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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
93,039 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 #7

Feb 112010


  • miles


The tailgate cracks down the center.

- Rio Linda, CA, USA

problem #6

May 032011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 117,500 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer was parked in my driveway and it somehow rolled down approx 150 feet and smashed into a tree. There was no one in the vehicle it was parked and the keys were in the house. I immediately called my insurance (state farm) and they had me call a collision garage to come out and they came within the hour. They have stated that the vehicle is a total loss. The next morning I called Ford and they disregarded anything I said and said my insurance should take care of it. I am still paying on a loan for this car and I do have full coverage but I am now without a vehicle and I am scared to think of what might of happened if my daughters would of been playing in the backyard.

- Hookstown, PA, USA

problem #5

Mar 252010


  • 135,000 miles
There have been multiple problems with my 2003 Ford Explorer since I bought it brand new in August of 2003. But ironically they have all appeared after the warranty had expired. In September 2007 the air conditioning unit no longer worked. It cost me $2000 and a week without a car, to get it fixed. In August 2009 the passenger door window would no longer work. In September 2009 my SUV started making a clicking sound when turning on the heater. Since we lived in a warm climate this did not concern us much, as the heat had worked even with the clicking sound. But we moved to a colder climate and the heater went out in March 2010. In April 2010 the service engine light came on. After speaking with the mechanic, he said it was a transmission problem that occurred when the car shifted from 1st to 2nd gear and from 4th to 5th gear. He could not give me any more information and was not willing to fix my transmission problem (he suggested I go elsewhere because he was not an expert in transmissions). In May 2010 the O/D light started flashing off. After speaking to mechanic again, he said it was related to the transmission problem. In August 2010 the door ajar light started coming on randomly, even when the door is not open. And in September 2010, I noticed my ABS light will come on randomly. It does not appear to be triggered by any specific reason, and does not always come on.

- Apo, AE, USA

problem #4

Mar 092010


  • 77,000 miles


I own a 2003 Ford Explorer and was closing the window of the back hatch when the rear lift gate hinge failed and broke and the window became dislodged and hit me in the head. My son was standing next to me and thankfully the window didn't fall out completely and land on him! I have contacted Ford and they said that although there was a recall for this very same problem, your Agency did not identify my vehicle as being affected and they will not repair it at their cost. Again, they said it was because your Agency did not identify my vehicle as being affected by this defect. At the present time, the window is hanging by the struts and the left hinge. Further, I have gone online and seen that many other people have had this very same problem and it was not covered by Ford's recall. This is a major safety issue as that window could have fallen out and landed on my son! thankfully, I was not seriously injured. I can't believe that this has not been recalled more extensively. I think it is reasonable to expect that a window or a door is not going to fall off a hinge and potentially cause a serious injury. Safety is a reasonable expectation!

- New Bedford, MA, USA

problem #3

Jan 072009


  • 98,773 miles
I have a 2003 eddie bauer Ford Explorer. Last night, when my son was attempting to close the rear lift gate glass door, the hinge on the passenger side broke off. The glass liftgate is presently being held up by the other hinge and it won't be long before that one breaks also. I spoke with an andrea at Ford 1-800-392-3673 and she basically told me that I was out of luck, that I would have to pay for the repairs because my vehicle was not included in the recall. I don't understand why, I told her the description of my vehicle. I have a friend who owns a Ford Explorer and he had the same problem, and since his was included in the recall, he didn't encounter any problems in having it repaired. You wonder why so many people buy Japanese cars and trucks. Here is one of many reasons. Ford Motor Company is obviously attempting to save money at the expense of our safety.

- Ocala, FL, USA

problem #2

Dec 272008


  • 125,000 miles
I took my 2003 Ford Explorer to Ford dealership and was refuse recall repairs. Was told it would be at my own expense because he could not find recall notice in Ford system. Below is the details of recap. At this time the liftgate hinge is broken and window is about to fall off. Please help. Vehicle make / model: Model year(s): 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.

- Weston, FL, USA

problem #1

Jun 192008


  • 98,000 miles
July of 2007 the rear window on our 2003 Ford Explorer XLT had broken at one of the hinges and the window sagged. After researching on the internet we found out there was a recall, (04V44200). We then contacted Ford and they agreed to fix the problem at no charge. Now 10 months later while the auto was parked in our driveway the window shattered with no one around. There was a neighbor working in the yard who witnessed this happen. Glass was both inside the vehicle and outside the vehicle. After a week of phone calls with no luck, I was finally in touch with a one of the parts guys at Ford who said this is an ongoing problem that he was aware of. He even stated that they only replaced the hinges and not the glass which is known to shatter. After several phone calls, we were notified that the recall was only on the hinges (even though they know the glass is defective as well) and they would not help us out. Well im not paying $1,600 out of my pocket for another product that Ford knows has a problem and doesn't back up there warranties.

- Hudson, NH, USA

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