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:
11 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
14 / 0
Average Mileage:
123,855 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 seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #6

Aug 012008


  • 850,000 miles


Own a 2003 Ford Explorer the air bag light blinks then stays on constantly while the car is running. I am concerned about my safety whether my air bag is actually working or not. After searching the internet apparently several other Ford owners are having the same problem. Also I have a cracked panel on the back hatch, I have seen several Ford Explorer with the same crack and at the same location, took the Ford dealer in clarksville Indiana was told it was due to weather, was told several Ford Explorer owners are complaining about the same problem but unfortunately Ford is aware of the problem but not doing a recall. Was told would cost around $300 to replace the panel the Ford dealership instructed me to file a complaint because they have seen too many themselves.

- Clarksville, IN, USA

problem #5

Aug 142007

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 70 mph, the contact swerved to miss a wild hog in the road. She drove into the path of oncoming traffic, slammed on the brakes, and the vehicle rolled over three times. The air bags failed to deploy. The vehicle was towed to the shop where it currently remains. The vehicle was destroyed. A police report was filed. The VIN, engine size, and number of cylinders were unknown. The current and failure mileages were 65,000.

- Refughio, TX, USA

problem #4

Dec 202003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I purchased a new 2003 Ford Explorer as a gift and I noticed several days later, that the passenger side air bag compartment had started a sinking, appearance in the compartment area that holds the air bag, it was questioned and I was told it was juat settling. As the sinking worsen, months down the road, I questioned it again, and was told the same thing again. Now the air bag compartment has started sinking badly and the compartment is now budging out to the point where you can put all your fingers under and in it. The bag can deploy at any time now. If this should happen all of a sudden and it will, it will cause a terrible accident, possible death if the sudden fright cause the driver to go out of control. My daughter said the air bag was beginning to frighten her and she again attempted to address the issue at the dealership service department in which the vehicle was purchased from, again she was told it was not covered under warranty, and that the cause seem to be elsewhere, yet in fact if the issue had been addressed when I first brought it to their attention, it would have been covered. I have contacted Ford corporation, awaiting a resolution to this problem. This is a very serious problem that needs to be taken care of immediately before an accident or death arises from this issue.

- Murfreesboro, TN, USA

problem #3

Aug 012004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Consumer lost control of vehicle and an accident occurred. The vehicle began to shake from right to left. The consumer could not control the vehicle. The vehicle was moving on it's own. The air bags did not deploy. The consumer crashed into the border wall, spun around, and stopped on the other side.

- Hartsdale, NY, USA

problem #2

Nov 272003

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,000 miles
Intermittent problems of getting the 2003 Ford Explorer vehicle to start. After an hour or so vehicle would start up as if there was never a problem. This incident happened more than 4 times in the past.

- Santa Barbara, CA, USA

problem #1

Jan 162003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 437 miles
While driving and without warning a loud clinking noise can be heard. The dealer is aware of the problem. Squeeling noise from motor. Transmission lurched and would not engage. Transmission and transfer case had to be flushed. Replace steering shaft for clinking noise. Clockspring replaced.

- Troy, MI, USA

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