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.

9.1

really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
$4,429.00
Average Mileage:
100,413 miles
Total Complaints:
14 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace engine due to timing chain tension guids clogging (5 reports)
  2. not sure (4 reports)
  3. replaced engine (4 reports)
  4. replace cylinder heads (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer engine problems

engine 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 #14

Dec 292015

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

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

I purchased a new 2003 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition. I have 62,000 miles on it. I took exceptional care of my Ford. I had it serviced regularly. It is in excellent physical condition. No rust whatsoever. I have had seat covers on it since the day I purchased it, therefore the leather seats still look brand new. Recently as I was driving it, it seemed to skip gears then there was a constant clicking noise that would not go away.

I took it to a local Ford Dealership. They first said it was the Rocker Arm Assembly and they changed them which cost $665. They then called and said once they got into the engine that they found it was "Shot" and I needed a new one which would cost $7300. I also called Ford Motor Company and they said they could not help me because there was not a recall on it. I do not have $7300 to put into this car when it is not even valued that much according to KBB. Ford should have had a recall on these models for this problem. There would have been a lot less headaches for their buyers.

- , Candler, NC, USA

problem #13

Dec 022014

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Possible bad valve lifter or something, could be bad pistons. Engines taps and clicks.

- , Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #12

Jun 012015

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,800 miles

Hello soon to be NOT FORD OWNERS!!

I really don't have much to add about this timing chain tensioner and cam chain cassettes. I'm sure all of 2003 Explorer owners that are having this problem will agree, that Ford knew this was a weak spot in what otherwise seems to be a good engine.THE SIMPLE FACT THAT BIG OLD FORD IS GOING TO DO NOTHING TO PAY FOR THEIR SH*TTY ENGINEERING!!!

At this point, I'm just waiting for the engine to explode at 118,000 miles!!!

Please call your Ford Zone Representatives in your town and bitch!! I live in Marina Del Rey, California and the Ford Zone Rep. # is 800-392-3673 and I'm starting to write to Ford and complain. The address is Ford Motor Company, Customer Relations Center, Dearborn, Michigan 48126. This is the only way to make a change! Good Luck!

- , los angeles, CA, USA

problem #11

Aug 022013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,042 miles

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

I am totally disgusted with FORD.... Just as the acronym says, Fix Or Repair Daily, or... Found On Road Dead, Or as some would say... Fxxxxx Over Rebuilt Dodge! First problem I had was the strut bracket broke loose, cost me over $500 to fix, Then it was the heating / air conditioning blend valve, again over $500 to fix, Then the gear train motor, about $300 to fix, and now, the damn engine has a ticking sound in it, like a bad valve, the mechanic told me it could be the valve train, or a vacuum leak, or a bad seal, or a spring etc. and he told me no mechanic in the world could tell for sure what it was until they spent at least 3 hours tearing it apart to see what the problem was and that would cost me at least $300 labor just to find the problem, not including another couple hundred or more to fix it !!! I will never ever buy another FORD "P.O.S.) the rest of my life and I warn everyone out there not to buy a ford, especially because they did not do any recalls on any of these problems AND will not assist in repair costs. You Have Been Warned.

- , Berea, OH, USA

problem #10

May 202013

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,545 miles

As A Ford Loyal Customer For over 20 Years I was Shocked to learn that this is a big problem that I Was not informed of by Ford . How do You trust Someone when they stab you in the back.

- , Northlake, IL, USA

problem #9

Feb 202013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 169,000 miles

It seems by reading most of the complaints about the 2003 Ford Explorer that a common problem is that the timing belt goes and you need your engine replaced. Ours just did, I am so disgusted. We bought our Explorer new in 2003. We were happy to be Ford owners, now not to sure. Looks Chevy is the way to go.

- , Wantagh, NY, USA

problem #8

Jan 042013

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

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

I would not have stuck the money into replacing the transmission if I would have known the engine was faulty right after I had the transmission fixed. One day I started the truck to go to work engine and it started tapping. Oil was full, always changed in a timely manner. Had oil changed three times before the engine totally went on me. I believe the oil pump was not pumping oil through the motor. Was driving, engine light went on and the engine started to shake, then a big bang. Engine blew on way to work in bitter, cold temperatures. Had to have a rebuilt engine installed.

- , Freeland, PA, USA

problem #7

Nov 012012

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,605 miles

I'm sick of this, we brought it just under a year ago and have had nothing but trouble with it. First thing was the t converter, then couple of months later we had to get the Engine reconditioned which cost $8011.00 all up. And now guess what, its slipping in 3rd gear and shutters when you take off. Its not doing it all the time but just another thing we are going to have to pay out a lot of bloody money for once again. I use to like Fords but now I don't. If we didn't have a big family we would not have got it. But we did for the fact of the leg space etc in the back seats. I would give it a rating of 4/10.

DON'T BUY ONE, unless you are willing to pay sh*t loads of money.

- , Rockingham, Western Australia, Australia

problem #6

Feb 012013

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles

Driving home from work on interstate hit a bump and engine went crazy. Blew the side out of the block and the starter sideways.

