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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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
120,930 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #5

Sep 062013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 116,800 miles


I have been having issues with the cruise control on my Explorer. It works fine for several months and then occasionally it will not engage. Most times if it will not engage, the dashboard light does not show up, but since last week the light has come on, but the cruise control has not engaged. Since this has been an ongoing issue and seems to resolve on its own, I continue to try it occasionally. I tried to set it last Friday while I was going approximately 40 mph. It did engage, but then began to slowly accelerate. I tried pushing the button that should reduce the speed, but it continued accelerating, so I kicked the brake pedal to disengage. I have tried it 3 additional times and each time it accelerates. The last time I tried it, yesterday afternoon, the speed was picking up incredibly quickly. It felt like I had just floored the accelerator. I was able to kick the cruise control off with the brake pedal though but am now concerned that this may happen when the cruise is not engaged.

- Swansboro, NC, USA

problem #4

May 232013


  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the oil warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to a private mechanic who stated that the engine oil pump and the timing belt had failed. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure was reported to the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 60,000. The current mileage was 61,000.

- Royersford , PA, USA

problem #3

May 052013


  • 177,848 miles
While driving my vehicle on Sunday, while driving my vehicle stalled in the road. The truck felt as if it was trying to pull a hill. This was very scarey for me and my children because if someone was coming behind us or if I was turning into the flow of traffic this could have been a terrible accident. Afterwards the vehicle couldn't go over 30 mph without shifting out. This is very dangerous and Ford should recall this immediately before someone is killed.

- Lagrange, GA, USA

problem #2

Oct 132012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 175,000 miles
I was backing up to the garage to unload the stuff in the back and the car made a loud whinning noise and took off fast..I couldn't stop the truck..

- Milton, FL, USA

problem #1

Apr 042007


  • 75,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 55 mph the check engine warning lamp illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the brackets that hold the timing chain fractured. As a result, the brackets and valve cover needed to be replaced. Also, the contact stated that while driving at various speeds she could hear a grinding noise. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who stated that the front driver side hub assembly needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure who did not offer any assistance since the vehicle was not included on any recalls. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 75,000 and the current mileage was 120,000.

- Carthage, IN, USA

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