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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:
$545.00
Average Mileage:
80,492 miles
Total Complaints:
69 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace wheel bearing (41 reports)
  2. replace complete hub assembly (19 reports)
  3. not sure (7 reports)
  4. Ford should recall (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 4)

problem #69

Jun 202014

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 164,181 miles

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

This is at least the 2nd time in 3 years that the wheel bearings went. May have been only 20,000 miles. No off-roading. I had a 1994 Explorer for 15 years 114,000miles and never had to replace the wheel bearings. Already had the front diff. serviced in March 2014 for $693, oil change, air filter, coolant flush, front pinion seal, 4 new tires, transmission flush, and 4 wheel alignment for a total of $2183. Then 1 week later exhaust leak that needed a new flange and gasket for $192. So far a total of $4035 with taxes. Had the rust removed last year for $1700.

I find that this used Explorer is costing about $2000 per year in average repairs. The 1994 averaged maybe $400.

- , Seneca Falls, NY, USA

problem #68

Feb 272013

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,630 miles

Front end humming , thought it was bad roads . Nope , both front wheel bearings were bad . Design doesn't allow for just bearing replacement . Complete hub replacement necessary. Ford should be ashamed of this design . We took great care of this vehicle . My 1996 crown vic has 191,000 miles on the original bearings with no problems.

- , Hugo, MN, USA

problem #67

Dec 172012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Wheel bearing failure at about 100,000 is NOT normal.

- , N, DE, USA

problem #66

Dec 012012

Explorer LT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

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

I am surprised such a major problem happened so easily? It has potential to snap wheel off while car is moving. This clearly exposes poor quality of vehicle design and manufacturing.

- , Seal Beach, CA, USA

problem #65

Mar 092012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 200,000 miles

I have had one 1996 explorer XLT before and I loved it because it was my first car, that being said I have quite an extensive amount of time crawling over the inside and out of my car because the transfer case S*it on me about 15,000 miles after i bought it off of my parents for $1,000, but I would consider 450,000 miles a long life for an 'exploder' this one has almost 200,000 miles on it and the wheel bearing is going out on the passenger side probably because the grease boot was off its clamps, this kind of failure I can deal with, it was my error for not checking it regularly. So let this be a warning to you if your looking at this: CHECK YOUR BOOTS!!!!!!!

- , Myrtle Beach, SC, USA

problem #64

Oct 052011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

I had to replace both front wheel bearings within weeks of each other...$600 total. Here we are a month later and now I'm getting ready to replace one of the rear wheel bearings...another $300. I'm just waiting on the 4th one to need replacing also.

- , Springfield, OH, USA

problem #63

Mar 052008

Explorer Eddie BauerXLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,681 miles

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

the wheel bearing failing caused a really awful humming noise and costs a fortune to get it fixed

- , Hamilton, Ontario, canada

problem #62

Sep 102010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

This is one of the many, MANY things that has gone wrong with my explorer. I had to replace the passenger side hub assembly (while away on a trip) and now the driver's side is shot as well. And after reading the posts on this site, I am almost certain the humming noise that I've been attributing to my tires is the rear bearings/hubs. Awesome. Thank you Ford for sticking it to someone who, even after taking one in the rear with his 2-door sport, decided he would give you another try. I will never buy another Ford. Ever.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #61

Mar 022011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,567 miles

just found out the front wheel bearing is gooing out on my truck cant belive how much it gonna cost just read all other complaint on the same thing please let me know if the any recalls i cant afford to fix this

