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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.

8.5

pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
$2,443.00
Average Mileage:
88,237 miles
Total Complaints:
20 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (10 reports)
  2. replaced with refurbished transmission (6 reports)
  3. had transmission rebuilt (2 reports)
  4. new tranny (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #20

Oct 232013

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

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

I think Ford should own up to the fact there is problem and help pay for the repair

- , Pana, Illinois, USA

problem #19

Apr 042013

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,000 miles

Purchased my 2003 Ford Explorer XLS 2 wheel drive pre owned with 85,000 miles in good condition. I have maintained my vehicle with regular tune up's and use my vehicle for normal everyday driving work home and errands. This vehicle now has roughly 134,000 miles and in good condition as one could tell by looking at which has clean exterior, interior motor, suspension and no fluid leaks other that the PCV valve which was replaced upon first sign of motor oil leaking from the valve cover. Recently I was driving at normal speeds two minutes into a short trip when the O/D light begin flashing. Shortly after this upon stopping at a red light then proceeding to drive the transmission would not shift from first gear into second reaching RPM's at 3500 until I realized the vehicle wasn't shifting. I released the accelerator at which time the transmission shifted into second gear reaching high RPM's again until shifting into third gear. Transmission will now not shift into fourth gear. I have not yet had a chance to get the vehicle into a shop to diagnose the transmission problem but upon research I have found I am the not the only Explorer owner with this problem.

- , Converse, Texas, USA

problem #18

Oct 232010

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,105 miles

Hello, Seeing all these complaints on here make me want to yell to. I have always like Fords for crying out loud my last name is Ford. But since last year I've had a horrible issue. My '03 Ford Explorer XLS, the O/D Light is blinking, It shifts really HARD. Obviously it's a Ford problem Cause this problem is costing alot of people a ton of money. I have tried the flushing the Tranny, The code still reads P0775. If you ask me Ford should fix there problems before people Say Ford and go to Chevy, or some other Dealership.

So my Ford Explorer i start it let it run and until warm. Then go to take off, It doesn't want to shift until I get it to 20 to 30 MPR, and then the RPM's are at 3k or 4k before it shifts, when i get to a stop sign it does it all over again. The O/D Light is flashing constantly. Now don't tell me that this isn't Ford's Problem, cause it is, it would be different if there was one or two, But this many Fords Having problems we need to get this straightened around.

- , Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

problem #17

Aug 012011

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

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

Hard to find a used transmission for this vehicle. And they are expensive.

I guess its is because the problem is so common.

- , Centralia, MO, USA

problem #16

Feb 092011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

I've had my 2003 Ford Explorer for 2 years, just paid it off and all of the sudden the transmission starts to slip one day while I'm driving, the vehicle is no longer shifting gears, instead the RPMs are peaking yet the vehicle itself is decelerating...so I get off the gas and press it again, nothing. So I let it drop below 30MPH and press it again and it jerks real hard and finally starts accelerating!!! All this happened while on the interstate during rush hour!!!

Then, I notice the O/D light flashing. I park the truck for a week as I'm unable to find someone to take me to drop my vehicle off...I finally get someone to drop me off at a local Ford dealership because i have an extended warranty on my vehicle and as I'm explaining to them what happened one of the guys ask me was my O/D light flashing and I told him yes...automatically I'm thinking they've ran across this problem before if he knows this, so I leave it with them and call them back later and apparently after putting it on the diagnostic machine they still don't really know what the problem is. Or so they say. Then they said it could be one of two things in which one would not be covered under warranty and I would have to pay for out of pocket which could be a few thousand dollars!!!!

So i got online to see how come this problem was and it seems that it happens enough for them to not only know what it is just from the description but also for the Ford Motor Company to issue a voluntary recall!!! There is no reason for them to pass off repairs on these vehicles to customers and they know that their transmissions are defective!!!

