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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
104,791 miles
Total Complaints:
242 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (95 reports)
  2. replace with rebuilt transmission (52 reports)
  3. replace the transmission (39 reports)
  4. complete overhaul recommended (18 reports)
  5. rebuild transmission (16 reports)
  6. rebuilt transmission installed (8 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 10 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #62

Dec 302009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles



- , Southgate, MI, US

problem #61

Sep 142009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,423 miles

W O W !!!! i can't belive the probs. everyone is having with these trucks..... i felt alone..same old story .. starting blinking,, took in,, code read solenoid pack valve b bad,, replaced for $400.00 parts and $300.00 labor and fluid... then told needed new or rebuilt transmission.... NO REFUND ON SOLENOID>>>>>ouch...My wife has a 2000 ford explorer and the only thing we have fixed was a front bearing that i did myself for under $50.00 with new part. I thought ok upgrade to newer explorer (O3) WRONG!!!! 3 weeks of owner and she is driving her 2000 again and says GET RID OF THE 03. Now she is nevfer gonna let go of the 2000.

- , Clever, MO, USA

problem #60

Nov 012009

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,000 miles

what a piece of @#$% so many complaints about this trans and ford wont do #@%*ing thing about it. thanks ford, still paying on the damn thing and need a tranny at $3600 are f@@@ing kidding me. dealer says needs new tranny @ $3600,4 new wheel bearings @ $1700,and a new power steering pump @ $500. as far as im concerned all fords are @#%&. im a staunch union supporter but this making me want to buy foreign car. ford knows its crap. also never pulled or towed a damn thing with the truck cant imagine if i had. dam thing probably would have exploded on the road. hey ford heres a new name for it FORD EXPLODER

- , Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #59

Sep 182007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6L V-8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer XLT w/ 4.6L V-8-62000 Miles. O/D light flashing after 2 miles. Slow shift from 1st to 2nd at 3,000 RPM's vs 2,000 normal.. 2nd and 5th gear codes. Service engine soon light on. Burned fluid. Clutch fragments in fluid. Byram Trans says poor design by Ford. Trans body needs machining of 2 shaft borings to allow brass bushing inserts to correct. $2400 quote. UGH!!!

- , Mt Olive Twp, NJ, USA

problem #58

Sep 152009

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,500 miles

Wow! Looks like I'm not the only one with transmissions problems! I can't believe all these problems everyone is having! Here's my story....My dad worked at a local plant that made some Ford electrical parts. All my family drives is Fords because we get a pretty good discount. Bought a 2003 Explorer new & at 73,500 miles the O/D light began flashing one day as well as the service engine soon light. I noticed the truck was shifting differently, making loud noises and it seemed like the tranny was slipping. Took it to my buddy at the local Ford dealer & he knew right away that I had a major problem. He told me he replaced or repaired about 30 transmissions in the 2002-2004 Explorers in the past few years with some having as little as 45,000 miles. I was stunned! Recently paid this thing off & was not about to sink $3500 for a new transmission or $2200 for a rebuilt one! He advised me to trade it in fast while it's still slightly driveable & before it's totally worthless...I listened...Just traded it in yesterday for a 2010 Nissan Xterra. The Nisaan dealer gave me $3500 for the Exploder & is probably going to send it right to auction. I feel bad for whoever gets it next. I'm officially done with Fords!

- , Ambler, PA, USA

problem #57

Sep 182009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

Looks like I was lucky to make it 80000 MILES before transmission went. Found out this is a very common problem, all mechanics know it but no owners know it until it happens to them ! Have owned cars for 40 years and never had a transmission go out, especially on a well maintained car! $2500 for repairs! Ford should have helped out as this is such a common problem.

