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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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
88,890 miles
Total Complaints:
126 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace wheel bearing (43 reports)
  2. replaced wheel bearings (23 reports)
  3. replace complete hub assembly (22 reports)
  4. 3rd party repair, no way i'm giving dealer more money (14 reports)
  5. not sure (11 reports)
  6. dealer replaced all the bearings (6 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 7)

problem #126

Jun 072011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


ever since i owned the car i had to replace 3 wheel bearings

- , Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #125

Apr 302015

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

Went to get my brake pads changed and ended up needing new pads, rotors, and new bearings as they were barely holding the wheel on the axle anymore. All together I got hit with $1,600 in repairs during a routine brake change, then my transmission failed 2 weeks later....and then again 2 weeks after that...

- , Abington, PA, USA

problem #124

Oct 202014

Explorer XLT V6 Flex Fuel

  • Automatic transmission
  • 152,322 miles

Slight grinding sound on turning and now ABS light has come on. We have quit driving it due to this and the transmission going bad for the safety of our children. Ford says they know about the problem but our car does not meet the CRITERIA for them to do anything about it. I thank God we found that there was a problem prior to an accident but now the challenge is how to get it repaired, since nobody will help. The dealer has told us between $3000-$3500 for the tranny and close to $1000 for the bearings!

- , Gridley, CA, USA

problem #123

Sep 242014

Explorer XL 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,000 miles


ford needs to agree to repair all problems with their vehicles.

- , Pompano Beach, FL, USA

problem #122

Feb 142013

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 175,631 miles

Had to replace the driver's side rear wheel bearing because it went out, another common problem when you ask the dealership about it.

- , Jacksonville, NC, USA

problem #121

Jul 152014

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,700 miles

Same problem everyone else is having with failing wheel bearings and hub assemblies. MANUFACTURER DEFECT, FORD! You call this built Ford "TOUGH"? This is a joke, especially with such low mileage.

- , Brookline, MA, USA

problem #120

Mar 152013

Explorer XLT 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles


Had to replace both front wheel bearings on my Ford. That sucked. I wish I had known all the problems before buying this type of vehicle.

- , Piketon, OH, USA

problem #119

Nov 172014

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 289,000 miles

I bought my Explorer in 2010 with 111k miles on it. It ran great and everything was fine until at about 180k miles the first wheel bearing went out. I wish I had found this site before I ever purchased this vehicle. I surely would not have bought this model.

I drive about 40k a year over dirt roads most of the time. I have replaced 6 wheel bearings at about $400 a pop. The replacements last about 20-30k miles. That's it! What a scam. They are warranted for 12 months or 12k miles. The engine is in great condition and I replaced the transmission at 250k miles. I really should have gotten rid of the car at that point.

Have I gotten my moneys worth out of the car? I'd like to continue driving it, but now the two front bearings are bad again. The car has 290k miles on it and with a fairly new transmission, I hate to just get rid of it, but I don't really want to put any more money into it either. With all other repairs I have spent over $15k to maintain this vehicle. I think that's a little too much.

- , Grand Forks, ND, USA

problem #118

May 112010

Explorer XLT 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

dealer replaced bearing but it was guess work, it's really the transmission causing the noise and clunking.

- , Bedford Hills, NY, USA

problem #117

Jun 202014

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 164,181 miles

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 #116

Nov 202013

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 282,000 miles


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, ND, USA

problem #115

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 #114

Aug 192010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

had to have both front hubs replaced and both rear bearings repacked.

local garage did both rear for around 600.00 (if i remember correctly.)

one front hub dealership did at cost of about 400.00 (if i remember correctly.) had to have them do it as we were leaving for vacation the next day.

other front hub i replaced myself for about 180.00

this is just another common annoying problem with this explorer. i've owned several vehicles that have had over 100k miles on them and i've never had to replace a hub/bearing. to have to replace all 4 on one vehicle is crazy. this thing has not been off-road or hauled anything.

- , Wooster, OH, USA

problem #113

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 #112

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 #111

Dec 012012

Explorer LT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

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 #110

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 #109

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, NJ, USA

problem #108

Aug 092011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,200 miles

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 #107

Jun 012010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

It boggles the mind that one vehicle would have 2 bearings fail let alone 3 or more @ roughly the same mileage, how does that saying go 2 things happen at the same time its a coincidence, 3 things happen its a conspiracy!

How about 4. This is proof of either poor design or defective parts. I mean really they are bearings, which for most cars in my experience you may have one fail in 100,000 miles not 4. whats worse is the Ford dealer technicians would replace one and tell me the car is fine, when clearly they have not fixed the horrible vibration issues, then come to find out the noise slowing stops after each wheel, finally ending in all four being bad. How does that happen really? At $700 an axel and only a one year warranty from Ford for their own parts???? now guess what, its two years later and I have bad bearings again????? in just two years and only 10k miles on them... WTH Ford.

At some point this has to be a recall issue you cannot hide behind wear and tear items forever when its this common, just like window regulators on late 90's VW breaking in force at what point do they take accountability for this garbage?

- , Mansfield, MA, USA

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