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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
26,200 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 body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #4

Jan 012010


  • 0 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. She stated while utilizing the rear liftgate to remove items from the trunk compartment, the rear liftgate fell causing the glass to shatter. The contact was not injured. The manufacturer was contacted and although the exact same failure of her vehicle is related to NHTSA campaign id number: 04V442000- structure, structure body, hatchback/liftgate, hinge and attachments as a result of NHTSA action number PE04045, her VIN was not included. No repairs were made to date. The failure and current mileages were unknown.

- St. Louis, MO, USA

problem #3

Mar 162007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,800 miles
There appeared without warning a big crack in the rear liftgate of the 2003 Ford Explorer. The crack goes from the bottom of the glass all the way to the bottom of the liftgate. The crack expands and shrinks according to the temperature. So far it got as wide as 1/4 inch.. the crack is in the shape of a peace sign. Nothing hit the vehicle; it's stored in a garage everyday. I went to mallouf Ford dealership in North brunswick NJ and they said I'd have to pay $800 to fix it. There was another person in the dealership at the same time with the same problem. I went online and found a slew of other Ford Explorer owners with the same problem. My concern is the glass of the rear lift gate not being properly supported and will eventually become loose, crack or fall out. Let's not wait for something horrific to happen before this growing problem is fixed.

- Somerset, NJ, USA

problem #2

Feb 182005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles
When cold, below 35 degrees F, the rear hatch will not fully open. The hatch stops at head height. I've hit my head twice. Ford has said because the hatch opens when it's warm, there is nothing they can do. It's a minor head bump, but has potential to damage an eye because of the way the hatch sheet metal protrudes. The SUV is a 2003 Ford Explorer.

- Fayetteville, NC, USA

problem #1

Jan 082005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
NHTSA recall campaign 04V442000 concerning rear liftgate glass. Owner received notification from the manufacturer in October 2004. Owner has been in touch with the dealership, but is constantly being told that parts needed to repair the recall are unavailable.

- Phenix City, AL, USA

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