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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
48,000 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 exhaust system problems

exhaust system problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #2

Feb 172008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 60 mph, on February 17, 2008, the engine shut off immediately without warning. Several vehicles were rapidly approaching the contact, which nearly caused a fatal crash. There were no warning lights present prior to the failure; however, after the engine shut off, all of the lights illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic and diagnosed. The mechanic was unable to restart the vehicle. The dealer diagnosed the vehicle and stated that the catalytic converter needed to be replaced. The part was ordered and may be available by next week. The vehicle has been at the dealer for two weeks. The manufacturer's president was notified on two occasions and the secretary forwarded the messages to a liaison. The contact wanted the vehicle replaced, but the liaison stated that she could not assist. The contact saw on the news that there was a manufacturer's recall and filed case number 0490000518. The manufacturer stated that there were no existing recalls related to the failure. The following failures occurred with the previous owner: On March 1, 2004, the ring and pinions failed, on March 31, 2004, the pinion valve leaked, was damaged, tested and repaired. On April 14, 2004, while driving approximately 55 mph, the front pinion seal was leaking and replaced. The upper bearing was also repaired. The VIN appears to be invalid. The failure and current mileages were 40,000.

- Roswell, GA, USA

problem #1

Apr 202007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and was towed to the dealer. The dealer stated that the catalytic converter was bad and needed to be replaced. The part was supposed to be available on May 10, 2007, but it still has not arrived. The repair is covered under warranty. The engine size was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 56,000.

- Bordentown, NJ, USA

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