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
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
2,780 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 #5

Jul 202004


  • 12,000 miles


While driving consumer heard a loud noise coming from the rear axle/driveshaft. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- Medford, MA, USA

problem #4

Dec 092003


  • miles
Car vibrates at highway speed. Have had in shop three time now. The fourth is coming. They have replaced the driveshaft, fixed some bent metal, and are now going to replace the rear.

- Lumberton, NJ, 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

Feb 252003


  • 1,900 miles
The drive shaft was replaced.

- Horse Cave, KY, USA

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