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.


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
11,833 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 fuel system problems

fuel system problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #2

Jun 282006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles


Hello. I have several complaints regarding my 2003 Ford Explorer including several safety issues. The first complaint is regarding the driver's seat which shifts routinely on acceleration and de-acceleration. This concerns me if I get into an accident and the seat malfunctions. The second complaint is regarding the gear shifter not going into park easily. I have to jiggle it to into park. I am concerned that this might not properly engage park and my vehicle might roll. Thirdly, my rear lift gate trim has had to be repaired at least 3 times. I am concerned that although the dealership says there is no safety issue, there possibly could be due to the rear lift gate hinges being recalled and representative informing me that the reason that I continue to have a crack appearing is due to design flaw. This concerns me B/C I frequently utilize the lift gate to retrieve groceries and other items and do not want the window to fail and fall on my head. The remainder concerns are regarding the function of my vehicle. I have had to have 3 of the window motors replaced under warranty. The transmission has had to be fixed twice (shifting module malfunction). Finally, the fuel gauge had to be repaired due to improper fuel readings. I guess all these items could be very problematic as well B/C I could run out of gas and be stranded with my child, my vehicle might not shift properly leaving me stranded. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions. Ps. I would also like to add that as I was completing this process I remembered that my vehicle had a high pitched whine that had to be repaired. I do not remember exactly what had to be repaired but it was covered under warranty.

- Conroe, TX, USA

problem #1

May 132004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,666 miles
Vehicle loses power and you are unable to accelerate it, its stalls as a result of the loss of power. The vehicle is difficult to get out of traffic. Vehicle was repaired several times including replacement of fuel pump, fuel filter, and cruise control wires. The vehicle is not repaired at this time.

- Encinitas, CA, USA

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