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:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
113,770 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #15

Aug 262015

Explorer

  • 142,000 miles

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

The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 30 mph, the check engine and ABS indicator illuminated. The contact mentioned that the brakes failed and the steering wheel seized. The emergency brake was engaged in order to come to a complete stop. The contact restarted the vehicle after few minutes and it functioned normally. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic but the failure could not be duplicated. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 142,000.

- Bend, OR, USA

problem #14

Apr 022015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 124,500 miles
Was leaving gas station, shifted from park to drive, shift lever broke off into my hand. Obviously a defect, as I have over 2 million miles under my belt, driven numerous cars & trucks, and have never had this happen before in over 40 years of driving, both personally and professionally. I see there are hundreds of similar complaints for this, why is there no recall??

- Spring Valley, NY, USA

problem #13

Aug 072014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 112,000 miles
My vehicle suddenly without warning will stall and I lose all power. No power steering. I am able to put the vehicle in neutral and can turn the vehicle back on. The mechanic can not find any codes etc on why this is happening. Apparently this is a common thing.

- Glen Burnie, MD, USA

problem #12

Apr 302014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 195,000 miles

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

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 #11

Mar 032014

Explorer

  • 126,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while traveling various speeds, the steering wheel became difficult to turn. The vehicle was taken to independent mechanic who replaced the intermediate shaft. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 126,000.

- North Plainfield , NJ, USA

problem #10

Jan 112013

Explorer

  • 160,000 miles
Went to put the car in park and the gear shift detached from the steering wheel. Key was stuck in the ignition, unable to put the car in park. Towed it to our house where my uncle was able to fix it. Had to replace the whole steering column. The problem was caused by a weak piece of metal in the alloy connecting the gear shift to the steering column.

- Independence , MO, USA

problem #9

Feb 242012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 147,000 miles

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

While in parked position, ignition started, gear shift broke while putting in reverse - failure of metal alloy connecting gear shift handle to steering column. Key was stuck in ignition and was not removable. Had to replace entire steering column. Towing expenses incurred as well as repair expenses. Problem caused by weakness/failure in metal alloy connecting gear shift handle to transmission steering column.

- Selma, NC, USA

problem #8

Mar 132012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,900 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while restarting the vehicle, the gear shifter detached from the steering wheel. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer where it was diagnosed with a failure to the steering column that needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 75,900...updated 04/11/12 the consumer stated when he put the vehicle in reverse, the entire gear shift came out in his hand. Leaving the vehicle in reverse. He was able to turn the ignition switch off. A cast iron bracket was completely broken off in the steering column. Updated 05/31/12

- Apple Valley , CA, USA

problem #7

Sep 172011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 97,500 miles
When I was switching the gear from reverse to drive at a gas station, the shifter lever was snapped off. I cannot move the car any more, and the key got stuck in the steering column. I find loads of others have same problem happened and Ford is not doing anything on this dangerous/could be fatal problem.

- Boston, MA, USA

problem #6

Aug 232010

Explorer

  • 101,000 miles
While driving on hwy 38 in SC, the steering wheel started shaking real bad and then the entire SUV started shaking and we veered off the right side of the road into a field. The front left tire came off and we came to a complete stop. Upon further investigation I saw that 2 of the 5 lug posts were sheared off and the other 3 were bent. In addition the molding around the front right tire came off and the driver's side door was jammed shut. After everyone was out safely the SUV has been towed and is with an auto center for repairs and body work. I searched online and this is a known problem for this vehicle yet Ford has not had any recalls despite the frequency of this issue. If you search "2003 Ford Explorer problems" it will come up. This needs to be looked into before someone gets killed. I can see that several people have paid for their vehicles to be repaired only to have it happen again on another wheel.

- Dale City, VA, USA

problem #5

Jun 022010

Explorer

  • 137,800 miles

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

Repair shop "perrier auto center" change oil for me by overload engine with 10 quarters of oil and also overload power steering fluid that cost failed power steering.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #4

Oct 102009

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 165,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 45 mph the steering wheel locked without warning. Suddenly, the driver loss control of vehicle and crashed into a bridge. The air bags deployed with the massive impact. The police was called to the scene. The driver was taken to the hospital. The driver sustained moderate injuries to the back neck and chest. The vehicle was towed to an auto collision center. The cause of failure has not been determined at this time. The failure and current mileages were 165,000. Updated 11/23/09. Updated 11/24

- Gibson, NC, USA

problem #3

Apr 112009

Explorer

  • 65,000 miles
03' Ford Explorer, steering column won't shift into or out of park correctly, have to push very hard on brake and struggle w/shift to get it to work. During oil change operator nearly had a roll away accident as parking to return truck to owner after change. This occurs at least 4 times a day.

- Sparks, NV, USA

problem #2

Dec 092007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,420 miles
I was driving on the 118 fwy West, exited off the balboa exit, which has an incline, I started applying my brakes to reduce my speed so I could turn left. When attempting to make a left turn, my steering wheel locked, it felt like no gas was going to my engine, therefore I had to really try to force my vehicle to go left. I was able to get the wheel rotate about an inch-the vehicle coasted to the right (we avoided going over the overpass). I shut the car engine off, waited a couple of minutes, turned the ignition on and the car started up again. Needless to say, I'm scared to death to drive my car. I keep it maintained, I have relatively new tires on it and it has approximately 57,400+ miles on it.

- Lake View Terrace, CA, USA

problem #1

Jan 162003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 437 miles
While driving and without warning a loud clinking noise can be heard. The dealer is aware of the problem. Squeeling noise from motor. Transmission lurched and would not engage. Transmission and transfer case had to be flushed. Replace steering shaft for clinking noise. Clockspring replaced.

- Troy, MI, USA

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