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:
103,612 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

Jun 112013


  • 130,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the air conditioner and defroster would not operate when activated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who advised that both the air conditioning/heater switch and the blower motor would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the defect. The approximate failure 130,000.

- Holland, MI, USA

problem #6

Apr 122010


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 40 mph the heater stopped working. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic who stated that the temperature blend door needed replacing. The vehicle had not been repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 130,000 and the current mileage was 150,000.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #5

Nov 192010


  • 133,700 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the air conditioner functioned but the heat did not. The contact replaced the thermostat and stated that there were no leaks in the heating coil. The contact called the manufacturer who stated that the reactor could have been the cause of failure. The current and failure mileages were 133,700.

- Madison Heights, MI, USA

problem #4

Jul 152009


  • 38,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While the vehicle was parked, the contact noticed a crack in the panel attached to the glass of the rear liftgage. The crack was small at first but became larger over time. The vehicle had not been taken to be inspected for the problem. Also, the heated stopped blowing heat and was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that the blend door actuator needed to be replaced. The vehicle had not been repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 38,000 and the current mileage was approximately 46,000.

- Sonora, CA, USA

problem #3

Oct 162008


  • 148,000 miles
While out of town, vacationing and touring for fall colors, I lost all power to the climate control system after a short coffee stop. When I started my Explorer I notice I had no heat, fans, defroster or power to the climate control system. Thinking I had blown a fuse, I opened the owners manual and checked the fuse diagram pages for the system that was not working. I checked all the fuses indicated but, I found none of them had blown. After detouring and heading for the local small town, I purchased an emergency fuse replacement and tester kit as it was now getting dark, trying to continue re-checking any fuses (while in the confined and most awkward place to install a fuse control panel under the dash board on the drivers side) was going to have to wait till daylight. On my return to my campsite I change the head lighting from auto to manual and pulled out on the knob to turn on the fog light system. As I did this all power to my climate control system returned and was working normal again. This could have been a real problem as the next morning I woke up to frost and 0` temperature and overcast for the day.

- Oakville Ontario Canada, 00, USA

problem #2

Sep 262008


  • 65,000 miles
2003 Ford Explorer - 65K miles - blend door actuator 7.6hp failed causing A/C to remain in on position with no heat or defroster.

- Fairfax, VA, USA

problem #1

Jan 142008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,585 miles
I am attempting to rectify a well know problem on my 2003 Ford Explorer regarding the heater blend door for the front heating unit. In this particular instance I have no heat here in Michigan of all places. Does Ford have a recall for this problem" I have spoken to several Ford people and they say this is a very common problem. If the air blend door breaks and the system is locked in the A/C mode, defogging/defrosting the windshield will be a challenge. Ever tried to melt ice with an air conditioner? we have a responsibility to report safety issues. When the dealer called back, the first question was the vehicle?S mileage. When I reported 79K miles they said sorry, the cut-off for assistance was 75K miles. I argued that the problem was logged at 40K miles with numerous follow-up calls. They refused. I called the 1-800 assistance number again and got a real bonehead. She confirmed that 75K miles was the cut-off. I asked to speak to the gentleman to whom I had previously registered my complaint, giving her his identification number. She refused. I hung up and dialed the 1-800 number again. This time I got a kind lady who told me that the field engineer had the authority to offer compensation. I contacted the dealership to schedule an appointment and then learned that the field engineer had backed out of the deal and I was about to fork over $700 for replacement. How in the world does the customer get hosed for this amount of money. I bought the truck, kept it insured, did my maintenance and due to a factory defect, I still have to pay" unless the vehicle is in a crash or fire, an air plenum should last longer than the body of the vehicle. The on-going saga continues, as this becomes a safety issue, now I can't see out of my window due to snow and ice.

- New Baltimore, MI, USA

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