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:
1 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
50,149 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 (Page 1 of 2)

problem #33

Mar 312008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles

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

2003 Ford Explorer. Consumer writes in regards to humming/whining noise in the rear end of vehicle and a frequent leak in the differential. The consumer stated several components such as the ring an pinion, bearings, seals and gear and pinion were all replaced. However, the issue remained unresolved. Also, the rear hatch was cracked. When the consumer inquired about a replacement and its cost, the dealer advised against the replacement/repair as the new hatches had the same problem. The vehicle overheated and had to be towed to the dealer. A diagnosis revealed a damaged thermostat housing.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #32

Mar 162012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 117,100 miles
Transmission light flashing and I am told the transmission needs to be replaced or rebuilt. This tranny should be more durable, Ford is better than all the complaints I have read online about this situation.

- Lansing, MI, USA

problem #31

Dec 092011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 53,070 miles
Rattling noise in 4.0 liter-SOHC 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. Dealer replaced rear tensioner. Noise remained. Diagnosis said engine noise is coming from rear cassette and possibly front one. Engine would have to be removed and taken apart to replace timing chain cassettes for @ $4K. The car only has 53,070 miles on it. Online search verifies an obvious issue pattern and complaints to an inferior quality cassette material requiring labor intensive engine removal repair.

- Edina, MN, USA

problem #30

Feb 012011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 13,000 miles

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

Timing chain broke, with no warning, bent all the valves and wasn't even driving it. Had just started the car in the garage and backed out of driveway with car idling very rough. Pulled back in driveway and oil was pouring out underneath, due to chain had busted the valve cover. Well had to pull the motor, replaced guides, cassettes, and tensioners, with $2000 just in parts alone. Had car back from mechanic not even 3 weeks and engine started knocking as if a rod was knocking. Went back to mechanic and tensioners were the cause of timing-chain "clank". apparently they (Ford) designed these tensioners with "plastic" guides which shred off into the hydraulic tensioner pick up tube therefore clogging up the hole for oil to get to chain and will continue to do so unless you get updated tensioners directly from Ford at $100 each. There are 3 timing chains and multiple tensioners as well, which continue to go out after 30,000 miles and need replacing, which most can be replaced with motor in but some cant therefore I have had motor out twice now, at $2500 each time. There was an onp to owners but Ford would only cover cost up to 100,000 miles and only if owners complained!! otherwise they would not fix!!! well this is a bad design on Ford part with plastic tensioners to guide your timing chain!!! now they have updated with a tougher nylon "plastic". but have not recalled the old ones so unless you order dealer parts you receive the old parts which are no good and will end up making you spend more money and for the last 12months, I have had my car 3 weeks due to cant afford the enormous repair bill, which Ford knew about all along, but failed to recall plastic parts unless someone complained. According to my research it has been an ongoing problem since the 1996-2006 year model explores with 4.0 SOHC V-6 motors. Something definitely needs to be done!!!

- Carrollton, GA, USA

problem #29

Dec 012011

Explorer

  • 140,000 miles
Took Explorer to dealership to get the transmission fluid checked and got a call from the dealership that the spark plug had blown out of the engine and stripped the threads in the head but not on the spark plug.

- Bellaire, OH, USA

problem #28

Aug 222011

Explorer

  • 93,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated when she started her vehicle it was idling it was very rough. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who advised her that the timing chain fractured and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer also advised her to no longer drive the vehicle under those conditions. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified and offered no assistance. The failure and current mileage was approximately 93,000.

- Allis, WI, USA

problem #27

Aug 152011

Explorer

  • 108,000 miles

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

Timing chain tensioner failure with valve cover damage provoking oil leak and heavy smoke out of the engine, wich lead to spill of oil in the highway (oil dropping) and engine out of sequence due to a plastic "casset" tension break, I have read over the internet alot of complains about the same incident

- Fresno, CA, USA

problem #26

May 092011

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 107,000 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer limited blew a spark plug right out of the engine. Very scary & very loud while going to the grocery store. I thought for sure the engine blew.

- Kensington, NH, USA

problem #25

Nov 232009

Explorer

  • 103,000 miles
Our Ford Explorer shut down without warning in an intersection. People began pushing my wife, baby son, and two other sons out of the intersection when the truck began smoking and then the engine burst into flames. We lost the truck (which only has two payments left and which was in perfect working order), our car seats, and a considerable amount of personal items to smoke, fire, and water damage. The fire department had to be summoned to put the fire out.

- Lowman, NY, USA

problem #24

Oct 132008

Explorer

  • 99,000 miles
I was driving home from work when I noticed my vehicle started to make this taping noise. I pulled over to the side of the road to see what it could be then noticed it was coming from under the hood. I didn'ttt feel safe continuing to drive on the highway so drove to the next exit and got off. The noise started to get louder so I pulled into a gas station and waited for someone to come pick me up because I didn't feel the vehicle was safe to drive. As I was sitting there with the car turned off, something on the driver side under the hood burst into flames. Fire department had to come out and put vehicle fire out.

