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:
62,289 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 #7

Feb 172011


  • 81,020 miles


2003 Ford Explorer front wheel bearings make a loud grinding sound. Common problem in all 2003 Ford Explorer. It ground down the wheel lugs from the inside and the tire came off on the freeway doing 60mph. The rotors got eaten up on the inside too. Ford needs to address this issue before someone gets killed.

- Richmond, TX, USA

problem #6

Apr 092010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
The front bearings on my 2003 Ford Explorer have gone out in the past two weeks. The vehicle has 75,000 miles on it. The car stopped steering and I had a very difficult time driving it to the nearest repair station. Had I been on the highway it would have been a disaster. The right front bearing went at the beginning of the month and the left at the end of the month. The mechanics that worked on the vehicle stated that they see many of these. Additionally we had to replace the rear strut assembly since the spring actually snapped. This too was familiar to the mechanic. When researching this issue I have found that many owners have the same problems. The mechanics I have spoken to stated that wheel bearings should not go that soon and that this is a hazard that should be fixed.

- Cos Cob, CT, USA

problem #5

Jan 122010


  • 140,000 miles
I suggest you check the one url shown below - there are over 400 examples of Ford springs fracturing because of a defect in the spring material. I have two broken springs - I called Ford to ask if they would fix the defect of course they said no way - NHTSA has not forced us to do a recall.

- Salem, NH, USA

problem #4

Apr 192009


  • 67,000 miles


Both front and rear wheel bearings failed on my 2003 Ford Explorer at 67,000 miles. The vehicle is only driven on paved roadways and has been maintained by both myself and Ford. Under normal operating conditions all 4 of these bearings should not have failed.

- Olmsted Township, OH, USA

problem #3

Jul 152008


  • 73,000 miles
On 7/15/08 we brought our 2003 Ford Explorer to the dealership for a tune-up. We then found out our front wheel bearing needed replacing. Other problems occurred too. The lower ball joints and upper control arm also needed to be replaced. We also had a front pinion seal leaking. The cost of the tune-up was $555.54 while all the other problems costs us $1402.30. We were prepared to pay for the tune-up but not for all the other problems. We asked if Ford could help out before this work was done but the dealership said we were out of warranty so we had no choice but to pay and have it fixed because the dealership told us these were safety issues. Soon after we left the dealership we noticed a loud noise coming from the front. We thought it was the tires. We brought our Explorer back to the dealership on 7/31/08 only to find out the other front wheel bearing had gone. They told us it would cost another $365 and again we asked if Ford could help out and they said we would need to call Ford ourselves. Which we did in the waiting room of the dealership. Ford did not want to help at all. I explained to Ford all the complaints I found on the NHTSA site as well as the technical service bulletins on the same exact problem we were having with our Explorer. Ford finally said they would cover $265 but we would have to pay $100 as a deductible. We said no and tried to explained to Ford that these parts were defective and that Ford should cover all the expenses. Ford said it was up to the NHTSA site to issue a recall and until that time Ford will not pay for these defective parts. The service manager then said he would cover the $100 but we would have to go after Ford on our own for the past expenses. We had the part fixed but we want Ford to step up and do the right thing and admit these parts are defective and cover the costs. Our Explorer has only 73000 miles and we feel these parts should not have gone. Ford should care more about their customers safety.

- Brockton, MA, USA

problem #2

Jul 122005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Consumer states he took his car to candy Ford because he heard a noise coming from the front of the vehicle. Another dealer had mentioned to him that it might be a wheel bearing. He asked candy Ford to check out the car before putting a wheel bearing on the car. The dealer replaced the right front wheel bearing on the car without first checking the car to be sure that was what it needed. A man that works at candy Ford told him that on the work order it was listed that they had changed the right front wheel bearing without checking the car out. He was charged $280 for something that is not fixed. He is still having the same problem; and it is getting worse. The dealer asked him to leave their premises. The manufacturer said that they would file a complaint against them.

- Charlotte, MI, USA

problem #1

Jul 012004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Various complaints involving the 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. Consumer believed that noise on vehicle was coming from rear. Repairs and/or replacements were made on: Front and rear suspensions, transfer case, and seals in the rear axle due to leak. Now, consumer is waiting for a new axle assembly to be replaced on the vehicle. Also, a cooling system noise on vehicle but dealer coudn't find the source of the problem.

- Statesville, NC, USA

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