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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
81,954 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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #29

Nov 132016


  • 185,000 miles


Back glass exploded. When I pressed the gate release button, glass exploded on my and my foster child I was holding.

- Anna, IL, USA

problem #28

Aug 102015


  • miles
"takata recall"I brought the truck and the airbag light was flashing 4X4 lights flashing also, smelling oil coming from the deferential on the back axle. Now, the transmission started slipping and he changed a part. Then, the transmission started to slip again. Also, I wanted to switch to another vehicle but he declined it. He said " he put to much work into the truck and all the parts are new in which only the tires and muffler was revolved ".

- Albany, NY, USA

problem #27

Feb 132016


  • 150,000 miles
I was driving in minus 20 degree celsius to take highway 15 North from just after panama bus station. In the entrance, my car start to slow down to the 5 kmph. In the back of my cars were all on their hazard light and being mad at me. So I drive back to my home taking the next exit. I wish somebody could take the videos and sent to the Ford company to let them know my situation.

- Saint-Lambert, NY, USA

problem #26

Feb 122016


  • 183,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer shuts down while driving. I lose braking and steering ability. It can happen at any time. It has happened several times. Today 12 Feb. 2016 is the latest date.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #25

Jun 102009


  • miles
Cracked panel below the rear window

- Rocky River, OH, USA

problem #24

Nov 222015


  • 150,000 miles
Vehicle was parked(engine cold) on residential street, alarm sounded, upon opening hood discovered flames, put out immediately with extinguisher, car will not run and there appears to be extensive damage especially on right side.

- Garfield, NJ, USA

problem #23

Oct 062015


  • miles


My 2003 Ford Explorer rear passenger, and rear lift gate and window exploded. It was parked in front of my home.

- Inglewood, CA, USA

problem #22

Mar 192013


  • 150,000 miles
My hinges to my back glass hatch keep breaking and glass keeps almost falling off. I'm afraid that kids might hit button under the handle that pops it open and it comes down on them and hurt the badly!! this is the 5th time since 2011 that this has happened and I called before to make sure was no recall and wasn't and still isn't for my yearake and model. I have been able to fix it up myself until this last time. So I am unable to fix it now. I filed a complaint with Ford and the gave me this site and my report # for that claim is cas7942030. Each time its been parked.

- Lima, OH, USA

problem #21

Sep 042015


  • 95,000 miles
I purchased my 03 Ford Explorer back in 2/15. It looked like I purchased a very very good used vehicle. Everything has been fine with it up until 2 weeks ago. My door ajar light keeps coming on when everything is closed, the od light is blinking non stop and the trunk window opens by itself when I am driving. When im driving it feels like the car is trying to "catch up". like it knows I'm trying to do a certain speed but its way below and after a min. Or so, then it will go the correct speed. I had it hooked up to a diagnostic tool and its giving me the code of P7032 (something like that). Something about 2nd gear of trans" ive been told that this is a known issue with this make, model and year.. ive also ready 100S of reviews and complaints on these issues. What I don't seem to understand is why isn't Ford doing anything about this???" if you are a manufacturer and see all these complaints and reviews (which I'm sure they do) then why aren't these vehicles getting recalled" I'm not rich in any way fashion or form. I'm a single mother of 4 who works full time and receives no gov't assistance. If I would have known that this is a "known" issue I would never have spent my hard earned money.... does anyone know if anything is being done about this?"

- Jersey City, NJ, USA

problem #20

Aug 232015


  • 120,000 miles
The brackets connected to the liftgate released while the car was parked and locked and blew the back liftgate panel out along with shattering the glass.

- Fairhope, AL, USA

problem #19

Feb 202013


  • 134,986 miles


I used my key remote and popped open the back hatch and while the hatch was up the hinge snapped dropping the hatch on my head nearly knocking me out cold.

- Broadway, VA, USA

problem #18

Mar 222007


  • 70,000 miles
There is a crack in the rear lift gate door. Have seen this on many other Ford, Mercury, etc. Also the door ajar indicator stays on.

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #17

May 302015


  • 118,267 miles
Opened back hatch to place helium balloons in; upon closing the rear glass exploded. We had the full hatch open, not just the glass part & closed it as you would normally.