- Mableton , GA, USA

problem #23

Feb 112009

Explorer

  • 137,000 miles

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

2003 Ford Explorer 4.0 SOHC engine rattle noise.I guess there is alot of issues due to this problem. Timing chasis

- Erie, PA, USA

problem #22

Nov 092008

Explorer

  • 93,000 miles
I have a Ford Explorer 2003 with 93000 miles and the O/D light as well as the service engine soon light is on. From my research it seems this is a major problem that Ford refuses to address on the car mentioned.

- Jamaica, NY, USA

problem #21

Jul 202008

Explorer

  • 35,102 miles
Re: Ford Motor Company Ford Motor Company is illegally charging customers for computer engine updates. In July of 2008 my service engine light came on in my 2003 Ford Explorer 2003.. I was told by the service department at buerge Ford that my engine codes had to be updated per Ford Motor Company. They updated the engine codes in 15 minutes and charged me $128 dollars for updating Ford new engine computer codes. The problem I have with Ford Motor Company is that if the engine codes on my Ford Explorer XLT 2003 needed to be updated to Ford new engine codes a recall should be implemented, or the charge shouldn't be pass on to the consumer. A recall was never done, and Ford Motor Company has been illegally passing on this charge to the consumer for years, without a recall notice. Nothing was at fault at my end. I have a copy of my bill for your records on this illegal charge. Please investigate Ford Motor Company for not implementing a recall notice for this problem with their SUV's, car's and trucks. Sincerely. Jeffrey roth

- La, CA, USA

problem #20

Oct 202006

Explorer

  • 50,000 miles
I purchased a 2003 Explorer in August 2006; mileage was approximately 45,000. By October the car would not start and the alternator was replaced. A few weeks later, I was back because my car was jerking. Nothing showed up on the diagnostic tool at that time. However, I was told the starter would have to be replaced as would the recently installed alternator. I returned less than a month later with the same jerking issue, only this time I notified the repair shop that the O/D light had been coming on. Furthermore, my car had actually stalled in the middle of traffic. Again, nothing was found. By early December, I was back. My car had stalled on a few more occasions and would not "pick up". that is, even though the RPM's would reach anywhere from 2500 - 4000, my car could not accelerate above 25 - 30 mph. Several days later I was told that the transmission needed work. I got my car back a few days before christmas and decided last minute to head to the mountains. As soon as I reach a slight elevation, the car ceased to accelerate and what's more, a thick heavy cloud of black smoke came out of the rear and persisted for at least two miles. I headed back down the mountain for home. I took the car back and they kept it for at least a week and a half to repair the torque converter and other transmission related issue. In early fall 2007, I took the car to my local Ford dealer for some strange noise coming from the engine. It ended up costing $2500 to repair. I returned in November for more work, this time for the same torque converter and solenoid issue as a year ago. During this two year period, my vehicle was under extended warranty. The total repair cost for the first year of ownership is anywhere from $5000 - $9000, of which I paid at least $2500 out of pocket. My warranty has since expired and I am worried that these same issues will recur, as I have read they have. This is not an isolated incident and should be investigated and a recall issued.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #19

Feb 192008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,428 miles
There was a clicking noise in the dash when I turned the heat on. One day there was one more hard click and after that no more heat. So now when I turn the heat on there's a clicking noise and no heat, when I turn it on cool the clicking noise stops.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #18

Jan 192008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,780 miles
Sat. Jan. 19, 2008; approx. 99,780 miles - engine stalled while we were turning off the highway to a side street. We had just driven approx. 20 miles, so the engine was warm. The steering wheel locked up when the engine turned off, which caused us to go into the oncoming traffic lane. Fortunately no one was coming towards us so we could stop, put it in park, and restart the engine. This is about the fifth or sixth time it happened.

- Basalt, CO, USA

problem #17

Jan 182008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles
Brand new 2003 Ford Explorer. Replaced engine at 115 K miles and now the trans is going; specifically, the O/D light keeps flashing and it shifts badly. I've seen numerous complaints about the same thing online, while Ford ignores this faulty trans.

- Lansdale, PA, USA

problem #16

Jan 012006

Explorer

  • miles
Stalling with no warning. Ford found nothing. They know of the problem. Said I should get an after market computer.

- Fort Myers, Fl. 33908, FL, USA

problem #15

Sep 012007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The Ford recall for engine stalling does not appear to apply to the 2003 Explorer, but I have definitely had the engine stall 5 or 6 times while I've been driving. It has happened while I've been decelerating, either for a stop sign, traffic light, or turn. The engine was warm each time. I was always able to restart the engine quickly enough so that no accidents occurred, but the closest call was when it happened at a busy traffic light. I did not write down the exact dates when it happened, so the incident date below is only approximate. I believe the recall should be expanded.

- Basalt, CO, USA

problem #14

Jun 272007

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
When we starte D our car for the first time after it had sat at an airport parking lot for a week, we heard a ticking noise upon start up ouf our vehicle (2003 Ford Explorer eddie bauer with V8 engine). Upon taking it to a repair shop they stated the noise is coming from the value guard area in the would need to replace both cylinder heads (per Ford need to replace both & cannot replace just one). The cost of this repair would be $4,000. Upon further research, it appears that this is a common problem for our model & year. With all the other problems we have had to pay out of pocket for, it would be nice to have Ford look into this issue and possible have a recall. Thank you.

- Omaha, NE, USA

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