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:
36,360 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

Aug 122006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,179 miles


4 items 1 - have owned the 2003 Ford Explorer for 7 months. While test driving, I noticed a hum noise coming from rear tires. Was told it was tread noise. We took it for oil change at very well respected national automotive service shop. I was informed I needed to replace the rear hub assembly that is was critically broken. Waiting to contact local Ford dealer for resolution based on tsb research I have done. 2 - whining noise from air conditioner when accelerating. Don't really know what is going on. Saw this also on tsb. Contacting local Ford dealership. 3 - ABS light randomly comes on. Don't know why and no pattern to when. Contacting local Ford dealership. 4 - cruise control not working. I was driving down the road this weekend, using cruise control. Stopped quickly for a car in front of me. When I started going again, the cruise control wouldn't work and hasn't worked since then. I don't know if it has to do with the brakes. I noticed Ford recalled some cruise control mechanisms in other vehicles but not in the 2003 Explorer.

- Chattanooga, TN, USA

problem #2

May 012005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 31,900 miles
I was driving at freeway speeds when a collision occured in the lanes next to me and the vehicles swerved into my lane. I slamed on the brakes and the ABS system started working, then failed. The back wheels locked up and I fish-tailed, ending up in the dirt center median. When I looked at the dash, the ABS warning light was on. The dealership checked and found that the rear ABS sensor failed (open circut).

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #1

Jul 292003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles
Antilock brake warning light comes on and goes off. When light comes on the brake pedal will go to the floor and will still stop, but pedal pulsates vigorously. This occurs under normal braking. Also when the light is on, under a heavy stop, all four wheels will lock up. The truck has been at the dealer (gwinnett place Ford, duluth, ga) for five weeks now. They say that they have four other Explorer with the same problem. Ford currently does not have any way to fix the problem at this point. There has been a revised antilick brake control module that was supposed to be released last Friday. As of this morning, Ford has stopped the release with "quality issue - all parts are bad and cannot be sold" so now I am back at the starting point and still driving a smaller rental vehicle instead of the $34,000 truck my company bought for me to drive to do my job.

- Norcross, GA, USA

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