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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
70,094 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #22

Aug 272009


  • 40,000 miles


I have experienced all of the warnings the NHTSA listed for Ford drivers regarding possible imminent fires including getting the vehicle out of park mode. My problem is the recall only includes 1995-2002 Explorer and I have a 2003 Explorer. The manufacture date is 02/03. Is it possible the plant still had the Texas instrument cruise control deactivation switch in stock from 2002 and installed it in my vehicle? approximate incident date is the most recent date and the vehicle would not get out of the park mode on that particular date (8/27/2009). The antilock braking system warning has been an on and off problem for at least the last 2 years. Brake light warning on dashboard only a couple of times. The malfunctioning cruise control last happened about 8 months ago and may have happened again but don't remember when for sure. The only item I had checked out was the antilock braking system light on the dashboard. November 21, 2008 they replaced the differential speed sensor, I have yet to find out if that is related to the recalled switch. It fixed the antilock brake dashboard light from coming on mostly. It has come on after that, but only a couple of times and only for a short time.

- Mukilteo, WA, USA

problem #21

Dec 312008


  • miles
The door ajar light intermittently illuminates as the overhead lights come on. I had this occur once in the past and the dealer replaced a switch / relay but now it is occurring again... much more frequently... in fact, it is illuminated more then not now.

- Southbury, CT, USA

problem #20

Sep 202006


  • 50,000 miles
The passenger side airbag warning light comes on intermittently for no reason (has since I bought it used in 2006). The door ajar warning light comes on and won't allow me to lock/set my alarm on my vehicle plus it leaves the interior lights on for a while (started about 6 months ago). I am now experiencing a banging sound under the hood when I change the temperature (heat or air conditioning)(started in last 4 months). I have to turn the fan on high to get it to stop. It will do it even if the temp is off sometimes. It also will not lock into gear when put into park on an incline (my driveway)...without rocking backwards into gear(started in the last 6 months).

- Canal Winchester, OH, USA

problem #19

Dec 242008


  • miles


Door ajar light comes on and turns on interior light which makes driving difficulty. Interior light come on with no warning. Vehicle has no damage and periods of extended wet weather causes sensor to malfunction.

- Mill Run , PA, USA

problem #18

May 182008


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving at an unknown speed, the warning indicator for the doors illuminated on the instrument panel and would not dim. The vehicle was driven to the dealer and they stated that there were no defects. The failure persisted over the next few months. The contact allowed the vehicle to remain parked for a couple of days and was unable to restart the vehicle. The battery was replaced and the vehicle was able to be driven again; however, it began to stall shortly afterwards. The vehicle has not been repaired. The dealer and manufacturer have not been notified. The current mileage was 110,000 and failure mileage was 100,000.

- Bartlett, TN, USA

problem #17

Apr 072003


  • 6,000 miles
I purchased a 2003 Ford Explorer in April of 03. When we took receipt of the vehicle the dome light was not functioning. The vehicle was repaired and we took over the vehicle. From about 6000 miles we had a problem with the vehicle stalling or not starting in cold or humid weather. We have had the car in for service to the dealership approximately 8-10 times a year for various problems. We have had the following concerns with the vehicle; the dome lights have been out, the rear driver window has gone out, the service engine light has come on numerous times, the light for the rear differential has come on several times, the power door locks have failed or locked and unlocked when driving the car at speeds above 40 mph. We have had problems with the vehicle stalling or not starting in cold temperatures or when it is humid or damp outside. They have reprogrammed the computer twice and replaced various sensors. The dealership also put a flight recorder on the car to try and determine what the sensors were doing at the time. On one occasion, while the auto was at the dealership, the car was in park, the car rolled backwards. We are still experiencing problems with the car starting hard or stalling or not starting and are frustrated that nothing seems to be able to be done for it. I have paid to have the vehicle hooked up to the machine and it is showing a problem with the fuel sensors now. The auto repair shop stated the ignition coils are rusty and should not be this way for the car having 60,000 miles on it. After the original 3 year warranty was up on the vehicle I told the dealership I wanted an additional warranty which the dealer supplied with no questions asked. I realize with it being an "intermittent problem" it may be hard to diagnose, but Ford has received their money for the product, I don't think it's too much to expect a "reliable" car. Thank you for your help with this matter.

- Lapeer, MI, USA

problem #16

Oct 202006


  • 50,000 miles


I purchased a 2003 Explorer in August 2006; mileage was approximately 45,000. By October the car would not start and the alternator was replaced. A few weeks later, I was back because my car was jerking. Nothing showed up on the diagnostic tool at that time. However, I was told the starter would have to be replaced as would the recently installed alternator. I returned less than a month later with the same jerking issue, only this time I notified the repair shop that the O/D light had been coming on. Furthermore, my car had actually stalled in the middle of traffic. Again, nothing was found. By early December, I was back. My car had stalled on a few more occasions and would not "pick up". that is, even though the RPM's would reach anywhere from 2500 - 4000, my car could not accelerate above 25 - 30 mph. Several days later I was told that the transmission needed work. I got my car back a few days before christmas and decided last minute to head to the mountains. As soon as I reach a slight elevation, the car ceased to accelerate and what's more, a thick heavy cloud of black smoke came out of the rear and persisted for at least two miles. I headed back down the mountain for home. I took the car back and they kept it for at least a week and a half to repair the torque converter and other transmission related issue. In early fall 2007, I took the car to my local Ford dealer for some strange noise coming from the engine. It ended up costing $2500 to repair. I returned in November for more work, this time for the same torque converter and solenoid issue as a year ago. During this two year period, my vehicle was under extended warranty. The total repair cost for the first year of ownership is anywhere from $5000 - $9000, of which I paid at least $2500 out of pocket. My warranty has since expired and I am worried that these same issues will recur, as I have read they have. This is not an isolated incident and should be investigated and a recall issued.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #15

