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:
63,000 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

Mar 022007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles


- the contact called about the 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. The contact stated that the air bag light stayed on, and when it was on, the airbag deactivated which was a safety problem. It happened all the time. The fuses have been changed under warranty, and now that it was not under warranty, it was no longer repaired free of charge. The contact stated that she was told by one service station that it was standard for the fuses to blow because of the fuse box location. Another service station told the contact that this was not true that the fuse box was to high in the car for pebbles to be able to get into the fuse box. Also, the windshield wipers won't turn off by them selves, even when the keys were out of the ignition. The contact stated that the airbag light and the door ajar light were consistently on. Moreover, the electronic seat would not move forward or backward. She had the seat repaired twice and it failed again. Finally, contact stated that the vehicle was making a knocking noise in the front and rear of the vehicle's undercarriage. The vehicle clanked stopping, turning to go forward, or just sitting still. The first time the contact took the vehicle for repair she was told by the repair shop that it was the driver's seat that was causing the clanking noise, and the second time she was told that the noise was not something they could identify because during diagnostic testing it did not show a specific failure code. The current and failure mileage were both 114000.

- Mount Airy, MD, USA

problem #1

Jun 282006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles
Hello. I have several complaints regarding my 2003 Ford Explorer including several safety issues. The first complaint is regarding the driver's seat which shifts routinely on acceleration and de-acceleration. This concerns me if I get into an accident and the seat malfunctions. The second complaint is regarding the gear shifter not going into park easily. I have to jiggle it to into park. I am concerned that this might not properly engage park and my vehicle might roll. Thirdly, my rear lift gate trim has had to be repaired at least 3 times. I am concerned that although the dealership says there is no safety issue, there possibly could be due to the rear lift gate hinges being recalled and representative informing me that the reason that I continue to have a crack appearing is due to design flaw. This concerns me B/C I frequently utilize the lift gate to retrieve groceries and other items and do not want the window to fail and fall on my head. The remainder concerns are regarding the function of my vehicle. I have had to have 3 of the window motors replaced under warranty. The transmission has had to be fixed twice (shifting module malfunction). Finally, the fuel gauge had to be repaired due to improper fuel readings. I guess all these items could be very problematic as well B/C I could run out of gas and be stranded with my child, my vehicle might not shift properly leaving me stranded. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions. Ps. I would also like to add that as I was completing this process I remembered that my vehicle had a high pitched whine that had to be repaired. I do not remember exactly what had to be repaired but it was covered under warranty.

- Conroe, TX, USA

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