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:
1 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
50,149 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #13

Nov 082006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles


: the contact stated while shifting to any gear at various speeds, a noise was heard. The vehicle was driven to the dealer who determined the oil needed to be changed every month.

- Madison Heights, VA, USA

problem #12

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 #11

Mar 052006

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,044 miles
1 history of engine surge, very fast idle upon starting since vehicle acquired.-all reported to dealer.---------------------------------------------------------------- stopped, motor off. Started, placed in reverse-touched accelerator and car jumped back full speed. Very narrow parking area (have pictures). Had to turn car rapidly to avoid large hill and trees -too short a distance to turn completely and hit front left fender and bumper glancing blow off two trees. Was able to shift into neutral and got stopped after going in a semicircular and backing over concrete parking barrier.-motor still racing--unable to turn off with key until fourth or fifth try and than motor bucked several time trying to stop. corrections to date. Reported to Ford! !

- St. Louis, MO, USA

problem #10

Aug 172005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles


2003 Ford Explorer boyfriend's description of event: 1)I can consistently get the vehicle to stall out when coasting down to a stop. It is all in the way of the coast down. It is more repeatable if you start braking way before a stop event (slowly coasting in). The bad thing is the event is so quiet that half the time you did not know it stalled (unless you were looking at the ipc). You have to put the car in park or neutral to restart engine each time event occurs. I would say it has happened 30+ times. 2) the failure is a stalled engine. The consequence could be rolling out to incoming traffic, thinking the vehicle is running, yet the engine is stalled. ) nothing has been done yet. Took it into shop and it was said that nothing was seen (not a Ford dealership).

- Troy, MI, USA

problem #9

Dec 082003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 500 miles
When the consumer applied the brake to slow down, the vehicle cut off. The vehicle has been taken to the dealer and they were unable to duplicate the problem.

- Gadsden, AL, USA

problem #8

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 #7

Oct 152003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 0 miles


I have recently bought 2 brand new Ford from champion Ford in shreveport Louisiana. My brand new Ford XLT Explorer 2 door sport has been in the shop for various repairs longer than I have had the vehicle. The vehicle was purchased on 09/27/2003 since then the hood had to be re-painted, both side body molding has been replaced, the front turn signal light came loose, both bottom exterior body door trim had to be replaced, interior trim piece below the rear window broke and had to be re-placed, but the main problem is a vibration in the motor/transmission that vibrates the dash I have spent already over $60 in gas back and forth to dealership, me and my wife have taken off two days at work costing us over $500 in loss of pay, I have already paid the first truck note and insurance payment and now the truck is back at the dealership for repairs for approximately one more week of repairs. On 10/17/2003 the truck was brought back to the dealership and my wife drove another Explorer of the same make/model and had no problems I then was told by the service mgr. That this problem was inherent to this make/model. I then approached the sale mgr. With the hopes of either exchanging or trading up too the 4 door model to help defray the profit loss. It was explained to me that the vehicle had already depreciated some $4000 and that to swap vehicles it would cost me an additional $75 an up a month car note. I have contacted Ford Motor Company who basically told me I was stuck with the vehicle even though the dealership has had the vehicle longer than I have had it. I was sent from employee to employee mgr. Of this to mgr. Of that. I would appreciate any information or ideas you could provide me with this situation. This vehicle is to be my wife's truck and I would like her in a safe truck that is safe for her to travel in. The dealership has already replaced the cosmetic faults but has stated that this problem is of doubtful outcome.

- Pineville, LA, USA

problem #6

Feb 022004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 5,000 miles
The vehicle jerked while being driven. The vehicle has been taken to the dealer 4-5 times. Each time the technician stated the problem was repaired but each time the jerking problem returned. The consumer does not believe that the technician can repair the problem. The vehicle would oscillate intermittently while pulling in and out of a driveway or parking. The wheel jerked violently. The consumer lost control of the vehicle and the engine would stall when the steering oscillated.

- Universal City, TX, USA

problem #5

Jun 122003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,823 miles
While the consumer was driving at an undetermined speed engine check light appeared on the dash, causing the vehicle to stall. Consumer contacted dealer on four occasions, but problem still occurs. Consumer seeking or vehicle replacement reimbursement for repairs on engine, right rear door, and center console lid.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #4

Jan 082004

(reported on)


  • miles
While driving 40-45 mph and without any indication vehicle lost power. Consumer pulled vehicle over and restarted it. Then, returned to normal driving.

- Los Olivos, CA, USA

problem #3

Oct 072003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 500 miles


My incident appears to be related to ssm 16771 that Ford has dealers abiding by in some attempt to post-product development "re-engineer" their product. My 2003 Ford Explorer which suffers from symptoms listed in the ssm was released by the dealer with the same symptoms it had upon delivery to the dealer (rough idle / stalling on cold start). Now that Ford has had the dealer alter the ECM programming (I'm guessing to richen the idle air-fuel mixture) I wonder if my vehicle still passes emissions and has epa certified fuel economy"?" not likely...

- Livonia, MI, USA

problem #2

Aug 252003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 1,575 miles
While driving approximately at 55 mph the vehicle stalled. This was an intermittent problem. It had become hard to start the vehicle when this occurred. The vehicle was taken to the dealership before but the mechanic could not find the cause of the problem. The dealer advised the consumer to change the fuel from unleaded to premium and place a gas treatment in it and the problem would not persist but the problem continued. The consumer was then told that the transceiver circuit was the problem but again the problem returned.

- Frederiksted, VI, USA

problem #1

Jun 012003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 16,000 miles
Rear glass opened while driving. Loud whistling noise coming from under dash/engine. No power. Stalls on take off.

- Marbury, AL, USA

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