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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
96,693 miles
Total Complaints:
9 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (7 reports)
  2. replace transfer case (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #9

Oct 012011

Explorer Limited 4 V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


have been experiencing front jerking like going over a bump. Starts after I decrease speed from 50mph or high as I slow down it does it stonger. I have replaced multiple parts through a friend- wheel bearings, tie rods, brake pads, rotors, ball joints, passenger shaft, cv joint in driver shaft, spark plugs, differential oil, new used tires, alignment. He took out the drive shaft and ran find til he put it back with the new cv joint in drive shaft. We figured that by pushing the high 4 x 4 button it would stop the jerking. Now we are going to try the transfer case, o and my abs light still goes on and off from time to time dont know if that is related.

- , Ro, IL, USA

problem #8

Aug 092011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,236 miles

I have a 1 year old son and I am so afraid to put him in this vehicle due to the fact that every time I turn around something else is going wrong.I have to replace brakes,wheel bearings ,transmissions,front ends,transfer cases,and now I am having electrical problems.These ford explorers need recalled

- , Terra Alta, WV, USA

problem #7

May 212011

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

My husband took the ford in to replace the front 2 tires. After the tires were replace he heard a grinding noise on the front driver's side of the vehicle. We took the ford explorer to our mechanic and was told that the transfer case had to be replace at the price of $3,800. I told the service center that this was the price of another vehicle. Three thousand eight hundred dollars is alot of money to spend on a car replace.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #6

Jun 012010

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


I have a 2003 Ford Explorer. It has started to jerk and make a clunking noise under the front end of the vehicle. It happens at different times (I do not have to be going a particular speed). Occasionally, I can take my foot off of the gas to get it to stop, but as soon as I hit the gas, it starts again.

I believe it is the Transfer case but do not want to have a mechanic pull that out and it ends up not being the issue.

Any help would be appreciated!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #5

Nov 162009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I just got a '03 Explorer XLT on October 2, 2009. I have had a Ford in one form or another for the past 15 years. I am very disappointed and I think that we need to get a class action lawsuit together againt Ford. First, I developed the crack in my rear window like I noticed may other people on this site have experienced. Now my car is idling rough and making a funny noise. They just said it is my timing chain. It looks like from the amount of posts that this is a common problem that Ford knows about as well. Maybe it is time to send Ford a message that if they don't fix the problem that they know are defective, then we will hit them where it hurt. Recall, repair and fix the crap that you sold to hard working families.

- , Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #4

Nov 082008

Explorer XLT 4.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

Loud humming vibration from front end once vehicle hits low 60's mph and up.

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #3

Jun 242008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer AWD. Replaced 3 Front differentials. Had one tire that was a little worn, replaced all 4 tires. Told me if I did this, my troubles would be over. Guess what, still in shop. Now they are telling me that the transfer case is bad. I wonder if it was because of three bad differentials? It is kinda like a hunt and peck mechanic. sooner or later they will fix the problem after replacing every possible part.

Garbage. Never again.... Call into FORD... Let's see what kind of BS they try to give me.

- , Park Ridge, NJ, USA

problem #2

Aug 202008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I recently noticed a whirring sound on my 03 Ford Explorer. The noise seems to be coming from the front end, and also has a slight vibration to it. Noise seems most present while driving (versus while in passenger seat).

I thought it could be low air in the tires, but they are full now, and the noise is still present. Tires are not old or bald. After reading a lot on the 02 Explorer section, I am fearing the worst - a bad differential. I'm hoping that replacing the fluid will help but after everything I've read, it doesn't seem too probable. I cannot believe there is no recall on this!

- , Union, NJ, USA

problem #1

May 142008

Explorer Limited 4.0L Sohc

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Had all new shocks ball joints and tires put on by dealer. Noise starts at around 65 MPH and is loud humming sound. Not sure if it's in the front or rear of vehicle. Had everything checked out but no help from the dealer.

- , Mary Esther, FL, USA

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