Print this page 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:
89,950 miles
Total Complaints:
26 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace temperature blend door (21 reports)
  2. not sure (3 reports)
  3. found an aftermarket kit for $120.00 (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer AC / heater problems

AC / heater problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #26

Sep 132015

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 162,000 miles


I was able to replace it myself with the cost of parts and a few tools. It took around 2 hours.

- p38fln, Menomonie, WI, US

problem #25

Aug 152014

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,780 miles

If the problem exists from 2002 to 2008, why did they keep making the parts out of plastic!!!! The engineers who designed the part should have to drive my truck in the middle of winter with no heat!!!!!!! Could anything more go wrong?? Engine, transmission, heat, paint, crack on back panel!!!!!

- andersona, Freeland, PA, US

problem #24

Jul 012014

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles

I've checked on many sites and googled the problem and found that this is a common issue with the Ford Explorer. I am totally annoyed at the fact that this is a common problem amongst the Ford Explorers yet Ford is not considering it as a DEFECT. The common denominator is that it's an ongoing problem and they are making the customers be responsible for their malfunctions.

- tabbycat40, Columbus, GA, US

problem #23

Sep 302013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


Besides the issue with the crack in the tailgate another apparently common problem with the this piece of sh*t vehicle is the heat not working. The blend door actuator breaks and you have to go through the glove box when it's cold to manually to open this stupid thing up so that you can have some heat and avoid the terrible clicking noise that ensues when you start the truck. I have scoured the net for complaints and have found numerous complaints. It's so freaking common that there are YouTube tutorial videos that show you how to temporarily "fix" the problem. After the big bail outs of GM and Chrysler, Ford was the only American car manufacturer I would have considered buying. Not anymore- sadly I will buy a more reliable import because my experience with Fords is that it's stupid sh*t like a crack in a tailgate or heater not working for which they will accept NO responsibility to fix. As soon as I can get rid of this piece of crap I will. And I will not own another Ford.... instead of talking about Ford "quality" their motto should be "Ford Motor Company- we put the "cus" in customer service and satisfaction".

- sandram63, Quinton, VA, US

problem #22

Sep 052012

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Ford should replace this and make a recall on the entire heating and air conditioner system.

- chefinnva2004, Virginia Beach, VA, US

problem #21

Oct 062010

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,661 miles

ford said 15hrs plus, rip dash out. $1500 to $2000 aussie dollars and to top it off their not sure if they can fix it.what a joke. i dont know what to do. they said they have never seen this before.

- Lou P., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

problem #20

Mar 042009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


common problem on ford explorers going back to 90's models. i guess ford just doesn't get it!?

problem is blend door gear box has plastic gears in it, over time the plastic is exposed to hot/cold and becomes brittle and breaks, and it can no longer control the "blend door" so your heat gets stuck on or your cold gets stuck on. There is a way to manually maneuver the lever yourself but you need to do hours of research on countless forums to figure this out, or fix it completely.

dealership wanted 400-800 to fix depending on if they need to take dash apart to do it. I found a forum online and did it myself for about 75.00 which included buying an oem part from aftermarket part from advance auto didn't fit correctly. I was able to fix the part without taking the dash apart.

unbelievable that ford hasn't changed this design in nearly 10 years of problems (10 years at the date of the 2003 ford explorer).

but this is only one of several major problems with this vehicle.

- Billy O., Wooster, OH, US

problem #19

May 132010

Explorer XLT 4.3L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles

Seems like it's always something. It has never been right from the factory.

- Russell K., Marthasville, MO, US

problem #18

Jan 172011

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

Before the heat actually stopped working; I was getting a "knocking" noise when I turned the heater temperature dial to "warm/hot". When the heat went; it went!! It's hard to drive a vehicle bundled in your heaviest coat, wearing gloves, and with a blanket wrapped around your legs!!

I found a "cheap" kit on the internet; but I'm not mechanically inclined, so I had to go to a Ford dealership to have the work done. No problems (so far) since the $1,200.00+ repairs were completed.

- enuffords, Charlotte, NC, US

problem #17

Oct 272009

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

I've had to replace the blend door motor on my 2003 Explorer twice!! (Making this the 3rd one put in this vehicle) It always seems to go out during the winter time so the heater works only part of the time. To make things worse, because of the location of the motor, you have to remove the whole steering column, dash, drivers seat & console!!!!! This includes having to located the "hidden" bolts located outside the vehicle under the windshield wipers!! You would think Ford would quit using plastic gears in something that is used regularly and such a pain in the ass to fix!!!!

- Debi H., Sayre, OK, US

problem #16

May 312010

Explorer 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


Apparently others have had the same problem with their explorer, come on Ford the price that we have to pay for these vehicles, you could not come up with a better idea than plastic. WHAT ABOUT STEEL PIECES THAT WON'T BREAK!!

- Barbara E., Monroe, MI, US

problem #15

Apr 092010

Explorer V-6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I just don't understand why Ford chooses to make cheap, crappy parts that will most likely need replacement, and then put them in an inconvenient location (behind the dashboard). The part only cost $83 dollars, however the labor to find and repair it was over $600!