- , Crawfordville, FL, USA

problem #60

Mar 242011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,000 miles

Regrettably I must add a comment to this site. I too have a 2003 Ford Explorer with 129K miles on it. The vehicle is my pride and joy, and I love it! However, I noticed that the vehicle swayed at highway speeds. While dropping my 1995 Toyota Corolla off at the mechanic to replace the left front wheel hub and bearings (227K miles), I happened to make mention to the mechanic that the Explorer sways at highway speeds. He agreed to diagnosis the problem. The next day the mechanic called my cell and stated he took the 2003 Ford Explorer for a test drive and it was all over the road. He remarked that it made no noise and he was amazed to find that both the left front and rear bearings were so badly worn that the wheels could have dislodged and caused serious injury or death. The mechanic replaced the left hubs and bearings at a cost of$669.00. Last year I had the rear differential replaced and I only drive the truck on weekends. Sadly, my wife is now afraid to drive the Ford and would prefer to drive the Toyota. Frankly, I’m coming to the same conclusion as just this evening the ABS light came on and I’m certain it will cost another several hundred dollars. My next stop after this repair will be to the Toyota dealership.

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #59

Apr 182011

Explorer 4.0L V6 Flex Fuel

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

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

click to see larger images

front wheel bearing failure front wheel bearing failure front wheel bearing failure

I purchased this vehicle from a government fleet auction at about 77,000 miles for $10,000. At that time it would make a whining/ whistling sound in cold weather on the highway. At about 90,000 miles the car started to vibrate and hum/ whine on the highway, and make a whirring noise when making a sharp turn. I thought it was the transfer case or rear differential, but it turned out to be the front bearings. I went to Napa and purchased two bearings for $150 each (the cheaper ones go bad fast) and installed them myself. All the noise and vibration went away. If you are thinking about doing this yourself please keep reading. This is no simple task because there are three bolts that fasten the front hub to the steering knuckle, and they are so tight that I broke a wrench and a ratchet, and in the end had to cut them apart with a cut-off grinder through the small gap that I created. I am healthy and strong, but with all my 210 lbs. ape strength and a breaker-bar, break-loose spray, and a blow torch, I couldn’t get the things to hardly budge. A bearing pulley is necessary to get the axle out of the hub to get a socket over the screw head, and a 5lb slide hammer is absolutely necessary to pull the hub forward out of the steering knuckle. It may be worth it to just pay the $400 -$700 and have a shop do it. So, I got the bearings fixed, and now after getting the transmission fluid changed at a transmission shop, the owner found a piece of what looks like a snap ring and metal shavings. Oh boy!

Update from Jun 24, 2011: I purchased this vehicle from a government fleet auction at about 77,000 miles for $10,000. At that time it would make a whining/ whistling sound in cold weather on the highway. At about 90,000 miles the car started to vibrate and hum/ whine on the highway, and make a whirring noise when making a sharp turn. I thought it was the transfer case or rear differential, but it turned out to be the front bearings. I went to Napa and purchased two bearings for $150 each (the cheaper ones go bad fast) and installed them myself. All the noise and vibration went away. If you are thinking about doing this yourself please keep reading. This is no simple task because there are three bolts that fasten the front hub to the steering knuckle, and they are so tight that I broke a wrench and a ratchet, and in the end had to cut them apart with a cut-off grinder through the small gap that I created. I am healthy and strong, but with all my 210 lbs. ape strength and a breaker-bar, break-loose spray, and a blow torch, I couldn’t get the things to hardly budge. A bearing pulley is necessary to get the axle out of the hub to get a socket over the screw head, and a 5lb slide hammer is absolutely necessary to pull the hub forward out of the steering knuckle. It may be worth it to just pay the $400 -$700 and have a shop do it. So, I got the bearings fixed, and now after getting the transmission fluid changed at a transmission shop, the owner found a piece of what looks like a snap ring and metal shavings. Oh boy! For more detailed instructions on changing the front bearings swing by: http://conceptxchange.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/changing-the-front-hub-assembly-on-a-2003-ford-explorer/

- , Spokane Valley, WA, USA

problem #58

Feb 212011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

I used to love my truck. It starting to cost way too much the way it is built the labor is most of the bill,which is ridiculous.

