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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.

7.4

pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
$552.00
Average Mileage:
94,112 miles
Total Complaints:
22 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replaced wheel bearings (20 reports)
  2. not sure (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #22

Nov 202013

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 282,000 miles

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

I promise you I will never ever buy another Ford product again. I purchased a 2003 Ford Explorer after talking with friends and was told they are great vehicles. What they didn't know is that the 2003 model has a chronic problem with wheel bearings. I bought the vehicle in 2010 with 110,000 miles on it and drove it for my work and put another 140,000 miles on it in a little over two years. I am a traveling salesman. In that time I had to replace wheel bearings six times. I retired the vehicle a year ago and have put less than 10,000 miles on it since the last wheel bearing was replaced. I have been hearing noises and checked the right rear bearing today and found that it needs to be replaced. This is ridiculous. The engine runs great and does not burn oil at all and I replaced the transmission at 250,000 miles. I planned on keeping the vehicle because I have put so much into it. I may have to cut my losses or find a wheel bearing with a lifetime warranty. Seven wheel bearing failures in two years is absolutely absurd. That's over $2000 for wheel bearing replacement alone. No warranty on this last one because it's for 12,000 miles or 12 months. It's been over a year even though not over 12,000 miles. No bearing should fail with that little miles on it.

- , Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA

problem #21

Mar 012013

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

Also had to replace both cv shafts and rear tie rods and both struts.

- , South Lyon, MI, USA

problem #20

Jun 152009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

In 50 years of car ownership, never had a rear wheel bearing go bad. Both rear bearings failed and had to be replaced. Something very wrong here. I believe the quality of the bearings were faulty and probably the result of buying imported cheaper bearings. Bearings probably guaranteed to last until at least auto warranty runs out. After that, it the owners responsibility so what do we care. Where are the recalls for these potentially dangerous part failures?

- , Middletown, New Jersey, USA

problem #19

Aug 092011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,200 miles

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

When I bought this vehicle there was a whirring noise in the rear end. Started out at about 25 MPH and leveled out at 60-70. Never got worse, just the same noise all the time. I looked up this problem on the web. It all pointed to rear wheel bearings. So I purchased a set of cheap ($23.00 ea) wheel bearings on E-Bay. I'm a certified technician so I was going to do the work myself. Independent rear suspension is more involved than i want to tackle at home. Took it in to Jennifer's Auto Service Department in Spokane to get it looked at. They diagnosed the problem as a bad differential. All but $180 was covered by the insurance. When I picked it up the noise was still there. I took it right back. They agreed it was the rear bearings. They really didn't do anything wrong. No complaints on them. They do a good job. And me being a technician, I am empathetic. But, Against their advice, they installed the bearings I had purchased. $260.00 this time. And, not covered. It wasn't a week when the r/h bearing got really noisy. Worse than before. The E-bay seller sent a new bearing free of charge. $180.00 this time. It was a week or two later the left side failed. I took it back. We both agreed to not use the same brand. They installed a hub and bearing assembly. $413.00 this time. As I left I remarked "how long before the r/h side goes"! It was about a week or two. I kept driving it till I could afford to fix it. It got so bad it sounded like an airplane going down the road. So we just let it sit. I was afraid it would have a catastrophic failure and leave me with a tow bill. When my wife followed me to the shop she remarked she could hear it from inside her car! The the bearing was egg shaped, falling apart, and got so hot it warped the whole knuckle and hub assembly. Install another hub and bearing assembly (and knuckle). $480 this time. But it's fixed right. All out of my pocket! Ford's rear wheel bearing are defective, the cheap ones on E-Bay are absolute junk (China), the breakdown insurance sucks, I should have use better judgement, etc.,etc., etc. I've never had so much trouble with a vehicle in my life.

- , Newma Lake, WA, USA

problem #18

Nov 152011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 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 #17

Apr 172011

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

It happened very suddenly. My wheel started making crazy clunking noises and when I was making a u turn on my street, it felt like the wheel came off. I looked and it seemed okay. I got in, drove to my parent's house to work on my car because I thought it was the brakes. I changed all the brakes and attempted to drive off when the noise returned with authority this time. Now the car was making so much noise it was hard to not worry. It can't be towed unless on a flatbed now.

