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:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
77,733 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 suspension problems

suspension problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #26

May 012015


  • 180,000 miles


We have recurring wheel bearing and hub assembly issue. The timing I put on the form may be off a bit but not much. Its all like a recurring Ford Explorer nightmare at this point! we have replaced bearings, hib assembly, tie rod, then rear end went up ( and shouldn't have)/now again, another bearing and wheel sensor. The truck cuts out when at a slower speed. I lost steering a few months ago while driving and when I try to put it in gear, sometimes it won't move.I have called Ford, nhtsb and no one is willing to make Ford recall these issues and Ford won't do the right thing knowing it's an ongoing problem with a lot of Ford! please someone help! I have multiple sclerosis and a heart issue. I need a safe reliable car and can't afford to get another one. Someone, please do the right thing here! I know its an older model and I question if this is why the recall isn't happening.idk but this isn't right. The truck is sitting out front needing an additional $700 of work. After rear end, tie rod, bearings, brakes in the past several months, we have no way to fix this lemon. Always been Ford but if they or a governing Agency doesn't help.. never a Ford again. Look at all the complaints for the same thing!!!! shameful.

- Reisterstown, MD, USA

problem #25

Jul 092012


  • 98,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the front and rear wheel bearings deteriorated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who replaced the rear driver's side and the rear passenger's side wheel bearings on two occasions. The remedy failed to repair the vehicle. The contact stated that there was an abnormal noise coming from the front and the rear of the vehicle. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 98,000.

- Fort Gay, WV, USA

problem #24

Jul 272014

Explorer 4WD 4-cyl

  • 123,000 miles
I have had three incidents with my 2003 Ford Explorer. The first incident involved the suspension ( sway bars snapped, tires had to be repaired). Second incident was the transfer case and a wiggling drive shaft along with rear wheel bearings ( parts deemed defective by mechanics), and emergency brakes that snapped off in my mechanics hands because they were rusty. Now it is transmission work for a possible faulty sensor. Ford needs to recalls before someone is killed due to catasrophic equipment failure! ive called them every time and they are aware of the issues but refuse to do anything other then document them and say have a nice day!

- Boothwyn, PA, USA

problem #23

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 #22

Feb 152013


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while turning at various speeds, the body of the vehicle began to bounce abnormally. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was stated that the body mount needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was notified. The approximate failure mileage was 120,000.

- Ellenton, FL, USA

problem #21

Dec 252012

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 135,000 miles
Ok we were driving pulled out and it did not shift to second gear and cars were coming up and honking horn it takes car a long time to switch to 2nd gear at light and this is very dangerous can get hit. The O/D light flashes causing service engine light to come on. Transmission was serviced and I was told it was a Ford issue with these transmission Ford was not successful at helping their needs to be a recall on these transmission they are very dangerous and the customer is constantly paying the price on these vehicles.

- Martinez, GA, USA

problem #20

May 202010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 82,665 miles


Although this defect did not cause an accident or injury, the potential was there for serious damage to this or following vehicles. Specifically, the defect was the rear strut/spring assemblies I.e. broken and shifted coil spring. As this part sits close to the fuel tank, the piece of spring that broke off could have easily punctured the fuel tank resulting in possible fire. It could also have wedged against a brake line, thus causing a brake failure and/or suspension failure/misalignment causing loss of control and an accident. In addition, if the piece of spring, weighing about three (3) pounds had fallen out, it could have caused severe damage to a following vehicle or it's operator had it bounced up and penetrated a windshield. The reason for the lapse in time in my reporting this condition is because I thought perhaps it was just a one time isolated failure to my vehicle. However, in talking to other Ford Explorer owners, as well as several auto repair shops, I have learned that this has been a common failure on similar vehicles. If this was a simple repair to a component that had little or no affect on the vehicles performance or did not present a safety condition, I would have probably just written it off to normal maintenance and repair. However, with my knowledge of automobiles, and a condition that could potentially cause damage as well as personal injury, as well as being a quite expensive repair, I felt compelled to report it to the proper people who perhaps have a larger data base than I do, and take action against Ford Motor Company to mandate a recall or reimbursement to those Ford Explorer owners who have experienced the same failure as I have.

- Putnam, IL, USA

problem #19

Jan 112013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 94,356 miles
Both rear coil springs rusted through and broke.

