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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
65,400 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Explorer accessories - exterior problems

accessories - exterior problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #5

Jan 202008

Explorer 4WD

  • miles


Hatchback on 2003 Ford Explorer cracked, and needed replacement, the total cost was $290.

- Waynesville, MO, USA

problem #4

Dec 292007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
The hinges on my 2003 Ford Explorer broke while opening the lift gate. I want to the dealer to have fixed. They charged me $323.55 to replace the hinges & struts. Later I found ot that there was a recall for this exact issue. I contacted Ford and they told me that even though my vehicle was built during the dates listed in the recall it was not built at a specific plant. Of the 955,000 vehicles covered under this recall my car (which actually had the problem) was not covered. Below is a copy of the recall from your office. I am certain that I am not the only owner facing this issue. Ford motors needs to accept responsibility for defective products. I would like to go on record with this complaint stating that the recall below be amended to include all 2003 Ford Explorer regardless of plant that built it. The hinges are bad. Ford / Explorer 2002-2003 Ford / Mountaineer 2002-2003 manufacturer : Ford Motor Company mfr's report date : Sep 09, 2004 NHTSA campaign id number : 04V442000 PE04045 NHTSA action number: PE04045 component: Structure:body:hatchback/liftgate:hinge and attachments potential number of units affected : 955732 summary: On certain sport utility vehicles, the liftgate glass strut may become disengaged or the hinge may fracture allowing the glass to fall and possibly break. Consequence: If the hinge should fracture, there is a potential for the glass to fall and ultimately break and personal injuries could occur.

- Shelton, CT, USA

problem #3

Nov 142007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles
My 2003 Explorer suddenly developed a crack on the back panel beneath the rear window. I am concerned that if it progresses the glass will have no support and break. I spoke with Ford after learning that this is a common problem with these SUV's and was told if I had no warranty they would not cover the cost.

- Minneola, FL, USA

problem #2

Jan 232006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the vehicle's bottom rear liftgate has cracked. He stated that there is a safety recall on the hinges for the liftgate. The contact believes that the liftgate falls repeatedly and caused the liftgate window to crack. The engine size was unknown. The current mileage is 64,370 and failure mileage was 55,000.

- Westbury, NY, USA

problem #1

Mar 022007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles
- the contact called about the 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. The contact stated that the air bag light stayed on, and when it was on, the airbag deactivated which was a safety problem. It happened all the time. The fuses have been changed under warranty, and now that it was not under warranty, it was no longer repaired free of charge. The contact stated that she was told by one service station that it was standard for the fuses to blow because of the fuse box location. Another service station told the contact that this was not true that the fuse box was to high in the car for pebbles to be able to get into the fuse box. Also, the windshield wipers won't turn off by them selves, even when the keys were out of the ignition. The contact stated that the airbag light and the door ajar light were consistently on. Moreover, the electronic seat would not move forward or backward. She had the seat repaired twice and it failed again. Finally, contact stated that the vehicle was making a knocking noise in the front and rear of the vehicle's undercarriage. The vehicle clanked stopping, turning to go forward, or just sitting still. The first time the contact took the vehicle for repair she was told by the repair shop that it was the driver's seat that was causing the clanking noise, and the second time she was told that the noise was not something they could identify because during diagnostic testing it did not show a specific failure code. The current and failure mileage were both 114000.

- Mount Airy, MD, USA

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