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:
62,207 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 #5

Dec 232011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 185,935 miles


The problem with the forward seat head rest wrong angle causing the driver to get stiff neck and get you really tired driving long distances, there is no way to adjust but up and lower not enough to clear your head to be straight as proper posture, I understand it is to prevent neck injuries, my recommendation to have an adjustable head rest fwd and aft side and higher to adjust to your body properly. It is a big concern since lots of people get on the road and they get really tired and uncomfortable driving.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #4

Jul 282011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 0 miles
Manufacturer latent defect - driver seat base frame track broken.

- New Castle, DE, USA

problem #3

Jan 262007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,100 miles
1. while stopped on the interstate waiting for traffic to move, my 2003 Ford Explorer XLT was rear-ended by another SUV traveling at presumably highway speed. As a result, my SUV was propelled forward, hitting the rear of another vehicle. 2. **drivers side airbag did not deploy.** passenger's side airbag deployed (the driver was the only passenger). * base, and possibly the back, of the drivers seat broke.** (I was restrained in a seat belt.) I hit the roof of the vehicle, hitting my head quite hard on the rubber gasket edge of the moonroof, and when landing I think I hit my nose on the steering wheel. When I landed, the base of the seat broke...when looking at it from the side (looking at the controls), the base of the seat has a bend in it like an upside-down V, and the seat back appears to be reclined. I still have a knot and pain on the top of my head, my neck is stiff and now sometimes pops/cracks/crunches when I turn my head, my left shoulder joint is very sore, and I have some dull intermittent lower back pain. Besides temporary bleeding immediately after the accident, I am unaware of any damage to my nose. 3. no repair has been done. Insurance damage estimate is pending, but I expect it will be considered totaled.

- Baton Rouge, LA, USA

problem #2

Dec 112006

(reported on)

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
2003 Ford Explorer's driver's seat shifted when the consumer accelerated or decelerated quickly. The seat was repaired once already. A local dealership has looked at the seat recently but indicated that they cannot guarantee the repair.

- Unknown, DC, USA

problem #1

Mar 302006

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles
Ref Ford tsb 05416 Feb 06 - front passenger seat in 2003 Explorer begins to make noise when accelerating, slowing or going over bumps. Dealer hears problem, no parts available, agree to return when parts received. Mar 06 - parts received (retainer clips) and repairs made per tsb 05416 Aug 06 - same problem again, dealer recommends replacing seat track frame. Will not cover under tsb and claims "bumper-to-bumper" extended warranty also will not cover. Now in cat and mouse game with Ford regarding this obvious manufacturing defect that is possibly safety related as well.

- Leesburg, VA, USA

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