- Cross Lanes, WV, USA

problem #16

Jul 042014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 101,653 miles
When closing the glass tailgate the right hinge that attaches the glass to the tailgate broke causing the glass to detach from the car and fall hitting me in the left arm updated 09/16/14 updated 3/18/2015

- Wadsworth , OH, USA

problem #15

Apr 162008


  • 80,000 miles
I payed 18,000 for my 2003 Ford Explorer XLT with the flex fuel in 2006. Its a very nice looking SUV but I only drove it for 2 years before the transmission started to fail. I beleave a transmission should last more than 2 years. My concearn is that its defective all around the transmission and I could still drive it if I wasnt in fear for my life. I have had it to Ford dealership and they could not diagnose the problem, they wanted me to pay them to taket out the tranny and wanted way to much for any parts, so I had it looked at by a transmission place that been around a long time and he had no idea what was wrong.replaced the selenoid for like 900 and my it ran fine for like 2 weeks until I put in 4 w/D than my O/D light started bliking again and the transmission slipped, the O/D light eluminated the first time my transmission ever slipped.and if I went and drove it right now it would cause an accident and some people might still depend on there defective Explorer to get accelerates by its self it sometimes dosnt want to go in gear and if this is electrical someones vehicle could stop in the middle of a highway with no warning but a blinking O/D light.and worst thing is, if Ford would reconize this problem with out selling new transmissions that will eventually have the same problem with I could have it fixed but no one but Ford knows what is wrong and they obviously dont know how to fix it or know if they admit their mistake it was a design flaw I want my money back.I bet you they wouldnt even take my Explorer on a trade in. And if you just google Ford Explorer anything from 1999 to 2007 I think....its going to have like thousands of people with the same problem as mine and probaly like from 40,000 miles up, way to early for transmission replacement.

- La Belle, PA, USA

problem #14

Sep 172011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 97,500 miles
When I was switching the gear from reverse to drive at a gas station, the shifter lever was snapped off. I cannot move the car any more, and the key got stuck in the steering column. I find loads of others have same problem happened and Ford is not doing anything on this dangerous/could be fatal problem.

- Boston, MA, USA

problem #13

Aug 152011


  • 108,000 miles
Timing chain tensioner failure with valve cover damage provoking oil leak and heavy smoke out of the engine, wich lead to spill of oil in the highway (oil dropping) and engine out of sequence due to a plastic "casset" tension break, I have read over the internet alot of complains about the same incident

- Fresno, CA, USA

problem #12

Jul 102011

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 84,000 miles
Bought pre-owned Explorer and after $84,000 miles (when I noticed - so, probably well less) the wheel bearings need to be replaced. I'm finding way too many occurrences online for this to be an occassional thing.

- Springfield, OH, USA

problem #11

Feb 212011


  • 82,000 miles
My transmission failed while trying to cross a busy intersection. It would not shift and I was unable to accelerate. It was a scary moment; luckily there was no crash. Ford knows about the high failure rate for transmissions in the 03 Explorer, but refused to do anything other than offer to put in a new transmission at an exorbitant rate. They should have issued a recall on these transmissions, but have refused to do so, in spite of many complaints.

- Tacoma, WA, USA

problem #10

Mar 252010


  • 135,000 miles
There have been multiple problems with my 2003 Ford Explorer since I bought it brand new in August of 2003. But ironically they have all appeared after the warranty had expired. In September 2007 the air conditioning unit no longer worked. It cost me $2000 and a week without a car, to get it fixed. In August 2009 the passenger door window would no longer work. In September 2009 my SUV started making a clicking sound when turning on the heater. Since we lived in a warm climate this did not concern us much, as the heat had worked even with the clicking sound. But we moved to a colder climate and the heater went out in March 2010. In April 2010 the service engine light came on. After speaking with the mechanic, he said it was a transmission problem that occurred when the car shifted from 1st to 2nd gear and from 4th to 5th gear. He could not give me any more information and was not willing to fix my transmission problem (he suggested I go elsewhere because he was not an expert in transmissions). In May 2010 the O/D light started flashing off. After speaking to mechanic again, he said it was related to the transmission problem. In August 2010 the door ajar light started coming on randomly, even when the door is not open. And in September 2010, I noticed my ABS light will come on randomly. It does not appear to be triggered by any specific reason, and does not always come on.

- Apo, AE, USA

Read the next 9 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?