I read up on the bearing issue and it seems that this problem is too common and once it happens you have to keep replacing the bearings..sometimes within months. WTH is wrong with Ford? Bearings shouldn't just go out like that on a commuter car. It's not like I was offroading with it.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #16

Aug 022010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles

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

A lot of whoooing noise and rough driving.cost me over $300 but can't remember exactly

- , Methuen, MA, USA

problem #15

Oct 182010

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

This is the 4th time I've had the wheel bearings replaced on this vehicle (Three different tires, one of the tires twice) and there's only 80,000 on it now. First time replaced at about 35,000 miles. There's a problem FORD!!!! Do something about it. Otherwise I will never buy another Ford again.

- , East Aurora, NY, USA

problem #14

Dec 222009

Explorer SLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,569 miles

i bought my 2003 ford explorer in 2004. this was one of the best vehicle i had bought. when i first bought it, it had a bad bearing. i called the car dealer and they fixed it after given me hell saying it was my fault that it was bad. about a year later i had to put another bearing in the back. that one lasted me about 4 months. now once again i replaced it. everything was going well intill now. once again i have to change a rear bearing. ford should really consider fixing these problems before they lose everyone's business.

- , Derby, New York, USA

problem #13

Apr 122010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

Last week heard a loud humm from the rear end that did not go away when I unloaded the diff. Figured it was a bad rear wheel bearing based on the number of reported issues on this site. I decided to do the work myself and replace both rear bearings, which was good as both were shot. After checking with a local machine shop I trust, they charge $65 per side to fit the bearings and use a 50 ton press, they do lots of them . They also told me to buy MOOG bearings ( CarQuest sell them $90 each, $165 each retail ) they have seen lots of premature failures of cheap bearings bought over the internet ( mostly Timkin and no-name brands made in China and India ). I did ask about the premature failure of replaced bearings, and they suspect another big reason is poor workmanship in pressing in the new bearing. There must be NO LOAD at all placed on the bearing when pressed into the hub.

Its not a difficult job, it took around 45 mins per side to strip, just need PB Blaster a 36mm deep socket for the axle nut the rest are standard 18mm, 19mm, 21mm, and a BFH, I do have the official FORD Work Shop manual that has the steps laid out in order with the required torque figures. I did find one of the dust boots damaged on the toe link, I used a generic dust boot from NAPA that was a perfect fit.

While I had the rear stripped down I replaced the rear rotors, brake pads and also the parking brake shoes and hardware as my wife seems to drive around with the parking brake on at regular intervals. Hint, put the parking brake shoes on before the hub is re-installed, much easier.

The Explorer rear hub takes a pounding especially with the crap roads in N VA, so although I am not happy with the rear bearing failure ( replaced the fronts at 75K ), I think that they lasted a reasonable time given the limitations of the design. Ford should come out with a modified hub and drive shaft that would allow for a larger bearing ( being able to add grease would be nice ).

Overall the Explorer has been as reliable as my Tahoe :-( , and a lot better than my Land Rover. What lets it down is where Ford have cut corners ( e.g. under sized rear wheel bearings). I will replace the Explorer this year and it won't be with another Explorer, looks like it will be a new Kia Sorrento or Kia Borrego. Drove both last weekend and they are a great vehicle for the $$.

- , Manassas, VA, USA

problem #12

Feb 052010

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

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

I purchased my 2003 Ford Explorer in 2006 with 53,000 miles on it. When I took it for the original test drive I told the dealer it had a loud sound coming out of the rear end of the car so he told me he replaced the rear wheel bearings. It was quieter....for a while. After two years the front wheel bearings went out and I had to replace them at a cost of about $500. Then 1 year later the rear bearings went out at a cost of another $500. I drove the car on the highway out a town recently and noticed swaying in the rear end when I went around turns. I took the car in to have it looked at and low and behold the rear wheel bearings need to be replaced again ($600 this time) and if I would have made the wrong turn at the right speed, the mechanic said the wheels might have come off because the only thing that was holding the tire on was the calipers. Needless to say I'm a little upset that I have had to replace the bearing 3 times in the back and once in the front on a vehicle I have put less then 50,000 miles on. You gotta love Ford!!!

