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:
24,150 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 brakes problems

brakes problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #3

Jun 122016


  • miles


My transmission light has been coming on. I was only at 117K miles when it happened. That's to soon for a transmission to be acting up especially since it's anew one according to carfax this is the second transmission for my Explorer. The first one was put in only at 3 years old. It will sometimes jerk into reverse or take a second to go into drive when I switch gears. My overdrive light also flashes which I assume means my overdrive no longer works. The light only comes on after driving over 40 mph. So if I'm on the highway I can't go the speed limit because I don't want this light coming on. I took it to a transmission shop it needs a torque converter and a rebuild. I contacted Ford and they won't do anything about it. They told me to buy a new car. When I go up hills my Explorer also has trouble even though it shouldn't. I also need a new solenoid pack.

- Lebanon, PA, USA

problem #2

Nov 012013


  • miles
1. transmission does not let you accelarate. Pressure builds up while you are pressing on the gas pedal and it doesn't increase your speed until 10 seconds or so of pressing the gas pedal, and than it explodes and you are thrust back with the acceleration. Very dangerous when you are trying to change lanes or are entering the highway. Lack of acceleration has almost got us into a few accidents. 2. sensors are not functioning, constantly telling me that the doors are open. I don't know when a door is actually open or not. 3. the rear hatch is cracked and I'm afraid it doesn't provide enough stable prorectection for the rear glass to be held in place properply.

- Bradenton, FL, USA

problem #1

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

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