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:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
42,800 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 #14

Dec 302007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Brake rotors corroded to the point that the front surface was flaking off.

- West Lawn, PA, USA

problem #13

Sep 132006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles
: the contact stated during heavy braking, the ABS light illuminated and the brakes vibrated. The dealership replaced the ABS sensor 7 times, but the problem persisted.

- Waleska, GA, USA

problem #12

Feb 032006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles
ABS speed sensor failure at 63,000 miles. This also happened on my son's 2003 Explorer and 2002 Mercury Mountaineer.

- Northville, MI, USA

problem #11

Jun 012005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


I have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT 4X4, I have had nothing but problems with it, a few months ago I took it to the dealership because the ABS light was on and the 4X4 was not working properly, they supposedly fixed it and told us they replaced a speed sensor, they also found 2 rear axle seal leaks and supposedly fixed those, then in October of '05 I took it in to the dealership because it was jerking between 30 and 40 mph and upon acceleration on hills not mention that I could hear something happening underneath my vehicle, they put it up on the rack and came back out and said the clutch in the rear end was scorched and needed to have the whole rear end replace, so I did but when I was driving it back home after the repair it started jerking again, and after several weeks of worry and wonder another dealership tells me that the transfer case is bad, my Explorer is trying to engage itself in 4X4, so now I am having the transfer case replaced! my Explorer has 41,000 on it right now and Ford has not been much of a help, I have to pay $1500 for the transfer case, I will never buy another Ford product, I will buy a foreign car. Ford really needs to look into all of the complaints and technical service bulletins on these vehicles and I will do anything I can to promote that.

- Hull, GA, USA

problem #10

Jul 172005

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 32,000 miles
Because the ABS light comes on during long drives and remains on until we stop the vehicle, our Explorer has been in the shop on 3 times in 3 states. Weżżve been told that we shouldnżżT worry if the light goes off after stopping. A żżgrindingż noise checked in Colorado for 3 days last year wasnżżT a problem until our rear differential suddenly went "out, " in Ohio. In Illinois, the ABS light came on and stayed on for the first time. We went to the closest Ford dealership, and since it didnżżT remain lit, we were told to get it repaired in Iowa, since it wasn't "major." The ABS rear sensor was replaced. The mechanic said that Explorer with differential replacement were having sensor problems. When the differential was replaced in Ohio, the service rep mentioned a "kit" to replace the differential. Both garages seemed conversant with the ABS sensor and differential problems. The SUV has been maintained at Ford dealerships to ensure systems serviced by mechanics and technicians well versed in Ford products. The ABS sensor light problem recurred in may after a 200 mile road trip, going off after we stopped. My brakes failed when I tried to stop while traveling between 5-10 mph, about 550+ miles into an extended road trip. No citation was issued as the sheriff's deputy said there were no skid marks on the pavement to indicate that I had "jammed" on the brakes. I had pressed the brake pedal to the floor and had no brakes when I hit the back of a penske moving truck. The ABS brakes and "auxiliary" brakes failed on the vehicle, with over $11,000 worth of damage to the front end of the vehicle, even at a low rate of speed, which seems to be a pattern of problems with the ABS. The air bag didnżżT deploy. I reported this to Ford's customer care center on 7/18/2005, got a reference number, and was told I would hear from the consumer advisory group within 3 business days, havenżżT heard from them, yet.

- Cantril, IA, USA

problem #9

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 #8

Sep 202004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 260,000 miles


ABS light has been activated twice. I have taken my vehicle to the dealership. The dealership has replaced both rear ABS sensors on the vehicle.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #7

May 122004


  • 22,000 miles
When braking brake pedal went to the floor, causing extended stopping distance. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- Bethlehem, GA, USA

problem #6

Oct 182004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles
When applying the brakes the pedal proceeded to the floor without warning. The dealer stated this procedure was normal. Please provide additional information.

- Bethlehem, GA, USA

problem #5

Oct 192004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,300 miles
I was approaching a stop sign and began to brake, when the brake pedal started to make a grinding noise and then went all the way to the floor. I began to pump the brake and luckily enough I stopped before entering the intersection. If there would have been a vehicle in front of me, I would have hit them because the brakes would not work. I called the Ford dealership where I purchase the Explorer and they had me call road assistance to pick up my vehicle. Of course, they were not able to "duplicate" the problem. I was told that the ABS probably locked up because the street may have been wet, which it was not. Then they said that maybe I was on a gravel or dirt road, which I was not. I was told to keep an eye on it and if it happens again to call roadside assistance and they will look into it again. If there is a next time, I hope there will not be anyone injured.

- Wylie, TX, USA

problem #4

Oct 142004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


The ABS light comes on and there is no ABS saftey feature. This is happened 3 different times. I took my car to the dealer and they said it was the rear wheel speed sensor. It has been replaced 3 times. This is unacceptable and they said Ford released a new sensor the 2nd time I was there and I had the problem again. What is Ford going to do, if the ABS fails again. I have drafted a complaint with Ford and I am awaiting for a reply. This is unacceptable for the same problm 3 times.

- Parma, OH, USA

problem #3

Jul 062004

(reported on)


  • miles
Problems with ABS braking system on 2003 Ford Explorer. When making emergency stops and ABS initiated, brake pedal suddenly decreases, and travels downward past the gas pedal stopping close to the floor. In some cases, consumer has the tendency to press both the gas and brake pedals due to the proximity of the two pedals, which resulted consumer to rear end another vehicle.

- Laurel, NY, USA

problem #2

Dec 272003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles
Brake pedal goes down to the floor intermittently.this is a major safetty issue.the dealership has not fixed the problem yet.took in the shop for more than 3 times.also the oil leak from the rear main seal, harshe shift in transmission, power steering pump failure, oil pan gasket leak, master cylinder leak, coil (spark plug) failure.

- Hayward, CA, USA

problem #1

Mar 092004


  • miles
While driving 20 mph consumer applied the brakes and pedal went to the floor. Consumer was unable to maintain control, and hit another vehicle on the left front rear. Upon impact, both air bags did not deploy. No injuries were reported. Consumer's vehicle was towed to dealer.

- Brea, CA, USA

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