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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.

8.3

pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
$2,327.00
Average Mileage:
104,310 miles
Total Complaints:
236 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (94 reports)
  2. replace with rebuilt transmission (50 reports)
  3. replace the transmission (38 reports)
  4. complete overhaul recommended (17 reports)
  5. rebuild transmission (15 reports)
  6. rebuilt transmission installed (8 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 12)

problem #236

May 202015

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 158,000 miles

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

Thank you Ford for screwing the public again. I've bought at least 50 Fords in my life time and it took me to this piece of crap to never ever buy another American made truck again. I hope they go out of business some day soon. GM is not any better. I think they build sh*t so they can rape the public for fixing and fixing again and again as that's where there money is in their repair shops!

- , Saranac, MI, USA

problem #235

Jul 012013

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 220,000 miles

There is huge problem, how you can have confidence in Ford in the future?

- , Lowell, MA, USA

problem #234

Jul 012014

Explorer Sport 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

VERY FRUSTRATING "FORD", YOU REALLY SHOULD STAND BEHIND YOUR PRODUCT!!!!!! YOU SURELY KNOW ABOUT ALL THE COMPLAINTS OVER YOUR EARLY EXPLORERS. I DO LIKE THE STYLE AND THE RIDE OF THIS 2003 FORD EXPLORER AND I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT WHEN THE O/D LIGHT STARTED FLASHING MY EXPLORER WOULD WOULD TURN UPSIDE DOWN. I CANNOT AFFORD A $2000 FIX AND I REFUSE TO BUY A NEW CAR AS AT MY AGE I DO NOT NEED A CAR PAYMENT.

IT BOGS DOWN TERRIBLY AND WILL SHIFT VERY HARD, THE TRANSMISSION FLUID IS FINE, WHICH WAS A PAIN IN THE 'A' TO GET TO. THEY SAY THE SOLENOID NEEDS REPLACING WHICH MEANS THE WHOLE BOX FOR THEM NEEDS REPLACING WHICH THE PART IS $179 OR SO, BUT TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL DO THE REPAIRS IT WILL BE AN ADDITIONAL $1300-INSANE. I HAVE READ SO MANY COMPLAINTS ON THE INTERNET OVER THE SAME PROBLEM WITH THE EARLY EXPLORERS AND FORD IS NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. I HAVE CALLED AND ASKED THEM FOR A 'GOODWILL REPAIR' AND THEY HAVE REFERRED ME TO TAKE IT INTO THE DEALERSHIP, WELL THAT IS WHAT I CANNOT AFFORD. SO HERE I AM DRIVING BACK ROADS AND GOING SLOW AND PROBABLY WILL RUN IT INTO THE GROUND-THEN I WILL BUY A HORSE!!!!

- , chesterton, IN, USA

problem #233

Sep 172014

Explorer LX 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 173,000 miles

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

I am an expat here in Qatar. A year ago I bought the car to someone. Things are perfectly okay till only two days back (Sept. 17, 2014) the problem in gear occurred. Same as with other customers complaint, my Ford Explorer is experiencing a bad gear shifting. Also an O/D Off & check engine are showing at the message center plus a bleep of "Check Transmission". I am certain that if I will bring the car to the Ford workshop it will cost me much and may a burden to my pocket. Any help or suggestion from you is highly appreciated.

- , Doha, Doha, Qatar

problem #232

Aug 092014

Explorer XLS 4DR 4.0L Sohc

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

MY 2003 FORD EXPLORER XLS 4DR WITH A 125,000 MILES ON IT. O/D LIFT

JUST STARTED TO FLASH AND WHEN I TOOK IT TO THE TRANS SHOP THEY

TOLD ME THAT THE TRANS IS SHOT AND NEEDED TO BE REPLACED IN THE SUM

OF $3200 BUCKS WHICH I CAN'T AFFORD. I THINK FORD NEEDS TO MAN UP ON

THIS PROBLEM AND TAKE CARE OF IT. IT AIN'T OUR FAULT THEY WANTED TO BUILD

A CHEAP TRANS.

- , Deptford, NJ, USA

problem #231

Jul 172014

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 152,000 miles

Unfortunately, it took replacing the starter, battery, and alternator before the o/d flashing light and check transmission light came on. At which point, I was told I needed an overhaul on my transmission. Hope this corrects the problems I have been having over the last six months.