- , Proctor, AR, USA

problem #15

Feb 192011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

At 82,000 miles the transmission on our 03 Explorer was revving up way too high before it would shift. Took it to the dealer. They did a transmission servicing for $225. I picked up the car, and hadn't even driven a mile when the o/d light started flashing, and the transmission would still not shift properly. Went straight back to the Ford dealer. They kept it overnight and checked it out. They said it needed a new transmission for a cost of $4800.00. That is on top of the $225 I just paid. There was NO WAY we could pay that. We checked out the many Explorer tranny problems listed on the internet, and saw that this was a very common and well known problem. So, we called Ford Customer Care, and guess what? They DON'T care! They said they were unaware of any Explorer owners having this problem. We referred them to the internet, where hundreds of complaints are listed.

We found a local, very reputable repair shop who will replace the tranny for $3200 and give the same warranty that Ford offered (3 years, 100,000 miles).

We are so disappointed in Ford not even acknowledging this problem with 03 Explorers. After 30 years of buying Fords, we are done! No more Fords in this household!!

- , Tacoma, WA, USA

problem #14

Jan 012005

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles

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

Well now I know why these cars are called Exploder's! I am original owner of 2003 Explorer and have had the same tranny issue for the last 100,000 miles. The dealer flushed tranny and replaced a sensor at 20,000. It has been to the dealer 2 more times for the same issue, but never has had the tranny replaced. when the extended warranty expired, I tried to get the dealer to stand behind their product and fix it, but just got laughed at. The OD light has flashed on and off for most of it's life.

The reason I even found this complaint forum was because I was looking up a heater control issue (had mixer replaced 1yr ago and bad again) I have to agree with the consensus here that I too will never buy another new Ford product. I say new because I have been a lifelong Ford guy and love their old trucks. I hope this message gets heard by Ford management and sign me up for a class action against them!!

- , Kuna, ID, USA

problem #13

Feb 122011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 143,279 miles

Transmission should not have broken. Take good care of my vehicles, service and maintain them. 143K is way too early for a transmission to break. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. I will update with cost as I am pricing to have it fixed.

- , Gardiner, NY, USA

problem #12

Jan 222011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,500 miles

This automobile is the reason that I am NON-UNION and proud of it!!! International Brotherhood of Auto Workers (or whatever you guys are), keep pumping out this overpriced garbage....it makes us non-union guys look better by the minute! Hey Ford, my tax money that went towards your "bailout", a simple thank you would have been good enough! Now we, (the owners of these clunkers) need YOUR help...a bailout if you will! We could really use a recall to "bail us out" of this mess we got ourselves into by simply being loyal Ford customers!!!

- , Chillicothe, Ohio, USA

problem #11

Jan 222011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,500 miles

Revs to nearly 5K before finally slamming into 2nd gear. I just thought I got one of those vehicles that was a turd but was an isolated incident...but I was wrong!!! All these complaints and Ford still wont sack up?

- , Chillicothe, Ohio, USA

problem #10

Nov 012010

Explorer XLT 4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,500 miles

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

yep got a broken ford, what a big surprise. I was raised in a ford family and now I have to question if I was raised wrong!!!!! Horrible shifting problems,

- , Pueblo West, Colorado, USA

problem #9

Dec 252010

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Same problem as everyone else. Ford should man up. I will never buy another one!!!! Please tell me someone is organizing a law suit. If so , sign me up. They know they suck , they should fix it.

- , Henderson, NV, USA

problem #8

Sep 272010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,500 miles

In normal driving, once hitting the road, the engine sounds a very laud noise before shifting tfrom 1st to 2nd gear. I have no clue if this will damage my car if I keep driving it for a week before I take it to the Mechanic. also I do not know if this problem is general one and happens a lot when it shouldn't. Maybe Ford Automaker is responsible for it or not.

- , Livonia, MI, USA

problem #7

Aug 062008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

i would never buy another ford in my life. come to find out this car has always had this problem. of course the warranty was up and i had to pay out of my own pocket. which i had no choice it was my own transportation. the cost of the transmission, car payments and insurance was just to much $$$$$. so at the end the liars at the car lot won they got there truck back and i now had a repossession on my credit report.

