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.


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
20,000 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 cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #1

Apr 252006

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles


Excessive engine cooling fan noise upon morning first use. If you let the car sit overnight and then startup the car, back up out of the driveway, and accelerate normally down the residential street, the cooling fan sounds like an airplane propeller chopping the air. The performance of the vehicle (a V8) seems sluggish as the engine fights to spin the fan at every increasing engine RPM. The noise is excessive and unnerving. Once you come to a stop sign and the engine slows to idle, the fan resumes normal operating mode and no longer spins at engine RPM speeds. This is a very repeatable event. 3 out 5 mornings I have to deal with this. Ford motor customer service says they cannot do anything until the dealer identifies the problem. The car has been at the dealer for several days and they are unable to experience the problem. There is only one thing that can be wrong here is the fan clutch. But until the problem stays broken, and it wont as it goes away once you go to idle, they will not repair the problem under warranty. My concern is multifold. I am concerned for the safety of others as it is unnatural for the cooling fan to be spinning at engine RPM. If the fan were to disintegrate, who will be in the way of the high speed fragments? I am concerned about the damage that would occur to the vehicle if the fan were to let loose. I am concerned that the fan's life is being reduced and will suffer premature failure. The dealer refuses to review tsb 17163 -- excessive engine cooling fan noise. (NHTSA id #10004057) until they experience the problem. The dealer seems to be uncooperative and chooses to ignore the customer's complaint.

- Fraser, MI, USA

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