- , Nashville, TN, USA

problem #230

May 292014

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 200,000 miles

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

I AM REALLY UPSET WITH FORD REGARDING THE PROBLEM WITH MY TRANSMISSION FOR WHICH THEY WILL NOT COVER THE EXPENSE OF FIXING THEIR PROBLEMATIC TRANSMISSION.. I HAVE TO PAY $2,300 FOR THEIR SCREW UP AND I AM PISSED AS HELL. THE TRANSMISSION CLEARLY HAS ALL THE PROBLEMS THAT ARE LISTED IN THE RECALL, BUT THERE'RE SAYING THAT MY VEHICLE IS NOT LISTED, THAT IS SOME REAL BULLS---T ..

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #229

Sep 092013

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,850 miles

The O/D light started flashing on and off, then the check engine light came on. The transmission has started to slip at times really bad. Do not have the money it will take to replace the transmission at this time.

- , London, OH, USA

problem #228

May 012014

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 177,000 miles

I had my transmission rebuilt at 97,000 miles in 2006. Leading up to that, I had all sorts of issues with my transmission and my vehicle had been in the dealership dozens of times for this issue. My truck now has about 177,000 miles and the other day my O/D light began to blink. My transmission now has very uneven shifts and surges. I plan on taking the truck to the dealership to take a look but speaking to a few mechanics I know, they all tell me with the reputation the 2003 ford explorer transmission has, its most likely going to have to be rebuilt/replaced.

- , Clinton Township, MI, USA

problem #227

Mar 222014

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

When I brought my vehicle into my transmission shop on 4/17/2014, the salesperson told me that I had three choices, to get it rebuild for 2503.00, rebuild with aftermarket parts for 2100.00, or just fix the necessary components for 1700. Of course I chose the last one. He went over what went wrong, and he told me that the band broke on the second gears which causes on of the shaft to break. Because of this, I had metal debris in my whole transmission. The torque converter, all of the gears, and the solenoid needed to be replaced. He told me since I am not replacing all of the components, your transmission may go out again at 10000 to 30000 miles. That is yet to be seen. At least O/D light and the engine light will be turned off. I am very disappointed that my transmission went out after about 85000 miles and I had to spend so much money. You think Ford would have had a recall on their transmissions. We'll see if I have to take it back to the transmission shop after 10000 to 30000 miles.......

- , Reseda, CA, USA

problem #226

Oct 252013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,000 miles

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

I need some advice: My truck transmission seems to be slipping or not going in 2nd and 5th gear. I had my mechanic do a transmission flush and install a new solenoid. After $500 still doing the same thing. I researched it and this is a common problem in Fords and found a part on line for $200 called a servo bore. My husband took the truck to one mechanic and he stated I needed a rebuilt transmission and the cost will be $1200 - 1600 but this include the solenoid that cost $400 and he will keep it for 5 days. He was told this was already install so he said he will have to be sure. But not the one I was thinking of but he still did not come off the price.

So my husband took it to another mechanic and he stated he can fix it for $500 which included $250 for a rebuilt solenoid and $89 labor per hour and he will be done in 2 hrs. When he was told that we just installed a new one he said he won't use it he will use the rebuilt one. So he said he will tell us how to fix the problem. Well we did what he told us and it still is doing the same thing. My husband's thinking we should pay this man $500 to do the same thing we just did twice. I told my husband that is stupid to give a brand new part for a used rebuilt part.

I have went to Ford and received two brand new solenoids and was not given an answer as to how to fix this. All they say is that if this is your second solenoid then it is not the solenoid, it's the mechanic. They need to do a recall.

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #225

Feb 042014

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 207,000 miles

JUST BOUGHT THE CAR 3 MONTHS AGO, NO WARRANTY. CONTACTED FORD MOTOR CO. THESE TRANSMISSIONS SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON RECALL. SEEMS LIKE ACCORDING TO REVIEWS IT IS A ON GOING PROBLEM WITH THIS MODEL

- , Larksville, PA, USA

problem #224

Feb 012013

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

OMG!!!! Overdrive light began flashing moments after my wife began driving off one day. A block away she was at a light and the car refused to shift into ANY gear, she pounded the gas and the engine roared... but went no where. I told her to turn car off and cross her fingers. Moments later it worked, no OD light.

Hoping it was a one time error what a mistake! Later the O/D light came back and I noticed severe problems shifting between gears, especially low gears. Took to AAMCO. Shop indicated that it was a known problem with this model of Explorer and they would have to rebuild the entire transmission. For safety, I had to pony up the nearly $3500 to get it done.

A week later, rental car expense, and multiple trips to get it done, ended up with differential problems too! Geesh!

- , Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #223

Feb 202014

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 187,000 miles

Another very unhappy Ford customer. O/D light blinking and transmission is hard shifting between 1st and 2nd gear. Thought I would check the Transmission fluid but low and behold no dipstick! Took into my mechanic that said that the transmission was not serviceable by him and had to be taken to the dealer. Well first off who would design it without a way to check the tranny fluid level? Second don't understand why Ford does not offer a recall on this! There seems to be a lot of people with this same issue and Ford is completely screwing the people that spend good money on these vehicles. I have owned Ford products most of my adult life(30 yrs) and never had any kind of problem like this. Guess I will looking elsewhere for my next vehicle and it will probably be at my local GM dealership! Thanks for nothing Ford!!!!

- , Fairfield, ME, USA

problem #222

Nov 262013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 207,404 miles

Continuing O/D transmission service lights after inspection, fluid flushing, etc. Service center said these transmissions are poor at best. I've been a Ford customer since my 1964 Falcon. Ford needs to recognize the complete failure of the of the 2003 model and do right by its loyal customer base.

- , Essex, CT, USA

problem #221

Nov 022013

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,360 miles

WHY IS THERE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH THE SAME THING. FORD NEEDS TO STEP UP AND FIX THIS OR GIVE A DISCOUNT I HAVE BEEN A LOYAL CUSTOMER AND I CANT AFFORD THIS I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO MY FORD HAVING 230000 MILES ON IT. COME ON FORD DO SOMETHING, YOU BUILT IT WRONG JUST ADMIT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Grand Island, NE, USA

problem #220

Mar 132012

Explorer 4.9L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

why has Ford not done a recall on this transmission issue with so many complaints? my 2003 explorer has had no problems till two days ago, same broken tranny band issue and $2500 to rebuilt. OD reads 96000!!!!! Ford you NEED TO FIX THIS!!!!!!!!!

- , Manteca, CA, USA

problem #219

Sep 082013

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles

I bought my 2003 Ford new from the dealership. Over the past thirteen years my Explorer has been a champ. Over the last year the transmission might seemed a little tired, but I did not notice any real significant issues. Then after the rear lift window frame split by the Ford emblem after going through the car wash, my SUV must have reached it's expiration date. Now a week after replacing the tires ($650.00) and having the vehicle tires aligned and an inspection ($380.00) the overdrive light came on as I drove to work and the transmission let me know something was wrong with slippage and high powerless rpm's.

On the way home the light came on again with the engine light. I pulled my manual and find little reference to the OD light or it blinking - it just says for the most part "Take to a qualified service technician to avoid damaging your vehicle system(s)." I looked for a dip stick to check the transmission fluid and could not find it. I checked online and learned that there isn't one on this model - what moronic engineer designed a vehicle without a dip stick to check the fluid level. Now I am disheartened to read all the lousy reviews from others with Ford's that have experienced the same costly problem. My SUV made it over 100,000 miles and now it looks like it will cost me dearly to get her back on the road. Saddened by the stupidity of the Ford engineers on this one.

Update from Nov 12, 2014: Well. My trusty Ford SUV finally let me down when the transmission just up and quit. In the end, I really like my Ford SUV so I paid. Over $3300.00 to get the sealed transmission fixed. Who seals a transmission so that the fluid can't be checked normally. I was told a band broke inside the transmission and that the fluid was in poor shape. After repair my SUV was almost like new. Now that the transmission has worked for a year, it doesn't have that new snap off the line like it did. I still love my Ford though.

- , Sanatoga, PA, USA

problem #218

Apr 282012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,200 miles

The Car is a few years old, actually pampered by an "A" tech, and is serviced every 3,000 miles.

A few years ago it took a long time kicking into gear (forward) only when cold, and dealer performed a valve body update. We bought the car in 2006 with 36,000 miles on it, and we never towed with it, or are we hard drivers... 2 days ago the transmission started not to shift correctly, then started to stay in gear longer... now the o/d light is flashing, loss of power, trans is slipping seems like between 2-3 shift. And now in addition the check engine light is on as well. I just feel that with the way we service and respect this vehicle, a potential failure of this size @ 74,000 miles is too soon.

Regardless of warranty period, Ford should step up to the plate and replace my transmission, and any other transmissions that have failed... I owned FORDS SINCE 1976, AND IF THEY LEAVE ME HIGH AND DRY, THIS MAY BE THE LAST FORD FOR ME!!!

- , Port Chester, NY, USA

problem #217

May 012012

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

I have read other comments that this is a very popular problem with 2003 explorer. So why no recall?

- , Colonie, NY, USA

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