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:
78,818 miles
Total Complaints:
22 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (8 reports)
  2. complete rear end repair, replace wheel bearings (7 reports)
  3. ring and pinion replacement (5 reports)
  4. clutch pack replacement in rear end (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #22

Dec 112016

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles


There is a TBS 5-23-3 on this problem. I tried changing the rear end fluid, and it helped a little. The dealer wanted $1600 to fix and the car's worth $2400

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #21

Nov 022009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

common problem in 2002 and 2003 ford explorers. i had to have the rear differential rebuilt at a cost of 1100. ford has TSB out on this issue advising to replace ring and pinion.

it's easy to diagnose yourself. it sounds like a howl coming from the rear of the vehicle. sometimes this can be misinterpreted as wheel bearings needing replaced (which is another common problem on this explorer). to diagnose simply get going to speed where the howl is heard (usually 40-70mph) while your foot is still on the accelerator peddle you can hear the howl, take your foot off the accelerator and the howl disappears.

had ford dealership fix this problem. has been several years since repair, at first it was whisper quite you couldn't really notice a difference using the above diagnosis steps. however, after about 4 years since being done i can hear the howl again, but it is nowhere near as bad as it was.

- , Wooster, OH, USA

problem #20

Aug 052011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

I'm so tired of this POS! I will never buy another Ford. They think are so good because they have few recalls. Unfortunately, they should be recalling the entire Explorer line. This latest problem with the clutch pack takes the cake costing me $1000. Its only worth $8000. From what I'm reading, its only a matter of time before I have to put a lot more money into this piece of junk for the transmission. Its not worth it. I'm getting rid of it. Fix Or Repair Daily or Found On Road Dead. Take your pick.

- , West Bountiful, UT, USA

problem #19

Feb 162011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles


Had both rear disc and new brakes installed, new tires all around, noise still there, found this site and find that I have a rear end that needs to be replaced due to it wearing out. With the same complaints that I have read I think I will try and get rid of my explorer also. I tried to buy American but I think Ford Motor Company has failed to understand that we are the people that keep them in business. I will switch from ford to something else. Remember when ford and Firestone tires on explorers were causing tip overs and were killing people? I guess they don't care about this problem either.

- , Santa Maria, CA, USA

problem #18

Mar 102010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Second time this rear differential bearings and wheel bearings had to be replaced. This was one not in warranty.

- , Troy, IL, USA

problem #17

Jun 012010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

Another Explorer rear end differential problem. Started with passenger side rear bearing going while I was driving on the interstate at 70 MPH. Pulled off the highway and found a repair shop. They repaired the problem under the warranty I purchased with the vehicle when I bought it at 87k miles just 3 days before. Now at around 110k miles, the warranty I bought is expired and the same very loud rear end noise is happening when I let off the gas to coast for a slower car or coming to a stop that most other people are complaining of.

I'm a traveling contractor for a wireless provider,I drive over a thousand miles a week, and I'm just going to keep on going until the thing falls apart. I have found that if I keep just a little pressure on the accelerator and one foot on the brake while coasting, the growling and grinding have gone away for the most part. I will update when it finally dies and let all of you know what the cost is and hopefully post photos fo the damage. Ford should really take a look at this problem, as it seems very widespread, but they won't unless a bunch of us get together and do something as a group. I'm all in if someone wants to start spreading the word. The sqeaky wheel (or growling rear end) gets the oil, right?

- , Binghamton, NY, USA

problem #16

May 012010

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


Just had the front differential fixed a few months ago and that cost was over $1200.00. Now took the explorer into the dealership because of rear end noise. Found out they have to replace the rear bearings and the pinon. Can't understand with under 80,000 miles on vehicle and treating it extremely well (with upkeep) that something so out of the usual would go wrong. WHAT NEXT?????

- , Mio, MI, USA

problem #15

Dec 012007

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

over 55 mph i hear a loud hummimg noise ,took it to dealer they say its going too cost over $900 to fix , also back glass panel crack an its going to cost me ,last but not least the shifting from park to drive or drive to park it some time dos not go into park i have to always double check to make sure the truck is in park ,ford is well aware of all the major problems but is not doing anything to help with the repairs or cost ,u suck ford!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , S Outh Ozone Park, NY, USA

problem #14

Jun 132006

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

The rearend has been whining since about 40,000 miles. The explorer now has 102,000 miles on it. Explorers are great vehicles but this noise is really annoying. The wife is now wants a freekin Tahoe.

- , Owensboro, KY, USA

problem #13

Sep 212007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Squeaking noise when driving and clanking when changing from park to drive or reverse. Couldn't determine what was the problem. I took vehicle to dealer for inspection of problem. Ford Motor Company replaced clutch pack in rear end. There was no charge for replacement. This was evidently a design defect.

- , Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #12

Jun 062007

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles


Repaired once via replacement of ring and pinion gears at dealership, but problem has now resurfaced and louder than ever. When is Ford going to address this problem??

- , Richmond, KY, USA

problem #11

Feb 232009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

I had just purchased this car from a small, local dealer. I owned this vehicle for less than a week before I took it out on the highway and heard this God-Awful, high-pitched humming noise. It seemed like it was radiating from everywhere. Within a day or two, I couldn't go over 20MPH before I heard it. On the highway it was so bad I had to literally blare the stereo to try and keep my sanity. I took it to be looked at by a mechanic and I'm looking at a $1200 fix. I wish I would have found this site before I purchased it! The differentials, pins, etc...Basically the whole dang rear end is done for. This car is ridiculous and has definitely earned it's nickname, "Exploder." (BTW, the front end differentials were leaking too...Another $125 fix!) STAY AWAY!!!

