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:
129,810 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

Sep 092015


  • 162,052 miles


Adjusted HVAC temperature from cold to hot. Approximately 5 seconds later, a loud and repetitive popping sound came from the defroster vents. I was startled and immediately stopped the car (on a 2 lane highway) to investigate. The blend door actuator is failing. This condition will cause a loss of climate control in the cabin. It can get stuck on hot or cold or anywhere in between. If it gets stuck in the cold setting, the windshield defroster will not work which could cause an accident due to loss of visibility. If it gets stuck on the hot setting, heat-sensitive passengers may be injured by heatstroke in the summer months since air will always flow through the vents when the vehicle is moving.

- Menomonie, WI, USA

problem #4

Jun 042014


  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 40 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle was not able to restart. The vehicle was towed to the contact's home. The vehicle was taken to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the windshield wipers were pushing water into the fuse box when it rained. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was unavailable.

- Macon, GA, USA

problem #3

Apr 182014


  • 185,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while attempting to park, the rear lift gate spontaneously exploded, leaving glass inside and outside of the vehicle. The contact was not injured. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was scheduled to be repaired. The failure mileage was 185,000.

- Big Island , VA, USA

problem #2

Nov 152013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 155,000 miles
I want to bring to your attention a defect in the tailgate panel on the 2003 Ford Explorer. It is cracked and as a result water gets into the inside of the panel and leaks into the vehicle. As a result of the bitter cold days here in the northeast over the last month or so, ice forms on the inside of the windows causing major issues with visibility which is dangerous. It also shorted out the rear wiper motor as well. There should be a safety recall on this since it effects so many people.

- Mendon, MA, USA

problem #1

Dec 042012


  • 147,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 5 -10 mph over a road bump, the hatch back window detached and fell from the vehicle without warning. The contact pulled over and saw that the hinges to the rear window were severely rusted, causing the window to detach. The vehicle was not inspected by a dealer or an independent mechanic. The manufacturer was later contacted and advised him that the vehicle was too dangerous to drive and should not have passed state inspection. The failure mileage was approximately 147,000. The current mileage was approximately 148,000.

- Holbrook, MA, USA

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