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:
50,500 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

problem #2

Feb 132007

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


- while driving the 2003 Ford Explorer at 60 mph the contact heard a noise and the back of the SUV began to vibrate. Once the vehicle was checked the contact noticed that the tire was at an angle. The contact thought the dealer forgot to put the lugs:nuts back on the wheel. The drivers side rear axle shaft failed, almost causinga crash after the dealer had worked on it. Only one nut was holding the shaft in place. The contact believed that this was also a manufacturing defect. The weather was overcast and 20 degrees. It snowed, but the road was dry. The vehicle had to be towed the next day to the dealership to be repaired. The current and failure mileage were 60000.

- Milford, KS, USA

problem #1

Dec 042004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles
Whining noise coming from rear became louder 41,000 mile on odo dealer advised rear wheel bearings seals and strut inserts, we had the repairs made $1000 one year later we noticed more noise and chatter when turning, dealer advised rear differential needs rebuild, and new clutch packs. We are having the repairs made at this time. These are expensive problems Ford should be held responsible.

- Buffalo Grove, IL, USA

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