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:
52,837 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 suspension problems

suspension problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #11

Sep 092007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,005 miles


Loud roaring sound inside of car. Turned out to be the front drivers side wheel bearing. Replaced now the rear is doing the same thing. My vehicle doesn't have enough miles for these failures to happen.

- St. Petersburg, FL, USA

problem #10

Apr 092008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. At 50,000 75,000 and 80,000 miles, the wheel bearings failed. The two front and the rear driver side wheel bearings were replaced several times. At 30,000 miles, the contact took the vehicle back to the dealer for the state inspection and they stated that four wheel bearings needed to be replaced. The dealer further stated that the frequent failures of the wheel bearings may be due to driving on a dirt road. The manufacturer stated that there was no recall for the failure; therefore, he should take the vehicle to the dealer. The contact will have the wheel bearings replaced, but he feels that the manufacturer should be responsible for the cost. The dealer information and purchase date were unavailable. The current mileage was 130,000 and failure mileage was 60,000.

- Centerville, PA, USA

problem #9

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 #8

Mar 062008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Bought my 2003 Ford Explorer in June 2005. After lengthy trip home I noticed a loud buzzing sound up front. When we finally had it diagnosed about 6 months later, we had to replace the passenger front side wheel bearing. Now the driver's side front bearing is buzzing even worse so we will need to replace that one as well. We have 66,000 miles on the vehicle.

- Uniontown, OH, USA

problem #7

Apr 162007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,500 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer limited, with 59K miles, developed a loud roaring road noise that seemed to be coming from the tires. Inspection by the Ford dealer identified 3 defective wheel bearings. The right front and both rears. I know that wheel bearings should not fail with such low mileage so I instructed the dealer to replace the 4th bearing which they said was not making noise because I wouldn't risk a failure while driving. I kept the old bearings and it is not possible to determine which one they thought was good. They are all extremely difficult to rotate and there is very obvious roughness during rotation. My extended warranty covered the cost of the first three. My primary concern is the short lifespan of bearings. The front bearings were so bad that I feel sure an extended trip would have caused catastrophic failure. My second concern is that Ford has not acknowledged this problem. On-line research has confirmed that I am not the first to have bearing failure before 60K on a 2003 Explorer.

- Gulfport, MS, USA

problem #6

Sep 152006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles
I was advised by the dealer investigating a "squeeking" complaint that my left wheel bearing needed replacing at a cost of over $300. At the time, it had around 38,000 miles and was "out of warranty". my regular non-dealer mechanic told me that it was a very common problem with Explorer, and the cost was about right. I purchased 2 bearing assemblies and replaced the left one. Now, only a few thousand miles later, the right one is making so much noise I can't hear the radio, so I will have to replace it. I hate to think about spending $500+ every couple of years replacing these bearings when every other vehicle I have ever owned, all GM by the way, went over 100,000 miles with no problems. The dealer never mentioned, and actually denied, any tsb's or problems with the bearings.

- Jefferson, OH, USA

problem #5

Dec 082006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles


Catastrophic failure of the front hub/wheel bearing assembly.

- Apopka, FL, USA

problem #4

Sep 152005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles
Ford has defective hub assemblies on the 2003 Explorer. Leading up to the defective hubs going out, there is a very loud roaring noise coming from what ever wheel the bearing is going out on. No accident was involved but it was defective and waiting to happen. Wheels do come off of vehicles when the bearings go bad. Ford is aware of this problem they have. I replaced both front hubs 9-15-05 with 41,000 miles on them. Have just had to replace the left front hub again this week with unfortunately 15,000 miles on it which they only warrant it to 12,000 miles. I have corrected the problem at a big expense to me. At this time, I just cringe waiting to hear another one start roaring and going out. I do have all three wheel hubs that the bearing has gone out.

- Kaufman, TX, USA

problem #3

Sep 102005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,704 miles
I was having a roaring noise in the front end of my vehicle. I rotated my tires, purchased a new set of tires and the noise was still there. I took it back to the dealer and they inspected it and said that I needed both, left and right front wheel bearings replaced. I had them repaired and I kept the old parts and they are available. This corrected my problem. It is faulty parts that Ford should have recalled. My car was out of warranty, so the expense was all on me. Cost me $572. If both had to be replaced, its obvious they were defective. I had 41704 miles at the time I had them replaced. I contacted Ford, they took my information, but said they could not help me, there had been no other complaints.

- Kaufman, TX, USA

problem #2

Feb 142005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 64,000 miles
I purchased a 2003 Ford Explorer 2wd, I recently found out that both front wheel bearing need to be replaced on this vehicle. There is possibly a defect with these parts.

- Rome, GA, USA

problem #1

Nov 222004

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 26,000 miles
A roaring noise was coming from the front of my 2003 Explorer and an inspection at the dealer came up as poor tire wear. The tires were rotated but the noise never went away, it was just slightly quieted then became progressively louder over the past eight months. I had it into an oil change station and a tire dealer before taking it back to another Ford dealer and was told on November 22,2004 that the problem was a front wheel bearing gone bad. I now need that part repaired and my vehicle is out of warranty. I have not had the work done yet but the estimated repair cost is $400. I do not feel this part should be in need of replacement at this time. The vehicle is less than two years old.

- Lancaster, KY, USA

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