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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
81,747 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

problem #8

Jun 032015


  • miles


The problem with seat belts does not have enough tension to retract the harness causing to stay by the door and not closing good, it means the belts it is by the door mechanism jamming the lock and not locking properly on driver or passenger side, I had the door open while I was driving, also destroyed my door seal tearing up, the manufacture Ford does not want to replace it for free since it is a manufacture defect, they want to charge for the replacement and even the new ones are not working properly. I check all this stuff since I was a fleet maintenance mechanic, car inspector. Government needs to step in and fix the safety harness for good tension. This happened when I was driving, also parked the door did not close properly due the harness did not retracted.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #7

Feb 262015


  • 226,610 miles
The problem the seat belts does not have enough spring action to retract causing to be laying down and it is getting caught by the door lock mechanism messing the belt plus causing the door not to lock properly, either the driver or the passenger side. The door came unlock since the harness did not retract. It needs attention and being replace by the dealer or being recall to make sure it is replace. The belt is getting damage.

- San Antonio , TX, USA

problem #6

Oct 222014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 223,621 miles
The problem with the seat belts does not have enough retraction force like it used to be, they hang out, damaging the door locking mechanism and door seal, driver and passenger side. It has being a problem not retracing the belt like it suppose to.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #5

Sep 042006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 183,745 miles


The problem with the seat belts that it does not retract, it seems to me that system would not hold any tension to be safe on the road and beside that it does not retract, it torn the seal because metal hook was still sticking out and it got caught on the door consequently tearing the seal, they are the same way on both side of the vehicle, driver and passenger. I brought to the dealer and it seems like they don't care to replace it.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #4

Aug 112004


  • 10,000 miles
Water runs down front passenger seatbelt apperatus, inside the car. Water damage seen on interior roof from water leaking inside the roof of the truck.

- St. Charles, MO, USA

problem #3

Dec 312003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
Numerous problem: Brakes, rear window opening, seat belt retraction, heater, rear defrost, body work, etc.. while braking the brake pedal went to the floor and caused extended stopping distance. The rear window hinge failed which caused the window to open while the consumer went through a car wash. The seat belt retracted slowly which caused the belt to become hooked onto the door lock system. As a result the passenger could not get out of the vehicle. The left wiper was not clearing the windshield. The left rear door would not close all the way unless it was slammed hard.

- Mountain Home, ID, USA

problem #2

Jul 222003


  • 10,000 miles
When the front seat belt was used it would slip out of the pillar molding. When this happened the seat belt cut into the molding and frayed the webbing. The molding and the belt have been replaced twice and need to be replaced again.

- Walworth, WI, USA

problem #1

Aug 042003


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Re: second (mid-section) seat - driver's side 1. seat belt became lodged behind seat release causing back of seat to jerk forward and strike my child in back of neck. 2. facts: A) when my daughter (12 years; 89 lbs.) leaned forward in her seat, pressure was placed on seat belt causing release to engage and jerk forward; B) my daughter was still in seat belt when I pulled off the side of road to check on her; C) I was repeatedly unable to get the back of her seat to "lock in" place; D) upon further investigation, I found seat belt to be lodged securely behind seat release and each time my daughter moved forward and placed pressure on seat belt, the release was engaged; E) this incident wasn't the result of an accident; E) brakes weren't being used at time; F) she was seen in emergency room due to pain in her neck. Back and head; she was diagnosed with a cervical strain and had to wear a neck collar for five days. 3. contributing reasons for occurrence: A) seat belt is secured to side of vehicle; B) when a person gets into third row seat, it's easy to get caught on the seat belt causing it to hang behind seat release; (C) if seat belt doesn't retract properly, it catches behind seat release; D) it can also catch on front of release. 4. additional concerns: A) second seat release is a two step release: If this was a situation where the brakes had to be applied quickly and firmly, second part of release could have potentially engaged causing my daughter to be struck from behind and throwing her forward causing her to strike the front of her head on the back of the driver's seat which impact could have quite likely caused me to lose control of the vehicle. 5. this is a very serious situation which could cause catastrophic results if not corrected in all Explorer equipped with this type of seat belt and seating arrangement. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to a response in this regard.

- Mineralwells, WV, USA

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