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:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
61,725 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 - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #2

May 042009


  • 72,450 miles


I keep reading about 2 complaints that people need to know about and Ford should take action on; the first being the back tail gate... Ford do the right thing. The second has to do with the transmission, overdrive light, the parking brake and the cruise control. I use the cruise control when driving long distances and while on a few trips the overdrive light would come on for no reason, at least I thought, I then found out that I had an ABS problem and wheel bearings problems. All happening at the same time? as if that wasn't enough my transmission was dripping fluid on my new driveway! this was while I only had only 70,000 miles, it wasn't right, I checked out the brakes, they had been replaced before however when I pull off the rear drum / disk to check the parking brake that's when I found the problem. I never use my parking brake, it rotted and delaminated and was dragging hence the od light, the overheating of the transmission which blew out the seal, the excessive brake dust which was partially the cause of ABS sensor malfunctioning. The last part impacts the bearings, when the ABS sensor malfunctions it can apply the brakes as in skidding or in tire slippage adding to early unnecessary wear on bearings and again overheating of the transmission. Ford needs to install a few "smart" sensors, one which could track parking brake malfunctions, also one for fail safe temperature readings for the transmission. (that is before it is compromised.) do the right thing Ford, your sales depend on it.

- Chanhassen, MS, USA

problem #1

Jul 092006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles
We were involved in a motor vehicle accident on the below date. A person went through a red light and hit our 2003 Ford Explorer on the right rear wheel area at approx 40 mph. There was over $ 6,000 in damage on our vehicle. When our vehicle was released to us from the body shop 6 weeks later, our heater, when turned on was making a loud banging sound. It sounded like something was knocked loose from the impact. It is now April 2007, and we have been trying to get our insurance company to fix this. We took our 2003 Ford to capital Ford in carson city, Nevada where we bought 3 new Ford vehicles. Capital Ford told the insurance company that this is a common problem with this vehicle. Allstate, our insurance company told us that we would have to pay "at our own expense" to take the dash apart on this vehicle to see if this was accident related, at 10 hours labor at $ 90 per hour! I have checked all recalls with this vehicle, and called Ford directly, and have found no problem with this heater. Please help us!

- Minden, NV, USA

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