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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.

7.7

pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
$2,428.00
Average Mileage:
77,347 miles
Total Complaints:
39 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace transmission (17 reports)
  2. not sure (16 reports)
  3. possible replace fluid body valve (3 reports)
  4. replace transmission solenoid body (2 reports)
  5. had inspected - suspect air in line (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #39

Nov 262013

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,300 miles

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

bought this vehicle about a year ago for my twin sons. trans was slipping when i took to repair shop they said it was worked on before. common problem with these fords! says company not doing anything about it. its a recurring problem! ford knows that these transmissions are defective!!

- , NUTLEY, New Jersey, USA

problem #38

May 012012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Ever since I bought it in 2006 I have had tranny problems, but now the O/D Off light keeps flashing and it clunks in gear. I hate the fact that you cannot check your own fluid level, and that Ford Transmissions are nothing but problems

- , Clarksburg, MD, USA

problem #37

Jul 042012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L. V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,010 miles

To start I have figured out that if you own a Ford Explorer just be ready to replace transmissions every 45000 to 50000 miles. I have had my Ford Explorer back to another transmission shop and found out, yup here I go again, the only fix for the transmission is to replace it, verified by different independent shops. I love Ford hate the transmission!!!!!!

- , Saint Cloud, FL, USA

problem #36

Dec 262011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,787 miles

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

After 93000 non-abusive miles, the transmission started to fail in my 2003 Ford Explorer. Although the local dealer was glad to fix it, the repair cost was on us. In researching this problem on line, it is obviously a problem Ford needs to issue a recall on.

- , Fort Smith, AR, USA

problem #35

Jul 012011

Explorer LTX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,777 miles

I would put my car in reverse and sometimes my vehicle is cut off. As I making a turn or just driving sometimes, my car would just make a loud bump sound.

- , Stone Mountain, GA, USA

problem #34

Nov 242011

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,660 miles

To be clear, I have always taken care of my vehicles religiously. I work close to home & don't put on an long, hard miles on my truck. About a month ago, I started hearing a loud hum in the front end once I hit 50MPH and above. I took it to my mechanic & he thought it was a hub bearing issue. I was told to add a few more miles to it & bring it back in a few weeks. A few days later, the tranny started to slip & the O/D light started flashing. I had to have it towed. It turns out, not only did I need to have the tranny rebuilt, the hub bearing had to be fixed, both ball joints were bad & I also need to get the transfer case fixed. I am so angry & disgusted that this happened to a truck with low mileage. I had a 1987 Jeep that I had for 18 years with 200,000+ K om it, no issues whatsoever! The only reason why I bought a new truck was because I was hesitant to drive an old truck with a newborn. If I knew then what I knew now...NEVER again with I purchase another Ford...I wish I still had that old Jeep...and for what it's worth, a 'closed system' is absurd, maintenance free my a**...they do this so they'll make more money of you in the long run...way to go Ford... I'm one disappointed, angry Ford 'Exploder' customer...

- , Kings Park, NY, USA

problem #33

Apr 212011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles

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

HI all please excuse me, new to this.

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT V6 with 127,000. I recently started having a shifting problem, from stopped to 1st gear,When I brake hard then release the brake to accelerate it would usually take about 3 sec for tranny to go to gear. It will do it most of the time but when it comes time for a mechanic to test it shifts fine, can some one please help me diagnose this problem. No Check Engine light on, all fluids normal.

Thank you.

