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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
108,438 miles
Total Complaints:
3 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. new transmission (2 reports)
  2. not sure (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #3

Oct 282014

Explorer Eddie Bower 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


I got a text from the wife. O/D light flashing .... check engine light on, and now the transmission light is now on. .. I Googled it ....OMG .... I never knew this was an issue. We had the truck for years, never a problem till now. Looks like I need to drop in a chunk of change into the truck now. Perfect timing close to the holidays when I need to save money for other reasons ....

I heard there is a kit to buy and install .... or just put in a new trans .... I am researching a solution that will get us back in a family vehicle we can safely use.

I am open to others and their possible solutions.

- , Bethlehem, PA, USA

problem #2

Feb 022011

Explorer LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 133,314 miles

The mechanic that I went to says this is a common problem for Explorers! First my transmission started slipping than the O/D Light started blinking went right to the mechanic he opened it up and the band was broken. Does anyone know if Ford is standing behind there transmission problems?

- , Freehold, NJ, USA

problem #1

Mar 012009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

I had bought an extended warranty and had noticed intermittent slippage before the warranty ran out, however, the mechanic said there was a small leak from a seal. Unfortunately they would have to lower whole transmission to fix leak. Was told it wouldn't be a problem. Within the last month, noticed it slipping more & just sounded different on highway. Took to dealership & turns out a band broke & damaged the casing. Am now having to spend over $3500 to replace whole transmission. The mechanics indicated this was a common problem in the 2003 explorer. Did some research and turns out there are a high number of transmission failures on this model at low mileage with consistent reports of "faulty box". Apparently Ford knows about this problem and will only say it's a good transmission, just doesn't last long. Why didn't they do a recall? I'm a 43 year old female and drive my explorer very carefully (no hotrodding, excessive acceleration, etc) and there is no way that a transmission should consistently fail at less than 100,000 miles. If it does, there is a problem & Ford should have stood behind their product...especially if they want people to buy more of their vehicles. In today's economy, I would think that would be a major concern for Ford (but apparently it isn't). I sent them a complaint, however, have never received any acknowledgment!!!

- , Newton, KS, USA

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