- Gaylord, MI, USA

problem #18

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

problem #17

May 102012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 54,000 miles
Brought vehicle in for routine maintenance ( brakes ) when it was discovered that both rear coil springs were broken. While having springs replaced it was discovered that the rear wheel bearings also needed to be replaced along with the rear shocks. This vehicle has been driven only less than 55,000 miles under normal driving conditions on paved city and highway roads. After inspecting the broken springs we realized that the damage wasn't a recent occurrence. They could have been defected at 40,000 miles or less.I believe Ford Motor Company should be made aware of possible defected rear suspension parts it may be using in some of it's vehicle models and the potential safety risks this may pose on the general public.

- E.Amherst, NY, USA

problem #16

Apr 222012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 110,000 miles


Rear of vehicle emitted a thumping and popping sound. First thought that rear tire had blown or that rear end had malfunctioned. After regaining control of vehicle and pulling off to shoulder on three wheels and a rotor, determined that the driver's side rear wheel and tire had disappeared. All lugs and nuts were gone. Wheel had departed from vehicle and gone in an unknown direction. Rotor and caliper where still attached to vehicle. Policeman was later able to retrieve wheel and tire from some distance down the highway behind the vehicle. Rim was scored all the way around the circumference of the inside of the rim. I assume that the rim had dropped down onto either the lugs or rotor prior to finding its way out of the fender well. Blessed to be able to talk about this. Ford Motor Company, there are recurrent problems here. Had rear bearing replaced on same wheel approximately 16 months prior. Suggested repairs around $400 to start for this incident. There may be greater damage and cost because the vehicle rested and dragged upon the rear suspension strut and torsion bar prior to get it stopped and pulled off of the pavement onto the grassy shoulder.

- Chesapeakea, VA, USA

problem #15

Nov 242011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
I went to leave for work one morning & I noticed the rear panel was cracked. It wasn't like that the night before, so it literally happened overnight. My mechanic said it was cosmetic & common problem with these trucks. I was told the window would be fine, but there is a chance of the panel piece falling off. I haven't had it fixed yet due to the expense, but I am afraid a piece may fall off while driving which could injure someone. To add insult to injury, a week later, my transmission started slipping & the O/D light was flashing. I had it towed & sure enough, it had to be rebuilt. It also needed a new hub bearing and both front ball joints had to be replaced.

- Kings Park, NY, USA

problem #14

Feb 052011


  • 235,000 miles
Broken coil springs front and rear causing the vehicle to try and swing around to the right on slippery surfaces. Extremely dangerous.

- Georgetown, 00, USA

problem #13

Oct 182010


  • miles
Driver side wheel bearing failure.

- Martell, NE, USA

problem #12

Oct 182010


  • miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer has only 70,000 miles on it and three out of the four wheel bearings have had to be replaced, at a total cost of over $1,100. The mechanic told me that this could cause a dangerous situation such as abnormal tire wear or the wheel coming off during driving. This potentially unsafe situation warrants a recall by Ford.

- Allston, MA, USA

problem #11

Oct 012009

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
I have continuous problems with my tires coming off of my 2003 Ford Explorer while driving following any work requiring removal of my tires (this has happened to me multiple times now). The first incident happened in 2006. The explanation that I have received is that the aluminum rims require extra torquing when placing the tire back on the vehicle. I'm not sure what the root cause really is but now I know that there is an issue with the metal in all of the areas associated with my tires being attached to my vehicle. Everything is corroded behind the hub caps of all 4 wheels. This could be associated with the issue that the Windstar are experiencing, maybe the annealing process used for the metal was defective? I don't know but this is a safety issue and I want an investigation opened so that it can be corrected. I have contacted Ford regarding this issue so they are aware of this and I know that there are many other individuals experiencing the same exact issue with their Explorer.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #10

Aug 232010


  • 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 #9

Oct 132008


  • 94,000 miles
I bought my 2003 Ford Explorer in Sept 2007. After driving it to and from work I noticed a loud humming sound up front @ 94,000miles. When I finally had it looked at 2 months later, I had to replace the drivers side front side wheel bearing. Now a few months later the passenger side front bearing is humming even worse so I had that one replaced. 10,000 miles later the drivers side has started doing the same thing again. I do not live on a dirt road, there is no reason for this to happen in such a short time. I have never had to replace a $400 wheel bearing (each) in my life on any truck or car that I have owned until now on a Ford explore.

- Viroqua, WI, USA

problem #8

Dec 062008


  • 70,000 miles
While driving loud grinding noise followed by a pulling to the side. A dangerous and possible catastrophic event. This is apparently a common problem with Ford Explorer. Had car towed and new wheel bearing placed. A very expensive and should be unneeded repair.

- Wayland, MA, USA

problem #7

May 052008


  • 50,000 miles
Wheel bearing needs to be replaced after 50K miles which seems to be very common on 2000+ model year Ford Explorer.

- Milwaukee, WI, USA

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