- , Dubuque, Iowa, USA

problem #11

Dec 102009

Explorer EB 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I have replace all of the front and rear bearing hubs on this explorer..very expensive event...

- , Cumberland, Maine, USA

problem #10

May 102009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Roaring, squeaking sound detected while vehicle is moving. Wheel bearing replaced in rear hub on drivers side. 6000 miles later wheel bearing appears to have failed again. Did not know that this was a recurrent problem on the 2003 Explorer until I visited the internet and was directed to your website.

I thought this might be a recurrent problem and after a quick failure of a replaced wheel bearing, I went looking for supporting information. Interested in whether Ford is paying to replace these bearings without cost to the customer. I will be calling customer relations on the national level to see just what they have to say.

- , Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #9

Aug 122009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 5.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

03' Ford Explorer of my Son's.. It cost us $80 for a new rear/right wheel bearing and $50 for new e-brake shoes - this was a good three day's of work in just getting them off and pressed out.. I made my own billet aluminum spacer to press out the "race" because it sticks inside the hub while the remainder falls out.. it takes a little heat around the cast-iron hub to get the thing to move after you get the snap-ring out.. but it did come out and the new one went back in easily.. three bolts, some lug-nuts and it was rolling again... My complaint would be why there is so much weight on one little double-bearing assembly.. Terrible would be a good word here! -Rob in NH

- , Manchester, NH, USA

problem #8

Apr 132009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

This is my second posting about wheel bearings on the 2003 Explorer. In my first posting one of the front bearings failed. I took it back again due to moaning/whining/roaring noise in the rear end. Both bearings were bad in the back. The mechanic took the left side off and replaced it. He said the noise was mostly gone but he wanted to make sure so checked the other side and found it was actually worse mechanically but just not making as much noise. He had a lot of trouble getting the right side off. He said he had to send it out to a place that had a 90-ton press to get the hub off. Then he said he had to cut the bearing off with a torch.

I'm no expert on this, but having three bearings on the same vehicle fail before 100,000 miles sounds like a defect to me!!

My wife and I have had a 1988 Nissan Sentra up to 175,000 miles, a 1996 Ford Probe up to 120,000 miles, a 2001 Subaru Legacy up to 125,000 miles, and a 1988 Honda Accord up to 170,000 miles and I don't remember ever replacing a single wheel bearing on any of those vehicles. The bearings are supposed to be designed to outlive the engine and transmission.

- , Burke, VA, USA

problem #7

Jun 112008

Explorer NBX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles

Well maintained explorer, normal use only. Discovered during a routine tire balance and rotation. Hadn't noticed anything abnormal during driving, which seems odd. Very dangerous situation, driving on this much longer could have been catastrophic. Mechanic confirmed that wheel was dangerously close to breaking loose. Quoted repair cost (at a dealership) was around $600 to replace both the bearing and hub.

- , McAdenville, NC, USA

problem #6

Apr 232008

Explorer NBX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

I went in for an oil change and a "wobbling noise on turns". They came back with that my tires weren't balanced and needed to be rotated, my belts and pulley were worn, front brakes and rotors, sway bar bushing was shot, rack and pinion seal was leaking and the rear bearings were starting to go and if I didn't change them "my tire could come off while I was driving". My laundry list of problems ran me $1800. Good times...........

- , East Brunswick, NJ, USA

problem #5

Mar 082008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

The driver side rear hub assembly is currently being replaced because the bearings failed. I took it to the shop and they were unable to get the bearing out to replace them so they have to replace the entire hub assembly. The mechanic said my he was surprised my tire hadn't already fell off while I was going down the road.

- , Muskegon, MI, USA

problem #4

Feb 012008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,992 miles

Our company has another 2003 Explorer and we just replaced the real wheel bearing on it. Now, our second 2003 Explorer is making the same noise. So it looks like this too will have to be have the bearings replaced. This is my first experience with Ford and it is not a good one. The vehicle has been extremely well maintained. Often the 'check engine' light also comes one, but there is no obvious problem.

- , Barrie, Ontario, Canada

problem #3

Jan 272008

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,500 miles

Three of four wheel bearings are being replaced now (along with one rear axle) Differential may also need to be replaced. How can Ford justify this at 55,000 miles?

- , Flushing, NY, USA

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