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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
35,364 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

problem #6

Apr 192008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,335 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 50 mph and attempting to engage the cruise control, the speed rapidly increased above 55 mph. The cruise control light illuminated, which indicated that the cruise control was engaged. The contact depressed the brake pedal and attempted to disengage the cruise control, but was unsuccessful. The cruise control intermittently failed to operate normally. The vehicle was not equipped with antilock brakes. The fuel system and date of purchase were unavailable. The failure mileage was 77,335 and current mileage was 77,392.

- Black Diamond , WA, USA

problem #5

Jul 162007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Cruise control turns off during vehicle operation. Multiple occurrences on multiple dates. 2003 Ford Explorer XLT 4 door, 4WD 4.0L-6 cylinder.

- Leesburg, VA, USA

problem #4

Aug 122006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,179 miles
4 items 1 - have owned the 2003 Ford Explorer for 7 months. While test driving, I noticed a hum noise coming from rear tires. Was told it was tread noise. We took it for oil change at very well respected national automotive service shop. I was informed I needed to replace the rear hub assembly that is was critically broken. Waiting to contact local Ford dealer for resolution based on tsb research I have done. 2 - whining noise from air conditioner when accelerating. Don't really know what is going on. Saw this also on tsb. Contacting local Ford dealership. 3 - ABS light randomly comes on. Don't know why and no pattern to when. Contacting local Ford dealership. 4 - cruise control not working. I was driving down the road this weekend, using cruise control. Stopped quickly for a car in front of me. When I started going again, the cruise control wouldn't work and hasn't worked since then. I don't know if it has to do with the brakes. I noticed Ford recalled some cruise control mechanisms in other vehicles but not in the 2003 Explorer.

- Chattanooga, TN, USA

problem #3

Apr 072005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,231 miles


The cruise control on my vehicle is defective. I can turn it on by hitting the off button and vise versa. The car will speed up when I touch the coast button and slow down when I hit the set button. I have notified the dealer and they said there is not a recall for this problem on the Explorer, but that there is a recall on the Ford F150 for a similar problem.

- Denver, CO, USA

problem #2

Sep 082004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,236 miles
When braking cruise control would not disengage. Dealership repaired the problem, but consumer was still having the same problems.

- Holton, MI, USA

problem #1

Aug 212004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,200 miles
Cruise control acts erratic. Sometimes works fine, sometimes won't work at all, sometimes shuts off by itself and on approximately four occasions has accelerated wildly on its own when engaged.

- Grandview, WA, USA

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