- , Cranston, RI, USA

problem #32

Jun 012010

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,700 miles

Had transmission problem, shifting ruff, warning light on. Went to local ford dealership, Bea Townsend Ford, Vandalia, Ohio to have problem checked. Was told by service writer that to tell me the problem would cost me $96.00. Then told me that the shop would not know if they could repair the problem without taking the transmission out of vehicle and tearing it apart. When I question him about what would happen if the mechanic could ot fix the problem what would my options be. He told me that I would have to replace the transmission at a cost of $3000.00. I alos questioned him about the fact that the vehicle only had 51000 miles on it, was serviced per specs. He told me that it "was 7 years old". I then asked him since when does a damn car have a born on date and that a transmission should not fail under light driving conditions at 51000 miles, my wife drive the vehicle, 1 1/2 miles to work one way. I then asked him about trying to have Ford cover the repair and he told me no, that he would not even to attempt to do so. I drove the car out of the dealership to an independent shop and have the transmission fixed at a cost of $1700. plus the $96.00 it cost me to have this idiot tell me that the transmission was broken. I knew that when I drove into the shop. Been a Ford customer the past 30 years, same dealership, will never own or buy another Ford because of this treatment I recieved.Note; I received a customer satisfaction form in the mail and it stated that if there was any problems with the service to call the dealership and talk to the service manager. I did this, he was not in, I left my info with the person I talked to and NEVER received a call back. See ya Beau Townsened Ford Dealership and see ya Ford.

- , Vandalia, OH, USA

problem #31

Jan 132011

Explorer XLS 4.0V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,141 miles

I BOUGHT THE CAR IN GOOD FAITH FROM AN AUCTION WITH THE US MARSHALL'S! THEY HAD TO KNOW IT WAS BAD BECAUSE IT WAS A POLICE CAR I FOUND OUT! BUT THE ONLY THING THEY TOLD ME ABOUT WAS THE RECALLS! THE CARFAX DID NOT TELL IT EITHER BECAUSE THEY OBVIOUSLY KEPT IT A SECRET! I AM OUT A CAR AND MONEY SO NOW WHAT?

- , Flemington, NJ, USA

problem #30

May 012010

Explorer XLT 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

Purchased new in 2002 On 5/1/10 the O/D light started to flash for the first time ever. I called my local guy and he said pull it over and let the truck sit for 30 seconds the computer should reset itself. Did this and it worked for about 1 mile. I was on my way to a relatives funeral so I could not turn back. Upon continuing to drive the check engine light now showed up. When at a stop the engine would rev up to 4.5 in order to start moving. After having it TOWED I discover that I need a new/rebuilt transmission??? REALLY?!? No indication that there was ever a problem prior to this other than an occasional clunk sound when putting vehicle in reverse (maybe 4 times or so over the life of the truck)

- , Thompson, CT, USA

problem #29

Jan 152010

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 175,000 miles

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

My mother has a 2003 Explorer, and she was driving it last Friday when she noticed that it felt like the tranny was slipping then grabbing, jerking the truck forward. she said that it was doing this constantly. We didn't drive it until today, when my parents went bring it to our mechanic. They called back, and said that the transmission solenoid body needs to be replaced. they said that it was going to cost a little more than $500, which is a lot cheaper than what we were thinking we would have to pay. The Explorer has about 175,000 miles on it, so it lasted way longer than most of the explorers that are listed on this website.But im not sure if this is going to be the correct fix or not. we'll have to wait and see once we get it back.

- , Sparta, MI, USA

problem #28

Nov 242009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,100 miles

Had a 7 year 75,000 bumper to bumper warranty. Through that time period, had transfer case replaced, three wheel bearings replaced, plus numerous other issues including replacing all four brake rotors. Parking brake "boot" was jammed and was replaced under warranty as well. The part-time 4WD would kick in to 4WD Hi on random occasions (tires were all even, and this occurred when new tires were installed as well). After the warranty period, the next 20,000 miles were fairly uneventful. Around 99,000 miles, the alternator failed (this was the first time the car actually broke down and could not be driven). Cost was $400+ tax. Had inspection done at 101,000 miles and car needed new rotors on all four wheels (again), new brake pads, both rear springs needed replaced. Cost for the inspection, $1,100. A few days later, transmission started slipping. Actually, the car wouldn't go into third gear unless you pulled your foot off the gas prior to the transmission shifting into third. Took it to local transmission shop and they ran a pressure test on the transmission. Would not hold pressure, so they quoted $660 to remove the transmission, inspect it to determine the problem, and re-install the broken transmission. This meant spending $660 and the transmission would still need to be fixed. Was told by the transmission shop that they were 90% sure it would be the servo piston. Cost would be around $3,100 total for removal and repair. Was also told that if it's not the servo piston, the transmission would need to be rebuilt/replaced. Cost would be in the $4,500 range. After spending over $1,500 in the last few months and having to spend at least another $3,100, I took it to a dealer and traded it in on a 2010 Toyota 4 Runner. This is the third Ford I've owned (1991 Escort, 1996 Sable), and the third transmission which needed to be replaced. This will be the last Ford I will ever own. I also told Ford I would never buy one of their vehicles again (prior to buying the Explorer) and broke my word by buying another one. Guaranteed it will be my last Ford now.

- , Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #27

Jul 012009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

My transmission is clunking from 2nd to 3rd gear. It also hesitates when shifting into reverse. I am afraid to bring it to the shop after reading these posts. there should be a damn recall. Anybody live near Portland, OR that can direct me to a shop that is inexpensive that will fix my tranny?

- , Rainier, OR, USA

problem #26

Mar 232009

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

I am the original owner of a 2003 6-cylinder Ford Explorer. At about 60,000 miles the transmission started slipping and also the o/d light came on and remained on. I brought the car back to Ford under the warranty, and they repaired it no cost because of the warranty, costing the company of over two thousand dollars. I now have 93,000 miles on my Explorer and the transmission is beginning to slip again this time I don't have a warranty.

I took good care of this SUV and yet it has transmission problems. I don't understand why.

- , Staten Island, New York, USA

problem #25

Nov 202008

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Well I took my truck to Ford to see if the trans was recalled. Surprise, NOPE!!!! I had them replace it anyway with a rebuilt unit. They said that they don't sell new units. Know it's been less than 3,000 miles and the new trans already failed. Well I'll be back to update this post. Whether it's from jail or not is too soon to tell. I'll never buy a Ford product again. I sent a 1999 Contour to the junk yard with 80,000 miles on it. The dealer couldn't fix it and neither could I. I spent 4,000 on that car too.

- , Personal, IL, USA

problem #24

Oct 012008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

When I go from P to D, there is a slight delay in engagement. 6 months ago I had fluid & filter changed. I had a local transmission shop evaluate the vehicle. They were surprised they didn't find a bigger issue. Supposedly this transmission shop sees a lot of Explorers with transmission issues.

- , Zeeland, MI, USA

problem #23

Sep 172008

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

Transmission slips and jumps gears giving a jerking feeling while driving. Also on occasion it will hesitate when shifting from Park to Drive or Reverse then suddenly jump into gear.

- , State College, PA, USA

problem #22

Sep 062008

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

Noticed that the gears seemed to clunk when going from 2nd to 3rd. Then the gears seemed to slip and car was going nowhere. I don't drive this car hard at all! This is my baby ... only 3 payments to go! Now I have to shell out another $2500 to repair the friggen transmission!!

- , Arvada, CO, USA

problem #21

Jul 112008

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

This happened to my friends mountaineer as well. I am just disappointed with Ford. Many people have the same problem and there is no solution, just temporary fixes.

- , Sterling Heights, MI, USA

problem #20

Jun 132008

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

When I hit the gas hard it gets up and moves, but it feels like the gears on the tranny or clutch or something slip a bunch when I do that. Also, when the transmission shifts, it feels like it "bumps" into gear. You feel three jerks as it shifts into gear. This doesn't happen often when I go really slow, but I can't even get on the interstate without it happening.

Piece of junk!!

I just bought it last February and the trade value is less than what I paid for it, so now I'm upside down on the loan. Someone please tell me what the hell is going on and tell me whether its worth keeping the Explorer or just trading it in and taking a three thousand dollar hit.

- , Frostburg, MD, USA

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