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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
65,000 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 #4

Mar 252010


  • 135,000 miles


There have been multiple problems with my 2003 Ford Explorer since I bought it brand new in August of 2003. But ironically they have all appeared after the warranty had expired. In September 2007 the air conditioning unit no longer worked. It cost me $2000 and a week without a car, to get it fixed. In August 2009 the passenger door window would no longer work. In September 2009 my SUV started making a clicking sound when turning on the heater. Since we lived in a warm climate this did not concern us much, as the heat had worked even with the clicking sound. But we moved to a colder climate and the heater went out in March 2010. In April 2010 the service engine light came on. After speaking with the mechanic, he said it was a transmission problem that occurred when the car shifted from 1st to 2nd gear and from 4th to 5th gear. He could not give me any more information and was not willing to fix my transmission problem (he suggested I go elsewhere because he was not an expert in transmissions). In May 2010 the O/D light started flashing off. After speaking to mechanic again, he said it was related to the transmission problem. In August 2010 the door ajar light started coming on randomly, even when the door is not open. And in September 2010, I noticed my ABS light will come on randomly. It does not appear to be triggered by any specific reason, and does not always come on.

- Apo, AE, USA

problem #3

Sep 202006


  • 50,000 miles
The passenger side airbag warning light comes on intermittently for no reason (has since I bought it used in 2006). The door ajar warning light comes on and won't allow me to lock/set my alarm on my vehicle plus it leaves the interior lights on for a while (started about 6 months ago). I am now experiencing a banging sound under the hood when I change the temperature (heat or air conditioning)(started in last 4 months). I have to turn the fan on high to get it to stop. It will do it even if the temp is off sometimes. It also will not lock into gear when put into park on an incline (my driveway)...without rocking backwards into gear(started in the last 6 months).

- Canal Winchester, OH, USA

problem #2

Oct 202008


  • 75,000 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer heating system started making a clicking sound when I turned it on, then I found that if I turned it to cool side the clicking stopped, now there is not heat at all only cold air. I am told by a Ford mechanic that it is a broken blend door, an extremely common & costly repair since the blend door is in a ridiculous spot behind the dashboard that takes 6-8 hours of repair to remove & replace the $20 part. I found thousands of complaints from other Ford owners dating back to the 1993 Ford Ranger model with the same problem...why is this not forced to be a recall for Ford to take care of this problem? the pin that breaks on the blend door is plastic, any nimrod knows heat and cold will cause plastic to become brittle and break, thus you would think that making the pin metal would have been a solution years ago, it is only a 3-4 inch pin...not that expensive to fix but sure is costly to fix this nutty error for Ford.

- Camp Hill, PA, USA

problem #1

Jul 012004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Various complaints involving the 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. Consumer believed that noise on vehicle was coming from rear. Repairs and/or replacements were made on: Front and rear suspensions, transfer case, and seals in the rear axle due to leak. Now, consumer is waiting for a new axle assembly to be replaced on the vehicle. Also, a cooling system noise on vehicle but dealer coudn't find the source of the problem.

- Statesville, NC, USA

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