ford Explorer which include the electronic mother board having been replaced twice (under warranty), cracked liftgage (not under warranty cost $300), transmission rebuild approx 90,000 ($3000), dome lights do not turn off, door ajar lights, electric rear windows do not open, O/D light flashes and now the final problem after having replaced my transmission in July 2011 is a drive train or drive line issue. At approximately 45 mph after dropping from a higher speed, a thumping happens. Diagnosis for this issue has been 3 days still with no final determination.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

problem #26

Apr 162008


  • 80,000 miles
I payed 18,000 for my 2003 Ford Explorer XLT with the flex fuel in 2006. Its a very nice looking SUV but I only drove it for 2 years before the transmission started to fail. I beleave a transmission should last more than 2 years. My concearn is that its defective all around the transmission and I could still drive it if I wasnt in fear for my life. I have had it to Ford dealership and they could not diagnose the problem, they wanted me to pay them to taket out the tranny and wanted way to much for any parts, so I had it looked at by a transmission place that been around a long time and he had no idea what was wrong.replaced the selenoid for like 900 and my it ran fine for like 2 weeks until I put in 4 w/D than my O/D light started bliking again and the transmission slipped, the O/D light eluminated the first time my transmission ever slipped.and if I went and drove it right now it would cause an accident and some people might still depend on there defective Explorer to get accelerates by its self it sometimes dosnt want to go in gear and if this is electrical someones vehicle could stop in the middle of a highway with no warning but a blinking O/D light.and worst thing is, if Ford would reconize this problem with out selling new transmissions that will eventually have the same problem with I could have it fixed but no one but Ford knows what is wrong and they obviously dont know how to fix it or know if they admit their mistake it was a design flaw I want my money back.I bet you they wouldnt even take my Explorer on a trade in. And if you just google Ford Explorer anything from 1999 to 2007 I think....its going to have like thousands of people with the same problem as mine and probaly like from 40,000 miles up, way to early for transmission replacement.

- La Belle, PA, USA

problem #25

May 032011


  • 85,000 miles
First I must say I love this truck. Its my second one and both had same problems. While driving home from work all of a sudden truch lurched forward then O/D off lite started flashing then check engine lite flashing.took it to my mechanic and it came up with a PO775 code, he said its very common and not the first one hes seen do this. Pressure control solenoid B needs replacing for about $400 then after removing pan whole transmission needed overhaul now $2200 later. I think Ford knows of this problem and should stand behind it. Also blend door stopped working and all 4 calipers seized up. Dont know if ill ever buy another Ford.also power windows quit working, broken wire in door. Nothing but trouble with this vehicle.I think a class action suit should be started against Ford for repairs on these transmissions.I cant afford to dump hundreds of dollars into this truck after paying thousands of dollars for it.

- Holland, NY, USA

problem #24

Mar 252010


  • 135,000 miles
There have been multiple problems with my 2003 Ford Explorer since I bought it brand new in August of 2003. But ironically they have all appeared after the warranty had expired. In September 2007 the air conditioning unit no longer worked. It cost me $2000 and a week without a car, to get it fixed. In August 2009 the passenger door window would no longer work. In September 2009 my SUV started making a clicking sound when turning on the heater. Since we lived in a warm climate this did not concern us much, as the heat had worked even with the clicking sound. But we moved to a colder climate and the heater went out in March 2010. In April 2010 the service engine light came on. After speaking with the mechanic, he said it was a transmission problem that occurred when the car shifted from 1st to 2nd gear and from 4th to 5th gear. He could not give me any more information and was not willing to fix my transmission problem (he suggested I go elsewhere because he was not an expert in transmissions). In May 2010 the O/D light started flashing off. After speaking to mechanic again, he said it was related to the transmission problem. In August 2010 the door ajar light started coming on randomly, even when the door is not open. And in September 2010, I noticed my ABS light will come on randomly. It does not appear to be triggered by any specific reason, and does not always come on.

- Apo, AE, USA

problem #23

Sep 202010


  • 93,000 miles
93,000 miles and ABS light and loud grinding noise (in addition to applique crack in rear). Need to replace both rear hub bearings, brake pad rotors, and parking brake shoes. Search the web on these problems, and over 3 hundred complaints seen on just one site for 2003 Explorer alone.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

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