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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
41,242 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 #6

Jul 012008


  • miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. She stated that when she purchased her vehicle the hinge on the back of the window was broken. The dealer told her that there was a recall and that it could be repaired. The dealer later advised her that her VIN was not a part of the recall. Last year the dealer stated that they would not repair the broken hinge. The vehicle has not been repaired. The failure mileage was unknown and current mileage was 129000.

- Mumcie, IN, USA

problem #5

Mar 032008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,950 miles
I own a 2003 Ford Explorer. First, I noticed a small crack in the tailgate below the rear window. Within two days, the crack spread the entire length of the applique and through the Ford emblem. I contacted Ford and they are aware of this defect, however, they have not issued a recall. We purchased an extended 75,000 mile warranty, but this crack happened at 78,000 miles. Ford said they would not fix because warranty expired and no recall on their end.

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #4

Feb 112008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
I own a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT 4WD. Approximately 12 months ago, the rear trim panel beneath the rear window crack down the middle. I contacted my nearest dealer who informed me that while Ford had recognized that it was a problem, they did not plan to issue a technical service bulletin or recall. The dealer service reps even agreed that there is a significant problem with Explorer and Mountaineer. I have seen many other Explorer and Mountaineer with the same problem as well as many complaints on-line. Today the rear hatch left latch broke off causing the entire rear lift gate window to nearly fall off. The problem could possibly be related due to the earlier crack causing the weight of the rear glass to shift, place too much strain on the left latch. The dealer is repairing the broken latch, window molding and rear hatch struts, under an extended service plan but still will not repair the previous cracked trim panel. This is indicative of Ford's failure to back up their product and they have lost a long term customer.

- Holloman Afb, NM, USA

problem #3

Apr 242007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,500 miles


The rear tailgate on the 2003 Ford Explorer cracked when I closed it after taking an item out of the back of the car. I had seen many other vehicles of the same make and year with this problem but did not know what may have caused the problem until it happened to me. I did not abuse the tailgate, and I did not use any extra effort to close it than I normally would. I called my local Ford dealer, and they told me to bring it and they would fix it at no charge. When I called later on the day I dropped it off. They informed me they had performed the recall work on the hinge and ball pivot, but they could not repair the tailgate because the vehicle was out of warranty. I contacted Ford and they told me they were aware of the problem with the tailgate situation on this vehicle but it had not been posted as a recall item.

- Lynn, MA, USA

problem #2

Oct 182006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
: the contact stated while parked in a driveway unloading the vehicle, the rear gate hinges fractured and the glass dropped. The manufacturer was contacted, and informed there was no recall for this defect. The contact expressed concern because the hinges held the glass and the incident could happen while driving affecting other vehicles on the road.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #1

Dec 012004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Consumer received manufacturer's recall 04007, NHTSA recall 04V129000 concerning tailgate cables. No parts were available.. window part of tailgate could fall down an dhurt consumer if he wa susin git to load groceries. Consumer suffers from arthritis in hands and fingers, and uses ths window constantly since the whole tailgate is too heavy to close. Warning indicated not to use the window.

- Santee, CA, USA

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