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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:
$2,410.00
Average Mileage:
95,583 miles
Total Complaints:
136 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace with rebuilt transmission (50 reports)
  2. not sure (48 reports)
  3. complete overhaul recommended (17 reports)
  4. rebuilt transmission installed (8 reports)
  5. new shift kit & solenoid body (5 reports)
  6. new valve body installed and possible more repairs (3 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 7)

problem #136

Feb 202014

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 187,000 miles

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

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, Maine, USA

problem #135

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 #134

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 #133

Mar 012013

Explorer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,567 miles

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

After searching the internet, found numerous people with the same symptoms and same problem and a bunch of different options to fix, unfortunately costly fixes which ultimately you have to replace the transmission. Searching the internet a number of people stated that they got help from Ford in the replacement of the transmission and that generally most people were turned away. After talking to 2 Ford reps today, and turned down flat for help, i have decide its now a quest.... Ford stated they didn't have enough complaints for the NHTSA to open up an investigation to possibly order a recall...... Soooo, for all those that have issues, CALL FORD AND ALSO MAKE A COMPLAINT ON THE NHTSA SITE www.nhtsa.gov or call them at 1-800-424-9393. My family is a Ford family and we currently have 5 Fords in our household, a mustang, ford F150, ford focus, expedition, and the explorer that is having issues. This isn't including extended family. Ford is about to lose future business.... Everyone call in or email, so we can get an investigation started to get the transmissions covered for all the people that own the explorer that are getting screwed.... At 135 thousand miles, a transmission shouldn't go out, My ford f150 has 297,352 miles on it with a original engine and tranny and never a issue with either..... GO figure!!!!

- , Yucca Valley, CA, USA

problem #132

Oct 172012

Explorer Lx V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

Ford needs to recall these damn transmissions. I can't go to work or school because I can't drive my suv because the o/ d light is blinking and transmission message is on and I was told u need a new transmission. This is ridiculous I had an older explorer years ago and I had the same problem had to replace the transmission twice. You would think they would fix this problem.

- , Springfield, MA, USA

problem #131

Nov 162011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

Okay.....along with everyone else. I WAS a loyal Ford purchaser. I all of my vehicles as well as my kids vehilces have been fords with the exception of my toy, a Jeep Cherokee.

Soooo, we purchased the vehicle. 4 months afterwards, the OD light comes on and the vehicle switches out of OD. Was told that the shifting solenoid had to be replaced....$300 without install. Had that completed....5 days later, it starts all over again. 1 Day later the wife is driving on the freeway and vehicle drops down and wont go over 5 miles an hour. Had to have the tranny rebuilt...$2500 at "Edwards Transmission". Problem returns within a couple of days. They say its not the Tranny rather the transfer case. Replaced....another $900. Guess what....problem still there. Took back to tranny shop (still under warranty) and they said now it's the Timing Chain....went to my other mechanic to have it checked out and get an oil change....guess what? The oil pump quits, filter is clogged and engine has to be rebuilt....$3500. This is bull.....Finally got Ford on the phone, they say sorry about me but will offer me an X Discount to trade in and purchase another Ford.....NOT!. I will be dumping this vehicle in the resale market quickly before I have more money in it than it was worth brand new. All this and my wife still needs to get back and forth from college and work as well as shuttling our other 3 kids to school, sports, etc.... Ford should have recalled and fixed this issue. In the long run, they would have made more money from dedicated consumer's returning business.

By the way, after extensive search, the issue has to do with the bore outs AND the gromet around the external piston. The medal wears aware and the piston floats. Simple gromet and fixed, but the tranny has to be dropped again and opened up to complete...."Ed's Transmission" warranty ran out during rebuild, but they had no clue. Even had another shop run diagnostics and provide the code to them.....BUNCH OF CROOKS!!!!!

- , Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

problem #130

Aug 012011

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

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

After replacing torque converter a year and half earlier for $1500 thr transmission message and O/D light came on and trans stopped shifting into second gear. Engine revved high before hard shifting into thrid gear. Had dropped 2nd and 5th gears. Extremely slow movng into drive speeds and severe shifts. ford advised trans and torque convertetr needed replacement.

Ford was aware this model transmission had faults in 2002 and continued installing in 2003 models ignoring safety issues and passing replacement costs on to owners. Shame on Ford for tarnishing a company and family name.

