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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.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
100,300 miles
Total Complaints:
76 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace/rebuild transmission (57 reports)
  2. not sure (11 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 1 of 4)

problem #76

Oct 162013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,514 miles


This is obviously a defect in the transmission from the manufacturer. Paid to have the original transmission rebuilt.

- , Middlebury, Indiana, USA

problem #75

Feb 232015

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 173,149 miles

Rebuild on factory transmission only lasted 16 months/32,000 miles! This is OBVIOUSLY a manufacturer defective transmission and I DO NOT have another $2,000 to pay to rebuild this transmission again!

- , Middlebury, Indiana, USA

problem #74

Feb 022015

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

On my way to work, on a cold Michigan February morning, my Explorer did not want to shift gears. Dash light kept saying check transmission. The o/d light was staying on, the truck would only do low speeds, then catch up and able to do speed limit. Just a few miles from work it got worse, would not want to drive at all. I was able to pull over at a gas station, found out I had no reverse, and vehicle would only drive forward if I shut engine off, restart put in gear drive for a hundred feet or so, and repeat process. Transmission shop was nearby were I was at so I drove this way for about 2 miles. Mechanic told me sounded like transmission was gone and it would be 2400-2600 dollars. He said there are only 2 types of Explorers, ones that have transmissions, and ones the that need them.(Tauruses as well). He also said he does one a week as well. No reverse, No 3rd gear, broken band, damage to housing, $2600 later it does run great.

- , Belleville, MI, USA

problem #73

Apr 032013

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 163,010 miles


I had several Explorers in my life, after visiting Ford and getting laughed at I decided to look up all the vins of my Explorers and submit a complaint on each one because they all had problems and I'm hoping this will get us noticed so we can get our money back or a free service (RECALL)

- , Madison, South Dakota, USA

problem #72

Oct 032014

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 166,000 miles

Was told that this was a rebuilt transmission and needed new gear, and wiring harness.

- , Seneca Falls, NY, USA

problem #71

Jul 112014

Explorer XLT 3.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

problem with the transmission ,it takes too long to sh*t to second gear ,od light flashing ,check engine came on.

- , Concord, MA, USA

problem #70

Jun 062009

Explorer Limited 3..2L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


Had these truck problems ever since I had it, paint job on the front end /changed tire wheels /seat came loose/tail gate cracked and last but not least transmission went out as soon as I finished paying for it. Had so many Explorers owner say the same thing that why I don't understand why there was no recall for transmissions

- , Chgo, IL, USA

problem #69

Dec 012013

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 152,000 miles

It seems the transmission is not serviceable which means I have to replaced it. 150,000 miles seems too soon for a major repair like this but more importantly the inability to service is not acceptable.

- , Ridgefield, CT, USA

problem #68

Nov 032013

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 200,000 miles

Ford should really do a recall on this problem. as i have done research,there seems to be so much transmission troubles with the ford explorer. this is a very expensive job to be done and i just don't have the money to repair it.

- , Kapolei, HI, USA

problem #67

Jun 082012

Explorer EX 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,000 miles

had to have the transmission completely rebuilt at only 117K

- , Noblesville, IN, USA

problem #66

Jul 112012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,000 miles


Transmission failed like they all eventually will on this model.

- , newburgh, IN, USA

problem #65

Jul 162010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I am having the same transmission problems as the others, needing a transmission with less than a hundred thousand miles on it. I called Ford Customer Care and they said that there was no recall nor could they assist me in any way to get it repaired. I am really in a BAD SITUATION.

I live 25+ miles from my job and there is no public transportation and I do not have another car nor do I have $2500 lying around.

- , Zebulon, NC, USA

problem #64

Jun 012012

Explorer LX 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

not only the trans on my 03 explorer, the hatch glass hinges were replaced and the hatch door plastic cracked at the ford logo......these same problems happened to my 04 explorer!!!

- , Stanhope, N.J, USA

problem #63

Nov 282012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

Transmission failure at 107,000 miles is NOT normal.

Ford dealer charged $123 to diagnose transmission failure.

Diagnosis fee is EXCESSIVE.

Paid independent local auto repair shop to install Jasper transmission.

- , N, DE, USA

problem #62

Feb 282012

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,500 miles

Traveling I95 thru S. Carolina 3am, Overdrive light began flashing, truck experiencing shift problems, then check engine light came on. Scared/worried about continued operation of vehicle. Desolate stretch of highway, no help, 500 miles from home, had to continue on. Had to adjust gas pedal after having to stop in order to get vehicle to shift. Driving for 40 years, never had transmission problem. Take care of my vehicles. Called Ford received standard reply. "Out of Warranty". Did some research, hundreds of complaints on internet pertaining to this transmission. AAMCO states its common for these vehicles. Stated it is either the side piston and spring or total rebuild. They haven't opened it up yet. Rebuilt $2500.00. Ford hiding under desk. hoping everyone will go away. Won't accept responsibility for their design flaw. Never buy another FORD. Spread the word, the only thing they will understand is getting hit in the pocket. Consumer Reports dropped Fords reliability ranking to #20 from #10. Source Bloomberg News article by Keith Naughton.

- , Georgetown, DE, USA

problem #61

Aug 092012

Explorer Limited 5.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

This vehicle is a real piece of work. From the last day of its warranty until its death. Which was today. It has been nothing but a headache. You name the problem, this vehicle has had it. I will never buy a ford again.

- , Melrose, MA, USA

problem #60

May 262009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L. V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

Bought this vehicle used, from a Ford dealer on Long Island New York, noticed after driving it home and getting out of vehicle then right back in to the vehicle when I went to put in reverse the engine just revved with no transmission engagement. After revving the engine a couple of times the transmission engaged. I called the dealer and because of New York law they ended up replacing the transmission. Which meant renting a vehicle while they replaced the transmission, this was not covered and it took a week. I found later Ford did not do the work a local transmission shop did.

- , Saint Cloud, FL, USA

problem #59

Mar 292012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

My car was working good and all of a sudden the O/D and check engine lights went off. Obviously, I do not have the money to fix it so I wait a week, while driving on the fwy with my baby in the car the car completely died without warning. At first I thought it was the battery and went out to have it replaced, which of course did not fix the problem. I decided to check online and in checking all the posts on the ford explorers and issues with the transmission decided to get it checked at a transmission shop. Sure enough the issue was the transmission and with that came the cost of $2,000. I had to borrow money to get it fixed since I do not have the option of buying a new car. With all the issues with the transmission why is there no class action suit against Ford. It is unfair that we have to deal with what is obviously a Ford manufacturer problem, that is undisclosed none the less. Shouldn't this fall under the "Lemon Law"?

- , Ontario, CA, USA

problem #58

Jul 012011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

I can't believe that Ford won't recall this transmission. There are thousands of complaints about this transmission. I had mine rebuilt and it failed again shortly after the waranty expired from the transmission shop. And they know that this one is a problem so they jacked up the price on this year's replacement transmission. It is an out and out consumer ripoff.

- , Wadmalaw Island, SC, USA

problem #57

Mar 012012

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,000 miles

I bought my 2003 explorer about 2 weeks ago.I just tried to go to the store and my transmission would not work in any gear. I recently experienced what everyone else is complaining about tranny slipping and jerking when changing gears, this is a problem that ford needs to fix by making a recall, this is the true meaning of Found On Roadside Dead. problems like this is the reason why people buy foreign cars...

- , Deltona, FL, USA

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