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:
19,584 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 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #4

Sep 012003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 700 miles


New 2003 Ford Explorer 2wd 4.0 6cyl prob began at 500-700 miles. Excessive vibration and whining noise at speeds from 40-70 mph. Vehicle appears to struggle when accelerating, and cruising speeds. Dealer unresponsive after learning that Ford engineers acknowledge problem and have no current fix. Dealer unwilling to explore a replacement vehicle, or refund. Ford feild services engineer admitted to me that approximately 50% of new Explorer have this faulty "ring & pinion gear" and that vendors are working to certify replacement parts.

- Mckinney, TX, USA

problem #3

Oct 142003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Excessive whining noise coming from the rear differential/drive axles/driveshaft area of the vehicle at speeds between 50 and 60 M.P.H.

- Humble, TX, USA

problem #2

Oct 112003

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I bought a 2003 Ford Explorer 4WD, V8 - Sept. 22, 2003. About 3.5 weeks later it began to shake and made a loud noise. I haven't gotten 1100 mile on it before it began its downward spiral. I took it into be repaired on 10/13/03 regarding the whining but I forgot to mention the vibration-- it only happen on 2 occasion thus far. But the whining is constant - around 50 mile and above. I was by the service person the engineers are working on it and I am to wait until they find a cure for it. I am not trusting them with my safety, I was told it was in the driveline/axle /driveshaft- the name changes but still the same explanation - no fix as of yet. Could be long-term or not at all. I want this vehicle replace - asap.

- Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #1

Sep 122003

(reported on)

Explorer 6-cyl Diesel

  • 6,000 miles
The consumer stated the vehicle vibrated excessively in the rear end. Dealer acknowledged manufacturer's tsb on issue advised problem caused by rear axle.

- Greentown, PA, USA

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