- , Middletown, New Jersey, USA

problem #129

Jun 152009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

click to see larger images

o/d light flashes transmission messages

My problem is basically the same ,why did ford build this seal trans fist of all.They're not the only mechanics that can fix the problem. Had i known about this type vehicle ,i would have never got in it.My od flashes ,service light is on ,1st gear is taking to long to shift and i am problem 129 on the complaint list .Guy , gals we need to do something about this issue.To much money is beening paid out and is taking food ,out of my kids mouth about a problem that is very difficult to handle .Folks we need closure ,and the only way is to become a unit of one to establish a class action law suit on all ford product issues.But first let's start with the chief complaints a Lemon transmission.

- , jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #128

Jun 152011

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

First the O/D lights began to flash at which time I began to panic but the engine light goes out. So I decided to do some research and discovered this is a common occurrence to which FORD refuses to address. Truck can neither move forward or backward now. I was told that I need to replace the converter. $$$$ Ready for a trade. Definately not another Ford

- , Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #127

Jan 032012

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

I have been a faithful Ford customer having owned Maverick, Fairlane, Falcon, Explorer, Expedition, Galaxy 500, Taurus, etc. I bought a 2003 Ford Explorer brand new. I'm the only driver and never towed anything. My OD light came on at 103,000 miles and transmission had trouble shifting gears. I was alarmed after checking the internet at the number of people complaining about their transmission going out. I called Ford and told them what was going on, asked for a goodwill repair, and after they refused, a goodwill discount repair. Both the Customer Relations and the "supervisor" read from a sript, and treated me with indifference. A transmission specialist said that Ford mis-bored the Servos and it was a bad design. He did a rebuild, put sleves in the Servos, and said that was what should have been done in the first place. Beware if you buy an early 2000 Ford with the factory transmission still in the car.

I wont be one of those customers who say I will never buy another Ford, but I will certainly shop with competitors from here on out. I am no longer a loyal customer!

- , Covington, KY, USA

problem #126

Nov 192010

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

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

145,000 miles and o/d light starts flashing, check engine light and check tranny light comes on. $2600.00 and a rebuild later, and it still happens! Mechanic replaced the pressure solenoid, again, and all was well for a few months. (I say "all was well" loosely, as it still clunked and shifted hard on occasion). Then, CLUNK, it happens again! Mechanic rebuilds entire transmission, AGAIN, and a day and half later, o/d light flashes, check engine and tranny lights come on and it wont shift properly. Frustrating!!!! The mechanic came highly recommended and has a good rep. 30 years exp. He is totally upside down in this thing and has honored his guarantee. We are both out $$$$ and time, and the problem still exists. It is setting in his garage at this very moment. My advice to anyone else with this problem...Take the $2600 and put it towards another car!!!

- , CENTRAL POINT, OR, USA

problem #125

Dec 092011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

My 03 explorer flashing o/d hard to get it in second gear unless I let go of gas and let it switch other than that all gears works fine . I love this truck but damn, since april 11 so many problems .. Door ajar issue (fixed) ball joints need replacement ,recently change both inner rods ,then back window hitch broke (recalled from ford) then heat seat went bad, I can't afford a new tranny , I stared a petition in changed.org to have ford recall 2000-2005 explorer with od lights this is BS. This is my last ford and no more ..I been doing research and I don't know if a sensor or oil change . So many possibilities . I have a job and kids I need my truck . So please if anyone knows something let.me know like I said it runs fine but so confused..

- , New Haven, CT, USA

problem #124

Aug 012011

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Another one here!!! o/d light flashes , check engine light comes on ,, auto zone tells me the code that comes up is pressure control solenoid b .. i cant believe everyone else is having this same issue.. obviously its a faulty design... i cant believe its going to cost me so much money for a car that's worth less then 9,000 dollars... no way to check the transmission fluids either, this sounds like a smart design by ford

- , Glassboro, NJ, USA

problem #123

May 242011

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 163,140 miles

Let me begin by SCREAMING $4050, for the exact same problem that everyone here has been describing. O/D light blinking off and on, then service engine light comes on and the car rivals up after 30 mph. UGHHHH!!! I am seriously disappointed that Ford has not recalled this and so many of us loyal Ford customers have to suffer and come out of our pocket whether it be to fix the problem or purchase another vehicle. I will never purchase another Ford again based on the treatment I received regarding this issue. My husband is in the military deployed and they wouldn't even offer me a decent discount, I was out of a vehicle for an entire week and had to depend on others for transportation because Ford does not provide loaner vehicles. If there is a Class Action Lawsuite please email me at crystaldlife@gmail.com.

