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:
89,179 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 #4

Oct 072011

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 86,676 miles


My 2003 Ford Explorer was in the shop for a fuel smell and diagnosed with a fuel tank leak around the fuel filler hose at the gas tank. There is visible cracking on the plastic surrounding the base of the filler neck as it attaches to the fuel tank with constant fuel seepage. I called the customer relationship center at Ford Motor Company with the hope that they would be concerned about this serious issue and was given a case number and asked to take my vehicle into my local Ford dealer's service department for an inspection to verify the problem. I left my vehicle with them for an entire day and was told at the end of the day that there would be no assistance available from Ford and therefore no work or inspection was performed by the service department. This is a critical Ford Motor Company engineering problem and would hope they would take a serious interest in resolving such a hazardous issue.

- Oro Valley, AZ, USA

problem #3

Oct 012010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 160,000 miles
I have a 2003 Ford Explorer and recently the check fuel cap light went on, I have change the cap 3 times, reset the computer, check the charcoal canister, the fuel lines and all the recommendations on the users manual but nothing seems to work, now the service engine soon light also went on, I checked online and there is thousands of people with the same problem... no solution from the dealer or online yet.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #2

Mar 022010


  • 74,042 miles
1. fuel gauge just stop working after refilling the vehicle. 2. the failure just happened and now it does not detect gas in the engine. 3. the failure happened shortly after getting a non-related item fixed on February 27, 2010.

- Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #1

Jun 302003


  • 35,998 miles
I put the date of incident as the date I purchased the vehicle. I put this date as such because ever since I purchased this vehicle, we have had nothing but run arounds by the service providers and constant repairs every 3-7 months since I purchased the vehicle. The first major repair occurred when I had owned the vehicle for 18 months, at 35,998. It had an $1800 transmission job. Subsequent repairs have been focused transmission issues (always something slightly different than previous), engine function, and other mechanical issues. An extended warranty was purchased, but due to the parameters of the warranty, all issues were not fixed because they "were not able to be duplicated", (I.e. an intermittent transmission issue that had been occurring for 30,000 miles). Now that we are out of our warranty vehicle, we have an overpriced vehicle that is still owed on that will continue to need significant repairs. The most recent issue is the heating element, including the actuator and blend door function. This faulty piece will fail in the cold position. This causes a safety issue because you are faced with a repair that you may not be able afford (since they can run up to $1200) and having heat in the winter. With the current auto industry having the issues they are, they need to begin to make quality vehicles that aren't made to break just to get more money out of customers. To have continued customers, a company must have a consistent product that people can trust. The current american auto industry does not have that.

- Westminster, CO, USA

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