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:
31,098 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 miscellaneous problems

miscellaneous problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #6

Mar 272008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles


Loss control of my SUV, and found out my spindle, bearings and everything was shot!

- Dryden, MI, USA

problem #5

Jan 262008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I just recently took my 2003 Ford Explorer XLT 4.0L V6 to my local dealer because of a cold draft coming from the glove box and or floor panel on the passenger side. Upon not even going into further explanation about my problem they knew exactly what the problem was; stating it is the "blend door." They said "the pins from the door break off and causes the door to fall making it not function properly creating a cold draft and the heater or air conditioning not to work properly; is a "common problem".┐ when I called down there two days later, to get my quote on fixing it, the manager in parts said ┐the part was $50 and was going to require 4 hours of labor because of having to take the whole dash off to get to it; I was looking at roughly $330 with parts, labor, and tax.┐ I personally feel this is a ┐manufactures defect┐ and why should the consumer have to pay for a ┐manufactures defect?┐ also, if this is such a ┐common problem┐ why is there not a recall for it being faulty; other than because it's not a safety hazard. I appreciate any time you put into my question and dilemma. I will be looking forward to an explanation as to why it isn┐T a recall.

- Warrensburg, NY, USA

problem #4

Jan 142008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,585 miles
I am attempting to rectify a well know problem on my 2003 Ford Explorer regarding the heater blend door for the front heating unit. In this particular instance I have no heat here in Michigan of all places. Does Ford have a recall for this problem" I have spoken to several Ford people and they say this is a very common problem. If the air blend door breaks and the system is locked in the A/C mode, defogging/defrosting the windshield will be a challenge. Ever tried to melt ice with an air conditioner? we have a responsibility to report safety issues. When the dealer called back, the first question was the vehicle?S mileage. When I reported 79K miles they said sorry, the cut-off for assistance was 75K miles. I argued that the problem was logged at 40K miles with numerous follow-up calls. They refused. I called the 1-800 assistance number again and got a real bonehead. She confirmed that 75K miles was the cut-off. I asked to speak to the gentleman to whom I had previously registered my complaint, giving her his identification number. She refused. I hung up and dialed the 1-800 number again. This time I got a kind lady who told me that the field engineer had the authority to offer compensation. I contacted the dealership to schedule an appointment and then learned that the field engineer had backed out of the deal and I was about to fork over $700 for replacement. How in the world does the customer get hosed for this amount of money. I bought the truck, kept it insured, did my maintenance and due to a factory defect, I still have to pay" unless the vehicle is in a crash or fire, an air plenum should last longer than the body of the vehicle. The on-going saga continues, as this becomes a safety issue, now I can't see out of my window due to snow and ice.

- New Baltimore, MI, USA

problem #3

Oct 012007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Paint is bubbling up and peeling on my roof in 3 areas. I can see the metal.

- Honea Path, SC, USA

problem #2

Aug 282003

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 18,000 miles
TL-the rear end or the transmission and they cannot find the problem. You push on the accerlartor the engine revved up and then it slammed into gear. It you come to a stop sing some times it will go and sometimes no it feels as it some thing drops from under the trunck.

- Herculaneum, MO, USA

problem #1

Oct 312006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • miles
The vehicle's paint is bubbly/blistering on the front edge of the hood. The vehicle was taken to a german Ford dealership who noted the corrosion, took pictures, and initiated a report to Ford Motor Company. At this time the dealer refuses to repair the vehicle at no charge because the vehicle's 36/36,000 warranty had expired, and is awaiting a formal response from Ford Motor Company. The vehicle was not involved in a crash or fire.

- Apo, AE, USA

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