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.

9.2

really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
$2,638.00
Average Mileage:
100,889 miles
Total Complaints:
79 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace/rebuild transmission (59 reports)
  2. not sure (12 reports)
  3. rebuild / replace transmission (4 reports)
  4. belt/clutch repair (2 reports)
  5. rebuild transmission (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 3 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #39

Nov 152010

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,400 miles

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

This truck is only 8 years old and I'm now putting in my third transmission. This is ridiculous!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #38

Dec 232009

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

transmission always was hard clunking into reverse or park,bought brand new took it to dealership,they said nothing wrong.then it went out with 90,000 miles on it.had to have fixed $3700.00 later!paid 30 grand new for this,what a rip off.

- , Plymouth, IN, USA

problem #37

Sep 272010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,500 miles

in the middle of driving all of the sudden this light comes on and I don't what to do. I go to some mechanic he says "sensors". but this is not true because I have an other problem, to report later, the transmission does not shift gears smoothly, My mechanic, after hooking the computer to the car, "the transmission has problems with gear # 2 and #5. We need to open and examine, he also said that the worst case scenario it will cost me ambout $1500, if we put a used transmission in.

Update from Nov 2, 2010: I had it repaired by a specialized mechanic workshop. They had it rebuilt and warranted the transmission for two years. it cost $1,500 flat. now the truck drives smoothly and beautifully.

- , Livonia, MI, USA

problem #36

Jul 262010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,599 miles

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

THIS TRUCK IS ONLY 7YRS.OLD AND IM ALREADY PAYING FOR A TRANSMISSION TO BE REBUILT! AND TO MY SURPRISE,IT ALREADY HAD A FORD MANUFATURED REBUILT TRANSMITION IT! I HAD TO KICK OUT 2000 DOLLARS BECAUSE FORD WOULD NOT HONOR THE WARRENTY THAT THE TRANSMISION WAS STILL UNDER BECAUSE I DIDNT HAVE THE RECEIPT !THE SERIAL NUMBER DID IDENTIFY WHEN THE REBUILT ONE WAS BROUGHT,AND THE MILES THAT WERE RECORDED AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE,BUT FORD WOULDNT EVEN GIVE ME A GOOD WILL REPAIR BECAUSE THEY SAID NO PROOF WITHOUT RECEIPT!T

HIS IS A BUNCH OF BS WHEN IM STILL PAYING FOR THIS TRUCK AND ITS TRANSMITTION HAS ALREADY BEEN REBUILT TWICE!THE MILES I PUT ON IT IS LESS THAN NOTHING BECAUSE I ONLY DRIVE FROM POINT A TO POINT B!WHEN I SPOKE WITH FORD THEY STATED THAT IF I BRING THE TRUCK INPLEASE PEOPLE WE REALLY NEED A CLASS ACTION LAW SUITE ABOUT THIS!NO RECALLS HAS BEEN MADE THUS FAR AND ITS A CRYING SHAME WHEN YOU TRY TO PURSCHASE A SAFE VEHICLE THAT U CAN AFFORD TO CARGO YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN!I WANT MY MONEY BACK AND I PROMISE YOU I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER FORD AND I WILL DISCOURAGE ANYBODY ELSE WHO WILL

- , Fairless Hills, PA, USA

problem #35

Aug 152010

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 28,555 miles

Along with transmission failure, the same 2003 ford explored V8 has problem with Door ajar light coming on & going off when all doors are shut tight

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #34

Dec 162009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

My transmission died prematurely and had to be completely rebuilt for copious $$. This is very aggravating considering that it happed ~20K BEFORE the first maintenance was due! This should never happen to a well maintained vehicle. The mechanic showed me the part that failed due to metal fatigue. I replaced this vehicle with an Infiniti and will now confine its use to teaching my kids how to drive (go ahead Billy, bounce it off the curb!). Ford sucks and I'll never buy another one.