Oct 222007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
String of electrical failures a the same time - resulted in loss of vehicle for 3-4 days and we had to rent a car to fill in while it was getting repaired - full battery failure, failure of the 4WD component, broken or detached wire in driver's door, resulting in inability to lock/alarm that door with remote.

- Cliftno, VA, USA

problem #14

May 212007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,500 miles
The message center on 2003 Ford Explorer can't be seen in daylight causing a very dangerous situation while driving and trying to read the compass, mileage, miles /gal, any readout of the auto. Almost caused my wife and I to run off the road while trying to read the compass. Night reading is fine, but daylight is terrible.. this situation should be fixed by Ford before someone gets killed trying to read the message center in daylight.

- Finksburg, MD, USA

problem #13

May 042004

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Aroiund 37,000 miles I started having electrical problems. Half of them go off when they should and half of them stay on which runs my battery down and I have to be jumped. Then around 40,000 mile I started hearing a lound whining noise from my rear end. The dealer said nothing was wrong. It is so loud you have to almost yell to talk to someone. Then at 47,000 miles my service engine light soon started coming on. It has something to do with the coolant area. I am afraid to take my vehicle out of town and I owe too much on it to trade it.

- Willard, OH, USA

problem #12

Oct 252005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer XLT stalls without warning. Dealership repaired/replaced transmission main control valve twice; reprogrammed/recalibrated the PCM twice; repaired/replaced transmission solenoid valve; replaced fuse relays; tested fuel pressure and did numerous other diagnostic test. Stalling problem still exists. Vehicle has been to dealership 6 plus times since March 05 for the same problem.

- Walpole, MA, USA

problem #11

Apr 032005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,112 miles
Engine cut off, when high beams were switched on.

- Purcellville, VA, USA

problem #10

Sep 292005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,550 miles
Engine cut off while running, when I turned on high beams. Engine rpms and engine accelerated, when I turned on high beams loss control of acceleration, when fog lights were turned on. Message center flashed "check transmission", O/D off (overdrive off) flashed, when fog light were turned on.

- Purcellville, VA, USA

problem #9

Apr 042005


  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles
Vehicle was parked for approximately 2 hours and the owner drove across the street to the shell gas station, owner parked the vehicle on the side of the gas station, and got some cash from the atm machine. Owner walked back to the vehicle and it ignited. Fire department was notified and extinguished the fire. The entire truck was burned. The fire marshall said that they thought it was an electrical fire.

- Pensacola, FL, USA

problem #8

Oct 282004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles
The vehicle was brand new and there was rusting around the windshield, the power doors and the seats were not working, there was a problem with the cruise control as well. Five windshields had been replaced due to constant leaking including the moon roof and the headliner. The power doors did not work. When it would rain, many electrical problems would be present.

- Bayville, NJ, USA

problem #7

Jul 282004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 13,000 miles
While driving at any speed, all of the indicator lights illuminated on the dashboard. As a result, the steering locked. Please provide additional information.

- Big Bear City, CA, USA

problem #6

Aug 192003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 21,000 miles
The vehicle stalled while driving at 40 mph. The consumer had the vehicle towed. The vehicle would not restart. The fuel pump was replaced. The anti theft light had come on along with the RPM's going up. The problem could not be found. The valve boot and the solenoid was replaced. Soon after, the vehicle died again twice after two repair attempts.

- Menomonee Falls, WI, USA

problem #5

Dec 312002

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45 miles
Right side rear passenger window would jitter and bottom out when you open and close window. This problem was continuous since day one. I originally thought it was just off its track. So I didnt worry about it to much and I waited (which is my fault as to why I had to pay for it) until something more worth while going in for came up. When I took my truck in to have them look at the door ajar light from my deer accident, they said that the rear passenger window was doing what it was due to a bad electric motor. I think Ford needs to be more thorough when testing the vehical for quality assurance. The window was only used three time to date. I didnt mind paying for the repair as I am sure Ford would of honored the warrenty if I would of delt with it then. But its just the fact of the matter that they put a faulty electric motor in the SUV that should of been caught when it came off the assembly line.

- Fisher, IL, USA

problem #4

Mar 012004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,500 miles
2003, Ford, Explorer XLT 4X4 - engine just stopped, no warning, no sign of any problem, and would not restart, computer processor failed. No brakes, no power steering.

- Newton, NC, USA

problem #3

Jan 292004


  • miles
While driving 35 mph vehicle stalled. Consumer took vehicle to dealer four times. The first time mechanic replaced an air bypass valve. The second time mechanic reset computer module. The third and fourth times mechanic was not able to duplicate the problem. While driving 35 mph, the vehicle stalled. The driver took the vehicle to the dealer for analysis. The mechanic can not duplicate the problem.

- Greenville, NC, USA

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