- , Owingsville, KY, USA

problem #5

Nov 162011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,400 miles

DON'T KNOW IF THERE'S ENOUGH OF US TO MAKE A NOISE WITH FORD. FINISHED PAYING OFF XLT 4.0 EXP ABOUT 18 MONTHS AGO FIGURED HAD AT LEAST 5 MORE YEARS OF NO PAYMENT DRIVING BASED ON TRUCKS PERFORMANCE . ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS PREVIOUSLY EXCEPT CLICKING HEAT/AC NOISES WHICH I LEARNED TO LIVE WITH. EULOGIZED THIS TRUCK TO ALL AND SUNDRY, STRONGLY RECOMMENDED TO ALL. THEN, BOOM! BOLT OUT OF THE BLUE. CLICKING SOUNDS SOON FOLLOWED BY CHECK ENGINE LIGHT. DIAGNOSIS, NEW ENGINE OR EXTENSIVE REPAIR ESTIMATES RANGE FROM 4K TO 5500 DOLLARS WHICH SOMEONE TELLS ME IS ABOUT THE CURRENT BOOK VALUE IN GOOD CONDITION. THEN YOU TAKE YOUR CHANCES NOTHING ELSE MAJOR GOES. IF TRUCK WAS BEAT UP I MIGHT GET IT BUT 76000 EASY MILES AND I'M SUPPOSED TO WRITE OFF A TRUCK THAT COST ME ABOUT 35K NEW. I DUNNO, ANY IDEAS?

- , Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #4

Jun 042010

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 113,245 miles

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

so i see this is an issue with these motors. well here is what happened to me. i took a trip to cincy and on the way down noticed a break issue. well i got back last week, and called the shop they told me bring it in on monday. so monday i drop it off, i tell them about the brakes and that i am hearing a tick/ knocking in the motor, ok no problem. so i get a called on tuesday, 'well we looked it at, its not the brakes, its the wheel bearings, and the sound in the motor is the tensioner on the timming chains, but it could be more. ok well its covered right? warranty company response: the bearings are covered, if the customer will allow a tear down of the motor than we will send up a rep to look at the issue, and if we find its a fault of the motor than we will fix it, if not than its at the customers cost out of pocket. my response are you kidding me, how long will this take, a week or more. great. so what the cost well its 1500 in labor along and parts 500 up to 1000. what no way in hell. so what do i do. shops response. we dont want to see you pay out of pocket if its not covered but your wheel issue is, only pay 100 bucks. ok fine. so i call the car company and warranty company. they both tell me that this could be a standard issue with these motors and may not be covered but the suv will still work just when it stops it stops, how long, not sure.

so what to do answer is:

this is a common issue with these motors, what happens is the oil isnt getting to the pulleys fast enough so you hear noise for only a few mins but will still run, to fix this issue part alone cost 500 to 2500, labor 500 up to 4500 to fix. so can still drive it, but just one day its not gonna start and guess what time to fix it. to me this is bs that ford sells something that will do this to the consumer, so what am i going to do. well i am going to drive it till it stops and i got a buddy who said he can pull the motor and fix it for parts price, downfall its a weekend project 10 hrs to pull motor and fix so. becareful when you buy one of these, i wanted one and guess what, i should have gotten a truck instead of this. good luck.

- , North Branch, MI, USA

problem #3

Jan 292009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I have a '03 explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6 V8 with 95K on it and I'm hearing similar noise. I just had my mechanic do an oil change and he used an oscilloscope to listen to the engine regarding the noise and he said it was the time chain guides most likely.

My mechanic said it is very common for the explorer timing chain guides to wear down and even break off. I'm not sure what to do. I said I did not what to fix it yet. Cost too much money!!

Does anyone have any advice for me?

Thank you - Regards,

Tom

- , Twp. Of Washington, NJ`, USA

problem #2

Jul 032008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

Called Ford for assistance with repair, response was sorry we can't help.

The problem seems to be that the timing chain tension guides get clogged and oil is not pumped causing this mess. This is a known problem with the 2003 explorer. I will not accept Ford's decision not to assist me in the repair. I believe that it is a defect in the engine part, not the maintenance that I have had done on the vehicle. I will fight this. Oh, by the way Ford wanted 7500+ to repair, I will have it done for 4500. Remember this "Quality is Job 1" Hmmmmmmm

- , Park Ridge, NJ, USA

problem #1

May 302007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6 (V8)

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,147 miles

since about 68000 kms the engine has had a tapping/knock in the motor. Very easy to hear if you listen through the left front wheel well. Fords answer no fault found, then it was unburnt fuel burning in the exhaust pipe causing the knock.

What the fail to tell the customer is that there is a tech advisory sent to the dealers, advising that certain 4.6L V8 built in 2003 have a valve guide problem. This advisory goes through a very detailed procedure to check the engine.

In my case the valve guides had came loose in the cylinder heads and both heads had to be redone. The engine was rebuilt at a race engine shop total bill $5500 Canadian.

This engine has been run on moble one synthetic oil at $9.00 a litre and changed on a regular basis. The engine shop advises this failure took place due to a defect from the factor.

As for any one who is about to by an exploder thats right a exploder get an extended warr as you will need it. As of yet I have not got any response from for of Canada and they wonder why customers are going to Japanese vehicles

Other problems. 1. rear differential seals( ford has upgrade to new seals) 500.00 2. paint on hood peeling off( to refinish) 700.00 3. rear hatch panel cracked 450.00

all of the above is well know by ford and its garages total out of customer pocket $7150 not including what was replaced under warr:

- , Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Not what you are looking for?