- , Lancaster, CA, USA

problem #6

Feb 272008

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

This is my last Ford I'll ever own. I'm not annoyed about the problems with my Explorer but Ford doesn't stand behind their product. And, after this one I won't either. Why should we subsidize poor quality???

- , Gloucester, MA, USA

problem #5

Jul 172008

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,347 miles

I must have really did something wrong in a past life to get stuck with a ford explorer, I just replaced the alternator about 2 weeks ago myself, and some help from my sons getting the belt back on. Now a week later the "service engine soon" lite comes on. I filled the gas tank up, thinking maybe it was the gas cap not on tight, and the lite went off. Last week, the lite came on again, and now the O/D lite is flashing, the engine races from first to second, and the gas doesn't stay in it very long. I went to percifico ford where I bought it, the tech told me that I need a whole new transmission, which will cost about somewhere between 5-6 grand, I was told. But here's the really big kicker, last march or April, I brought my truck in for service, oil change wheel and tire check, I told the tech to check the transmission, it would jerk, or lite thomp when i wold pull off, he told me that it was nothing wrong with the tranny, but that my tires where uneven, and that makes the differential spin the wrong way. At that time i was under warranty, now 3-4 months later after warranty I need a new tranny, that's the craziest bullshit I ever heard when I was just told my tranny and engine was fine, and was give compliments on how I kept the vehicle up. I am so pissed off, I wanna find a Ford Plant, where they make the truck, floor the gas, and run this piece of sh*t truck rite into the building, for the time and aggravation, not to mention the cash i got to spend getting repairs done. I cant deal with this, is there a class action lawsuit floating around, would love to opt in, or any info on this problem, please contact me, (verdein2008@yahoo,com)

- , Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #4

Aug 312007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Like the others, I had a premature failure of the transmission with it slipping between second and third gear. The guy at the transmission shop knew what the problem was as soon as I told him what kind of car I had. Its obviously a design defect that Ford refuses to acknowledge.

- , Hayward, CA, USA

problem #3

Aug 152007

(reported on)

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

This is my second Explorer and I have always talked them up. The first, a 1999, was always good. I've had this 2003 for about two years, bought it with about 40k miles. My 1999 seemed to shift a little funny so I didn't think too much of it when the 2003 shifting seemed a bit funny (hesitant) too. It has seemed to very slowly getting worse. then, a few days ago it raced before lurching into second. After that it's seemed to slip or hesitate about half the time going from 1 to 2, and at times from 2 to 3. Yesterday when I could finally get it to a garage, the OD light started flashing, service engine light came on and it wouldn't shift into OD. Mechanic said it needs to be rebuilt - $2200 to $2800. I was thinking about putting in a used one for about $1300, but after reviewing this site I will probably go with a rebuild. I have always been a real vocal supporter of the USA car industry. This, however, has made me shut up and I will probably never buy another - Ford especially. Bad move Ford. If you lose me as a customer you probably aren't going to make it. You should really address your problem here!!!

- , Minneapolis, MN, USA

problem #2

Sep 062006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • 43,000 miles

After only 43,000, engine began high rev where RPMs would go to 2500 then suddenly drop to 1500 (beginning around 30 mph). The engine had a high whine sound the faster I went. Seemed as if engine was not shifting gears properly. Turns out a defect in the transmission converter caused metal shavings in the transmission. Had to replace with refurb transmission. Got a much better warranty on refurbished unit, but will have to think long and hard before buying Ford again.

- , Ashburn, Virginia, USA

problem #1

Jul 292006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • 51,000 miles

I don't know much about cars but 51000 miles seems a little low to have to have the transmission overhauled or replaced. I also know other people who owned 2003 or 2004 Explorers that experienced transmission problems. I will NEVER own another Ford again.

- , Leander, TX, USA

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