- , Calgary, AB, Canada

problem #33

Apr 272009

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,561 miles

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

P.O.C.!!! No really, this would be an awesome vehicle if it weren't for this problem. Shortly after buying it started leaking fluid so took it to Ford place & they said that it was overfull. ok it's a sealed transmission so I didn't put it in it. So the tool that sold it to me knew that the tranny was about to go out so I think that he doctored it. N E wayFord really needs to do something about this before they lose a lot of long time customers

- , Alto, GA, USA

problem #32

Dec 312008

Explorer EB 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

The 03 Explorer had the 02 tranny which is known for failure. First auto that I had to replace a tranny....grew up driving muscle cars that I drove hard.. but the ford is just weak and they know it.

- , Cumberland, ME, USA

problem #31

Nov 132009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles

DON'T EVER BUY A FORD! They do not stand behind their cars at all. I have had this car for less than 6 years and the transmission has completely failed. Ford refuses to cover it or even help me with a "Goodwill repair" as I have seen others suggest. The car is not even paid off yet, so why should I have to pay $4000 to repair it? What kind of company doesn't stand behind their product and then screws the customer when it breaks??

- , Thornton, CO, USA

problem #30

Aug 122009

Explorer XLT 4WD 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

Pretty typical based upon the posts I see here. Bottom line is: DO NOT BUY A FORD EXPLORER. Back in August, I was 400 miles away from home and the O/D light started flashing. Felt the gears slipping on th highway. I brought it to a national chain tranny shop and they dropped the tranny pan and showed me there were pieces of copper here and there (make sure you have them do this before they rip out your tranny, otherwise you are really stuck with repairing your tranny at their shop, which is exactly what they want). The copper washers on the planetary gears had shredded and pieces of it had jammed into some of the gears preventing them from being engaged. The slipping meant that the torque converter had burnt from the gears not engaging. So I had the whole tranny rebuilt (new torque converter, planetary gears, etc.). They also check the rear differential, the transfer case and front differential and replaced the fluids. BUT now only 3000 miles later (I kept the explorer mostly parked) the rear differential starts to wail. I went to the nearest national chain tranny shop and the guy won't own up that it is the differential. He test drove it and put it on a lift and heard all the noises, but he still wants me to come down there again so he can check the car again with a stethoscope to see where the noise is coming from. He so full of it and is stalling for time. You don't need a stet for that! You just place the Explorer in drive on a lift (courtesy of a friendly mechanic near my house) and put it in gear and you can feel the vibration by hand. The tranny went bad, now diff is bad and what's next? Do I hear wheel bearings? This vehicle is costing me a small fortune to maintain.

- , Norwalk, CT, USA

problem #29

Oct 012009

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

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

Dealer says, "Oh, there's a little pin in the tranny that wears out, and when it drops out, it screws everything up, unseats the OD belt, yada yada yada." So, the dealer knows what's wrong, he knows why it's wrong, and has clearly dealt with this many times before. You gonna tell me that Ford isn't aware of this, and is not AT LEAST warning their dealers to check these devastating little pins, so that maybe, just maybe, they could provide some sort of actual quality service and make some minimal attempt to do the right thing? This is really sad, because I like my explorer. The last one went well over 160,000 miles before my son totaled it. Am I expecting too much from American car dealers? Who, by the way, are in trouble market-wise because of behavior and products like this.

- , Helena, MT, USA

problem #28

Jan 022009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

Wish I knew about the transmission plague that affects ALL 2002-2004 Explorers before I bought wasted my money on this vehicle.

- , Middletown, NY, USA

problem #27

May 042009

Explorer LX 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

There is no reason why a car with only only 70,000miles should have to have a new transmission. The problem occured almost a year ago whern the car had less than 70,000 miles on it. When I took it to ford, thay quoted a pricem of $3,800.00 to replace the transmission. But since I could not efford that, I continued to drive the car with only three gears untill the car failed inspection due to an engine code, which rerquired me to finally have the transmission replaced. The man at the ford dealer told me that this was a regular problem with this transmission, and that he has seen several of these transmissions fail. Ford should be required to rercasll this transmission or at least provide a rebate for the repair costs.

- , Egg Harbor Twp., New Jersery, USA

problem #26

Apr 152008

Explorer XLS 4.0L L6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

A week after I bought this BRAND NEW vehicle, the dealer called to ask me how I liked it. I should have known something was up, because he then asked if it were shifting ok. So they definitely knew there were problems! It was only a week old when he asked, so I hadn't noticed anything at that time.