- , Wenatchee, WA, USA

problem #10

Jan 302009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

i bought my explorer it had 36,000 miles it has 48,000 and the rear end is making a noise . I have a mechanic friend said it's in the rear end could be the spider gear or pinion or something . I'm hearing that explorers have rear end problem ford needs to have a recall or fix the problems ..this is why people don't buy american. FORD FI THIS PROBLEM !!!!

- , Panama City, FL, USA

problem #9

Jan 052008

Explorer XLT 3.4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

after hearing noise that sounded like worn tires or snow tires,took truck to my mechanic,to ask about noise and have 4 new tires installed,after mechanic insp. was told that left and right frt. wheel bearings were worn and lower ball joints had play and the ring and pin. was going out!!!! not wanting to call a long time mechanic friend a bullsh$ter, i went to the truck inside shop to have him and his dad [ a mechanic for 46 yr] show me all the things wrong so i could see for my self.first saw ball joints[worn] then herd and could feel play in both ball joints,then on to the rear end,trashed.... pulled drain plug only to see metal shards mixed with gear oil ! then after backing truck out of bay noticed door ajar light on. 6 mos later fixed frt wheel bearings,not the rear end yet and the rt/frt door ajar switch,that seems to tie into alot of other systems on this truck

- , Goldsboro, NC, USA

problem #8

Jun 272008

Explorer 3.2L V6 ?

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

Just brought the car and everything appeared to be fine. Then while driving, I heard this grinding noise. At first I thought it was the transmission. Glad it was not, however I found out that it was the rear end and I decided to see who else was having this problem. Found this website. Please let me know if there is a class action so that I can become a part of it.


- , Hazel Crest, IL, USA

problem #7

Jul 242005

Explorer ED Bauer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 16,000 miles

At 16000mi the factory rearend was replaced. That rearend failed at 56000mi and the dealership installed Ford's TSB 05-223-3 which cost me $500. The rearend started humming in less than 1000mi. The dealership made an adjustment that cost me over $200 and the rearend started humming again in less that 500mi. I initiated a Better Business Breau complaint and Ford Customer Care Service called me and said to have the 03 explorer rearend noise diagnoised by the dealership again. The dealership said that the humming at 52MPH was normal for the Ford 03 Explorer. Well, Ford Customer said since the rearend noise is within normal operating parameters that Ford could not do anything to fix the problem. Get this, a Ford garage mechanic is making engineering decisions for the Ford Motor Company! My contention is that Ford recognized that there was a problem and issued TSB 05-23-3 which was supposed to fix the problem. My dealership has decided that the humming is not a problem and no further action by the dealership or Ford Motor Company is required. Well, I've decided to never buy another Ford product. Ford's Customer Care Service stinks!!

- , Bremerton, WA, US

problem #6

Mar 012007

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I got this noise @ 75.000 miles. Ford service told me noise comes from front bearings. I replaced bearings. Noise never stopped. Now @ 100,000 they said its differential. They estimated repair for $1400, verbally without specifying any parts, part prices or labor. Now Iím learning on internet that it is very common problem. I found law office that is familiar whit this case. See what they can do.

- , Elizabeth, NJ, USA

problem #5

Jun 042008

Explorer XLS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

I just posted on June 1st about another problem with my 2003 Ford Explorer, now I am back with another complaint. I have been hearing a loud humming noise from the back of my truck for sometime. I was told I needed new tires and brakes. Had both replaced and still the same problem. This week I had transmission problems, which was already submitted. I took the truck in and was told I needed a new transmission was also told basically the rear end of the truck was bad and that is what caused the transmission to go out. They can repair or replace the transmission for 2K and on top of that the rear end for over 3K (give me a break).

This truck is a piece of crap and I wish I could call some other things and I think it is ridiculous that Ford will not do a recall because "This isn't a Safety Hazardous". I have 2 little kids and had that rear end fell off while I was driving the truck Ford would definitely have something on their hands!

- , Portsmouth, VA, USA

problem #4

Apr 282008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Took my Explorer into Crossroads Ford Cary, NC to have the rear end noise investigated, fixed. They came back and told me it was a bad speed sensor in driver front and the whole hub had to be replaced. I questioned them about the it repairing the noise in the rear end; their reply: Absolutely it will fix that problem. It didn't. It cost $1200 to fix the front hub. The rear end noise was the clutches (it made a grinding noise when taking off or when turning, to help those of you out with the description). They told me it would be another $3200! The mechanic even said that he knew what the problem was but never told me that it was the rear clutches, but instead went ahead and fixed the speed sensor. GET RID OF YOUR EXPLORER!!!! Mine had to have the transmission replaced on it at 52,000!!!!

- , Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #3

May 122008

Explorer XLT 4.O

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

2003 Ford Explorer, rear end noise. Turned out to be a rear bearing issue. However, this vehicle had to have a complete rear end repair at 28,000 miles. This rear bearing is just one of the issues with bearings, turned out both front wheel bearings were also bad. The mechanic couldn't believe that the rear wheel hadn't fallen off. We jacked the vehicle up and the tire and wheel assembly leaned in about 6 inches, it could be rocked by hand very easily. So now three wheel bearings and a complete rear end repair with only 80,000 miles. Rear end was about 1500.00, front bearings about 250.00 a piece, now who knows what the rear bearing will be?

- , Piedmont, SC, USA

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