If you find CarComplaints.com is helpful ... We rely completely on word of mouth. Talk about us on Facebook, Twitter, tell your mother-in-law. Help us help more people.

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:
$2,627.00
Average Mileage:
96,302 miles
Total Complaints:
70 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace/rebuild transmission (55 reports)
  2. not sure (10 reports)
  3. belt/clutch repair (2 reports)
  4. rebuild / replace transmission (2 reports)
  5. rebuild transmission (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 4)

problem #70

Jun 062009

Explorer Limited 3..2L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

problem #56

Apr 102008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,000 miles

This car is a lemon. The transmission failed at 53000 miles, just out of warranty, which means it started to fail before then, within warranty. At about the same time we had a sensor problem that impacts the airbags, we had that serviced 4 times and it was never fixed, I gave up on bringing it back.

The car now has 106,000 miles and I've replaced both front bearing assemblies 2x each. Last we just had the transmission serviced again because the transmission computer went. I went through the process of contacting their customer support, only to be told there was nothing they could do.

I could rant about the car for pages, but I rather vote with my wallet.

Sincerely,

I will never again buy a ford - and I'll share my experience

- , South Easton, MA, USA

problem #55

May 192011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

as i see this problem goes without saying a word. every complaint i have read is speaking loudly about this vehicle that i own

it sits in the parking lot because i am unable to fix it but i must finish paying for it

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #54

Oct 092011

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 152,000 miles

Well maintained and much needed as I have 6 drivers in the family and 5 vehicles. Paying a few college tuitions and then this happens. I have been a loyal Ford owner for one or more of my vehicles and now after just replacing brakes, alternator and battery this happens. During the Obama years I have NOT been able to afford a new car or get a fair loan so I have accepted keeping what I have. Going out today to see what I can do about it. Sorry to have read on so many other comments that it is common and FORD will do nothing about it.

- , Frisco, TX, USA

problem #53

Jul 292011

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 146,000 miles

click to see larger images

transmission failure transmission failure transmission failure transmission failure transmission failure transmission failure

To fix the transmission the following was necessary: 1 new assembly set 1 new filter w/400 inlet 1 new band intermediate 1 new band intermediate 12 new trans fluid filled to manufacturers specification Exchange rebuilt torque converter Planet carrier

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #52

Jun 292010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6 Vink

  • Automatic transmission
  • 300,000 miles

Ok, hopefully this will get onto the right page.

I own a 2003 Exp. While on vacation I had the engine completely fail, so I replaced it with a newly rebuilt 4.0 v6 vin K that I rebuilt myself. After less than 5k miles on that, the trans fails. After several times of pulling and replacing the trans I find that it is going to require total trans replacement.

Much of the same issue has been previously reported here. O/D light blinks, check engine light comes on. Mine also vomited all of its' fluid out onto the highway on the way to work.

The problem: this transmission (E55W) was an experimental model from their designers that was supposed to be a 'maintenance free' model. There is no dipstick with which to check the fluid level, so your recourse is to take it to a dealer, yet they cannot check the fluid levels. The only thing they can do is hook it up to a specifically designed machine that extracts 'all' of the fluid and replaces it with new fluid. (Any mechanic can tell you that the only way to remove ALL of the fluid is to take out the trans and remove the torque converter and drain that as well, it holds an additional 4 quarts above what the trans holds, for a total of 14.5 quarts, at $5.99 per quart, plus a filter replacement.

Since there is no way to maintain the transmission it IS going to have problems. I know that I got lucky by mine lasting 300k miles, but that is not the point. For the people of this world that are mechanically inclined, you should be able to maintain a vehicle the way it is required to keep it in good mechanically working condition.

Thank you FoMoCo for putting a piece of $HIT Ford Exploder on the market that cannot be maintained in the appropriate manner.

- , Rockvale, TN, USA

problem #51

Mar 302011

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,929 miles

OUR 2003 FORD EXPLORER TRANSMISSION HAD TO BE REPLACED AT 70929 MILES. FORD MOTOR CO KNEW THEY HAD A PROBLEM BUT DID NOT ALERT OWNERS OR DO A RECALL. I THINK THIS IS POOR BUSINESS ON FORD'S PART. THEY SHOULD AT LEAST COVER SOME OF THE COSTS OF REPAIR. THIS WAS A BIG EXPENSE FOR US AS MY HUSBAND IS RETIRED AND I WOULD LIKE TO RETIRE. BUT WITH EXPENSE LIKE THIS I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO.

- , Perryville, MO, USA

Read the next 20 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?