I'll never buy another Ford product... EVER. (As you'll read later... this is the FIRST of TWO transmission failures!) OH, you'll also read about $2000 in wheel bearings, a cracked panel beneath the rear window and the O/D light flashing. These ALL happened to me. Oh, I ALSO replaced the engine! What a piece of crap!

- , Honesdale, PA, USA

problem #25

Apr 052007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

add this to a long list of problems with this suv, from cracked rear lift gate panel to corrsion on the hood. Will never buy a ford again. simply can't afford to!!!!

- , Westland, MI, USA

problem #24

Apr 062009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,100 miles

Well, To start with over the past few weeks it has been not wanting to shift to park. Technician said it was a common problem with solenoid under steering wheel. So common that they have a tech note for it. Hmm . I took the bad part and it looks like it has a lot of play in it. The new one has no play. Doesn't look worn. 2nd problem is shifting. It has always shifted a little hard. O/D light came on yesterday and 2nd gear not working. Band problem. says needs replaced 2100 repair. Wow. GO Ford. Never again will I buy one.

- , Hutchinson, KS, USA

problem #23

Mar 112009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

What's the deal with Ford Explorer Transmissions? Are they undersized or what? They seem to be failing everywhere.

- , Lake In The Hills, IL, USA

problem #22

Jan 012009

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Our vehicle starting acting up by first the o.d. light started to flash and then the rpm would run high and not shift properly.. This transmission is a transmission from hell. If you get it rebuild be careful, our mechanic who is so honest and great really knew what he was doing and did a great job. He put a lot of time and really did his research to make sure the problem got fixed right. I know it was a nightmare for him on how difficult ford makes it to work on or fix. There really needs to be a recall done. If you have a problem with your transmission and you live in arizona beware of the big transmission guys, we have had friends who spent over $5000 and it is still not fixed.. Our guy was Nate with Solid Shift transmission, (480)986-3600 he is honest and fair. He will fix the problem.

- , Queen Creek, AZ, USA

problem #21

Oct 262008

Explorer Limited 4.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,968 miles

I noticed my transmission slipping around 27Oct 29th 2008, took it to a Ford dealership for what I presumed was perhaps a needed transmission flush, the service manger told me that I had a transmission problem and that the transmission can go at any time, two days, two months or two years, took the vehicle home that night, the transmission failed to engage, had the vehicle towed to AAMCO for a free diagnostic, was told that the transmission is gone and would have to be rebuilt at a cost ranging from 2500 to 3500, I then called Fords national number told them that I am a (4) time Explorer owner and ask if there is any help or assistance that I can receive form ford, I was told that Ford will honor any price assistance given to me by any local Ford dealership to repair my transmission, I called my local dealership and told them what National had told me, they said that they would repair the transmission for $2200 out of the door, later that day that number was reduced to $1900, I told AAMCO to please move my vehicle to the designated Ford dealership, after about 5 days I received a call from the dealership telling me that the vehicle is finished and was test driven and everything was ok,, then it was test driven again later that day and a problem was discovered and now the Valve body would have to be replaced at a cost of an additional $400.00. I got my vehicle back then after about 10 days I noticed that the transmission was slipping again and there was leak spots on my driveway, I took it back to the dealer and was told that some seal in the transmission is leaking, however it is under warranty, but I should replace some sort of Pump within the transmission for and additional $300.....this is the classic bait and switch, they are the professional and should be competent and experienced enough to diagnose and fix a transmission. The $1900 is now $ 2600; I am done with FORD after over 15 years of loyalty.

- , Woodbridhe, VA, USA

problem #20

Sep 082008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Ford has a "sealed" automatic transmission in this model, which means exactly that. No dipstick! You can't check the fluid, you have to take it to a Ford dealer, or a specialty Transmission shop, which will cost you a lot of money, just for a check! Our transmission was starting to slip badly at 75,000 miles, so we had it checked for $300. They said the transmission fluid was dirty, and there was metal and clutch mater in the transmission. It needed to be replaced for around $4,000 ! We have taken very good care of this vehicle, and it is a disgrace that it should go out at so few miles. A sealed transmission is Ford's way of saying "screw you"!

- , Minden, NV, USA

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