- , Methuen, MA, USA

problem #57

Oct 012010

Explorer Sport v-6

  • 82,341 miles

Kind of pissed off. I just bought this used piece of crap from Car city thinking I obtained a nice vehicle. Had it for nine months and only put just a little over 3,000 miles on it just to find out the hubs are failing. Looked up the issue on the internet to just find too many complaints to count from others with the same issue. If anybody knows how to force Ford to do a recall let me know I will help out. This is a serious and expensive issue for people to be driving these vehicles. Now I have to wait to fix it because I don't have the money in this day and age thanks to the economy but now I have to not only replace the hub but get new tires also. I think that the tires should be replaced by Ford also due to the fact that they were worn due to the hub issue. I'll seriously be pissed If I have to replace the brakes and rotors too because of this. I now have a dead vehicle that I'm paying on but can't drive. If I wasn't worried about my credit I would let the damn thing go.

- , Muskegon, MI, USA

problem #56

Oct 192010

Explorer NBX 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

Vehicle had been making a humming noise from the front driver's side wheel. The noise got so bad that we got it checked out. Our mechanic thought it was just the driver's side bearing, but he checked the other one and it's bad too! He said he's never seen both wear out at once like that. The cost is $387 per wheel. Reading all the complaints, it's obvious that something is wrong and Ford should have issued a recall!! Crossing my fingers the right side bearing doesn't completely fail before I can afford to get it fixed.

Update from Oct 21, 2010: Just wanted to clarify that the hub assembly was replaced.

- , Loudon, NH, USA

problem #55

Jun 302010

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

I just got done paying off this vehicle and a week later it started making a humming vibrating noise in the front end. (It figures!) After MUCH investigating at auto shops - looks like it is the front right bearing. Mechanic said I might want to start looking for a different vehicle sometime soon - before this one nickels and dimes me to death!

- , Fridley, MN, USA

problem #54

May 032010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

What a pain in the rear. This is my second go round. Extensive repair for the do it yourself mechanic. Expensive even if you do it yourself. I was quoted at $1,300.00 for the front alone. GET OUT OF HERE.....

NEVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN. JUST SAY NO TO FORD EXPLORER.

- , Cottage Grove, WI, USA

problem #53

Jul 012010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

BOTH front end bearings out at the same time...with less than 84,000 miles. ABS light went off... had ABS modules replaced...light came back on... had Sears do a free front end evaluation. Found the problem. I filed a complaint to hopefully start a recall on this problem. http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/index.cfm If you have this problem too, please file a complaint and get Ford to fix this issue!!!!

- , Dalton, GA, USA

problem #52

Jul 012009

Explorer Sport

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

FORD EXPLORERS SUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Front passenger side hub blew out at 75,000 miles now at77,000 miles drivers side hub is shot.Will NEVER buy another Ford,will seriously have to think about it if I am offered one for free.Nothing is free when is comes to owning a Ford.

Front wheel completely locked up while I was driving, luckily I was on a back road. Tried replacing it with a used hub bearing to save a little but now have to replace both sides. Needed all new front and back rotors, pads and tires just to try to pass inspection otherwise like others on here I'm making payments and paying insurance on a vehicle that's undrivable. Wish I would have known about all these complaints before.

- , Beaver Falls, PA, USA

problem #51

Apr 102010

Explorer 4X Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

We had the right front bearing replaced and now the left front is gone. The mechanic has said this is a normal occurrence for the '03 Explorer. I cannot understand why Ford does not issue a recall and fix this issue. We also had the back strut assemblies go two months ago and this again was not something new to the mechanic. thanks ford!

- , Cos Cob, CT, USA

problem #50

Mar 262010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,000 miles

bought vehicle used about 2 yrs ago. had tires replaced 2 times and now finding out why we had to replace tires so much.....wheel bearings. cant get out the cheap way 132.00 each side. nope... I gotta spend 250.00 each side that doesn't include labor. I cant afford this expense , cant drive the damn vehicle, but still have to make payments on it and keep insurance on it. I think ford should recall these and fix them,otherwise this is my last ford product.too many people with the same year have had this same problem.

This is too dangerous for my family to ride around in this piece of crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Camden, TN, USA

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