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.


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
10,837 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 #4

Sep 282003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles


On three separate occasions the gate lift of my Explorer opened on it's own. This happened when the vehicle was quite new. I reported it to Ford and they could not find the problem. They said that unless it malfunctioned while they were in possession of it, they could not remedy the problem. I now tie down the gate when carrying precious cargo, my dogs.

- Fair Lawn, NJ, USA

problem #3

Jul 132005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles
Structure, body, hatchback/liftgate, hinge and attachments. I was closing my hatch on my 2003 Ford Explorer VIN#[xxx] when the left hinge broke free from the body of the vehicle. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6)

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #2

Mar 092004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,348 miles
On several occasions, the liftback on the vehicle unlatched itself. In all but one occurance, this was not noticed until after the vehicle was in a parked position. The most recent occurence was March 9, 2004.

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #1

May 202003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles
Ford Explorer, 4-door, 200 window on rear tailgate door "pops" open on rough roads. Happened 4 times with new vehicle with under 5,000 miles.

- Fort Thomas, KY, USA

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