- , Riverview, FL, USA

problem #122

Dec 012010

Explorer XLT 4.2L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

First my "check engine" light illuminated sometime in mid June 2010. I have had it check out-tune up; filter changed, the electrical system revamped-the engine light came on again in November. In December is when the vehicle started cutting off while driving....I can feel the sluggishness in the transmission-how it would get loud then channels down to some since of normalcy then the O/D lights began to flash at which time I began to panic but the engine light goes out. So I decided to do some research and discovered this is a common occurrence to which FORD refuses to address. Which lead me to this forum. Class action suit, yes I’m on board with that! By the way, this is my third explorer.

- , Norristown, PA, USA

problem #121

Mar 152011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

i BOUGHT THIS suv NEW,HAD ALL THE SERVICES ON TIME AND ONE DAY WHILE DRIVING ALONG MY O/D LIGHT STARTED TO FLASH THAN THE TRANSMISSION LIGHT CAME ON.wHEN I TOOK IT TO THE SHOP THEY TOLD ME THAT I COULD HAVE IT REBUILDED OR GET A NEW ONE,THE REPAIRMAN DIDN'T THINK IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEAL TO REPLACE WITH THE SAME KIND OF TRANSMISSION , HE SAID I WOULD BE HAVING THE SAME PROBLEM AGAIN, HE SAID SOMETHING ABOUT THE TRANSMISSION WAS MADE OF ALUM. AND RODS RUBBING, AND HE ALSO SAID FORD WAS AWARE OF THE PROBLEM THATS WHY THEY CHANGED THE DESIGN. THIS IS THE LAST STRAW WITH FORD AND ME , I'M GOING TO BUY ME A TOYOTA

- , Athens, Alabama, USA

problem #120

Mar 052011

Explorer Eddy Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

I can not understand why you should have to replace a transmission at 76000 miles on a explorer. I have never towed anything with it. I am the second owner and when I bought it the hitch had never been used. This is my 2nd explorer and my last. My 94 went to 145000 before I had to get the transmission rebuilt, so I did not have a problem with that. I will not buy American car or truck again! Ford need to learn how to built a transmission.

- , Tacoma, Washington, USA

problem #119

Oct 012010

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

I cannot believe what I am reading. I have a 2003 Explorer with the same problem. O/D light flashes and the check engine soon light is now lit. I am getting a hundred different answers on how to get this fixed, non of which are cheap or have any kind of guarantee to them. I cannot afford such an expensive repair and I only have highway miles on my vehicle. What do I do?? I have children and a job that relies on me every day. I called Ford and they wouldn't help me at all and had the nerve to e-mail me a questionnaire form after that to see how my experience was. You know what I wanted to tell them. My family owns two Fords at this time and it will be the last.

- , Fall River, MA, USA

problem #118

Mar 072011

Explorer XLT/XL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,188 miles

I HATE THIS TRUCK! loved it at first...door sensors went bad, battery dead after like a week of having it, by reverse sensor doesn't work...all which worked when i purchased it. now the transmission is out and get this i have had it for 6 months and 3 weeks and the powertrain warranty expired 3 weeks ago!!!! This is truly BS. i would love to sue the pants off the people for continuing the sale of this model knowing that it is a problem. When i went to the dealership they never even mentioned that this was a possibility of problem that would occur. needless to say i will never buy another one!

- , Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

problem #117

Jan 202011

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,560 miles

Ours is a one driver explorer, & although it's a 2003, it has only 55,560 miles on it. There is absolutely no reason for the transmission to go out on the vehicle. Ford is apparently aware of the problem, but won't fix it. The vehicle owner has to foot the bill!! We have driven explorers since 1996, and we're about to leave the Ford "family" for good. It's really bad when a company knows about the problem & refuses to help the owner. I wish they'd gone bankrupt and stayed there. Unfortunately, they have come out on top, and have, in the process, become totally unconcerned about the "lowly customers" who put them there.

- , Kingstowne, VA, USA

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