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:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
146,556 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 #9

May 122016


  • 202,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer, while driving through town I started to slow down for a group of kids waiting to use a cross walk when the Explorer shut down & lost all power to control brakes and steering almost hitting the kids.. I have taken to a shop & was told they could not duplicate the issues I have been having for 5 years. The reason I am now reporting this is because the close call I just had with the cross walk. This problem starts after about 5 or 10 minutes of run time then clears up not returning until next run or some time later...

- Readstown, WI, USA

problem #8

Feb 132016


  • 150,000 miles
I was driving in minus 20 degree celsius to take highway 15 North from just after panama bus station. In the entrance, my car start to slow down to the 5 kmph. In the back of my cars were all on their hazard light and being mad at me. So I drive back to my home taking the next exit. I wish somebody could take the videos and sent to the Ford company to let them know my situation.

- Saint-Lambert, NY, USA

problem #7

Nov 082015


  • 156,000 miles
The rear air conditioner line rubbed against the brake line causing brake line failure. The rupture occurred during an attempt to suddenly stop. There were no signs of rust either inside or outside the brake line. The failure occurred at about 156,000 miles on the vehicle. Oddly enough, the mechanic specifically noted that rust was not a factor in this case as is common on many newer vehicles. I have owned the vehicle since 3/7/2006. No collision work has been performed on the vehicle since taking ownership.

- Wilmington, DE, USA

problem #6

Aug 262015


  • 142,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving approximately 30 mph, the check engine and ABS indicator illuminated. The contact mentioned that the brakes failed and the steering wheel seized. The emergency brake was engaged in order to come to a complete stop. The contact restarted the vehicle after few minutes and it functioned normally. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic but the failure could not be duplicated. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 142,000.

- Bend, OR, USA

problem #5

Jul 272014

Explorer 4WD 4-cyl

  • 123,000 miles
I have had three incidents with my 2003 Ford Explorer. The first incident involved the suspension ( sway bars snapped, tires had to be repaired). Second incident was the transfer case and a wiggling drive shaft along with rear wheel bearings ( parts deemed defective by mechanics), and emergency brakes that snapped off in my mechanics hands because they were rusty. Now it is transmission work for a possible faulty sensor. Ford needs to recalls before someone is killed due to catasrophic equipment failure! ive called them every time and they are aware of the issues but refuse to do anything other then document them and say have a nice day!

- Boothwyn, PA, USA

problem #4

Apr 302014

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 195,000 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer has some serious electrical issues. My right front passenger window will not roll down. It gets very hot in my truck out in the heat. It stopped working all of a sudden and the A/C in the car does not blow. (I didn't break any of these things) my door ajar light is always on the dash... my driver's door sensor went out for some reason and now my vehicle thinks that the door is always open, which drains my battery and my lights will not turn off at times. I have to manually turn them on/off. I dislike doing that because I'll forget sometimes. My rear lift-gate cracked one day too. I believe its from the cheap plastic. It's dangerous and my glass can fall out any day now. I also pinched two blood clots in my hand from opening this cracked rear hatch and had to see a doctor for it. Please help me get these things fixed. Thanks in advance.

- Springfield, IL, USA

problem #3

Jul 042013


  • 190,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving 35 mph, she applied the brakes but the pedal traveled to the floor board and vehicle did not respond. The contact then began to rapidly pump the brakes until the vehicle decelerated. The contact suffered an injured knee due to the pressure she applied to the brake pedal. The vehicle was diagnosed by an independent mechanic, who stated that the pistons had shattered. The vehicle was repaired. The VIN was unavailable. The failure and current mileage was 190,000.

- Rex, GA, USA

problem #2

Apr 032013

Explorer 8-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
I was driving my 2003 Ford Explorer and I was going about 40 miles per hr. I was approaching a red light, and as I was braking my vehicle accelerated without me having my foot on the gas paddle. I have had major transmission work (re-built trans, $3000) on my vehicle, in which I had to take it back to the transmission repair shop three times, yet I continue to have unexplained problems. The vehicle seems to be unsafe for me to drive at this time.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #1

Dec 012005


  • 21,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that when the brakes were depressed, the ABS warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 21,000 and the current mileage was 105,000.

- Stream Wood, IL, USA

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