- floy, Aspen, CO, US

problem #14

Nov 202008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles

Well guess what I had this some problem on my 2003 explorer at 44,000 miles and eight days after the warranty ran out. I took it to MARSHALL MIZE FORD here in chattanooga and they more or less said sorry it wasn't their problem and told me to contact ford motor company.. HA !HA! is just about what I got.. I got it fixed for $750.00 at a local shop. Never again will I own another ford. Now are 52,000 miles the service engine light is on... I'm just hoping to get two more years out of this junk and I'm going to trade it. ( and the big three auto makers wonder why they are going broke)

- Bill P., Chattanooga, TN, US

problem #13

May 112008

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,000 miles

Yet another major repair not covered by ford. $1,800 dollars to replace a $5 dollar part.

- Jan T., Pleasanton, CA, US

problem #12

Oct 242009

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 113,000 miles

This is the second time that this part has failed. The first time I paid the dealer to have it repaired. I know that every car has its quirks. From now on I will stick to Toyotas or Nissan or maybe even Mazda. Well, I tried to support American made cars. I have auto mechanic training so I am going to attempt to repair it myself. Forget about the dealership

- Ave H., North Brunswick, NJ, US

problem #11

Mar 102009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles

I took my Explorer to Long-Lewis Ford in Muscle Shoals, Alabama because the blend motor in the front heater was broken. They sold me the vehicle new, and in my opinion are an honest, trustworthy dealership. I would do business with them again... If I were to ever purchase another Ford product, which I will not do.

After checking my problem, and charging me sixty-odd bucks for the check-out, they told me that the repair would cost about $1000.00. After I picked myself off the floor, they explained that the blend motor breaking was a common problem in Explorers because there was a support member blocking access to it. To get to the part, they would have to remove the dash. Oddly enough, they told me that it is the same assembly that is found in a Windstar, but with the addition of a support strut in the Explorer. We, fortunately have rear air in the vehicle, and when it is cold, we shut down the console vents in front, and crank the rear air.

I am extremely disappointed to read how common this problem is with the Explorer, and the fact that Ford does nothing to ameliorate the cost of repair in some way. I will never, never buy another Ford product because of their cavalier attitude to this most expensive problem that is apparently so common. Shame on them.

Update from Oct 29, 2009: Well, I sent the Customer Relations Manager a copy of my complaint. She responded with a typical non-response... You know the type, something right from a boiler-plate menu in the word processor. I makes be angry when folks say they're sorry, when you dang well know that they're lying. So I decided to send along the text of the reply e-mail I got from the dealership. Here is is:

Mr. Wiggins -

I'm sorry for the concern you are experiencing with your Explorer. If this is a common problem, the percentage of issues is not enough to warrant a manufacturer recall. The part that needs replacing is plastic which over time may break or stop functioning properly due to wear. Unfortunately, the needed repair takes several hours because indeed the dash does have to be removed. Since your vehicle is 6 years old and has 70K+ miles, there is no other assistance that the dealership can provide you.

Again, I am sorry you and your family must deal with this unfortunate circumstance. If you have any other questions or if I can be of any future assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.

Best Regards,
XXXXXX XXXX Customer Relations Manager Long-Lewis Ford Lincoln Mercury

I took the Manager's name out. Who knows, the way Ford operates, I might be sued if I hadn't done so.

I did find a company that has a kit to fix the problem in 2 to 3 hours for $120.00. Think that I will take them up on it.

- Steve W., Sheffield, AL, US

problem #10

Aug 072009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,348 miles

Ford knows this problem exists and has for quite a long time yet refuses to do anything about it. If this was a Toyota they would fix the problem to have a happy customer. and we wonder why they are kicking our ass.

- ferra, Commerce Township, MI, US

problem #9

Oct 142008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,340 miles

This is a safety prolem. If your windows won't stay clear during ice, snow or high humidity because a $13 part breaks why even waste your money on this vehicle? $650-$700 to fix in this economy? Thanks Ford.

- underwoodar, Jonesboro, AR, US

problem #8

Sep 152008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Ford tough? huh, tough is 4 girls in middle of northeast winter with NO HEAT! What kind of idiot puts a 2 inch plastic square on a 1/8inch plastic pin over the hot and cold blower of a car! Then to boot lets put it in dead center behind the dashboard where we have no other option but to put the entire dashboard, steering wheel, radio etc off just to replace this $13.00 part so that my 4 children are not freezing to death in the dead of winter! Its not a safety issue, therefore a recall is not required is what you hear when you call the manufacturer...2 additional complaints...keep going!

- S R., New Cumberland, PA, US

problem #7

Mar 012007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Started hearing a ticking sound coming from under the dashboard, near the floor. It wasn't constant, but there were times when it was really loud. Finally, I went to turn the heat on one day, and nothing but cold air came out. Took it to a local shop who said it was the blend door actuator and sent me to a dealership since it is too hard to fix, requiring the removal of the dash and all. Ford dealer charged 650 for the repair, but now the heat doesn't get as hot and the a/c doesn't get as cold as they once did. The car was not even 4 years old at the time.

- melgar, Union, NJ, US

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