- , Bettendorf, IA, USA

problem #56

Jul 222009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,000 miles


A 2003 vehicle with only 57000 miles should not have a transmission suddenly go out. The car was driven less than 10000 miles per year. At this rate Ford can hardly be viewed as reliable. I never will recommend anyone buy a Ford nor will I ever purchase one. Only in the good old US of A can you be ripped off so easily. No wonder Americans are buying foreign and our cars don't sell overseas.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #55

Aug 112009

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I purchased in 2005 a used 2003 Ford Explorer and purchased the extra Extended Warranty. I thought that the extended warranty was going to cover an extra 75,000 miles but that was found out not to be true. Anyway, the O/D light kept flashing, the transmission light came on, and cannot shift past 2nd gear. I took it to a Ford Dealership and they want to charge $3300 to repair. I about passed out, I was praying that it was something minor like electrical wiring that was all tangled up but that was not the case.

I know cars have problems but not the transmission already. I know that I will have to have this repaired, but it is just so aggrivating because maybe this should have happened after the piece of $$$$ was paid off, at least that's when we think something should go wrong!

- , Linwood, NC, US

problem #54

Jun 242009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,500 miles

I've owned Fords for 30 years, 5 total...3 bad transmissions. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson. This time the OD lite starts flashing while we are on vacation in Craig, Colorado, pulling a travel trailer. 1st Ford dealer said "not a real problem, OK to drive home (Oregon) maybe a solenoid ? Reset the computer but the light came back on w/in 10 miles. Nice guy and didn't charge me. 100 miles later, Steamboat Springs, light coming on pretty much all the time, the dealer there did a full diagnostic, checked fluids, etc. Again, told me nothing apparently wrong, maybe a sensor. 1500 miles later I have it checked by my local dealer. Guess what? $3500 for a new transmission. Don't they know what they're doing? I'm done with Fords and told them so. I bought a Silverado. Good thing Ford didn't get any money for the "stimulus" plan (or did they) If they don't figure out a better transmission they will go the way of Packard.

- , Roseburg, OR, USA

problem #53

Jul 062009

Explorer XLT 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Have 2003 ford explorer and tranny went 2000 miles after warranty and no help from ford this was at 62,000 miles. Now at 85,000 o/d light flashing again and tranny needs to be replaced again. I am unemployed and wrote Ford and they dont seem to care. Its just funny the first time tranny went 2nd and 5th gear were gone and same thing again. Everyone please write to Ford and NHTSA I still owe on this car so now heading for repossession not paying for something I cant drive.

- , Berkley, MI, USA

problem #52

May 232009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles


I have a 2003 Ford Explorer and literally ONE day after they say my warranty expired, the transmission started not shifting properly and the O/D light started flashing. I took it to the dealer but unfortunately my warranty expired over a holiday weekend so I did not get the car in until a few days later. At that point, the service dept charged me $100 to look at the car AFTER they already told me I needed a new transmission... but they wanted to have a specialist look at it. It was obvious that this was not a new problem for them and that they had seen it before. I didn't even finish telling them the problem when they guy told me it would cost well over $3000 to fix. I only had 49000 miles on my truck. I was told by the sales people at the dealer, as well as former and current ford employees, that I should call the customer relations line and they will help me get the car fixed for less than full cost. When I called, they offered to split the cost 50/50 with me saying I would still have to pay almost $2000! I don' t have the money to pay that and I said Ford should cover more since I can get it fixed at a trans place for that price. They wouldn't budge and I've been fighting with them for weeks now. I have also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I will NOT buy another Ford car again. I can not believe they do not stand by their product better than this. I should not need a new transmission with only 49,000 miles on it. And obviously it is a repeated problem with this model of car and Ford knows about it.... they should do a recall and replace all of our transmissions at their cost!!!! I am thoroughly disappointed in Ford.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #51

Jun 082009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6 Flex Fuel

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,883 miles

Transmission failure should not occur at 56,000 miles. Mechanic explained 1st and 5th share much of the same components, so they get the most use and wear out the fastest. When they start to go, over drive light comes on along with check transmission warning. Symptoms are trouble shifting from 1st to 2nd; must let off gas to obtain shift into second.

- , Yarmouth Port, MA, USA

problem #50

May 262008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

I spent $38,000 on my truck and payed it off May 2008. literally 2 days later at 48,000 miles the o/d light and transmission light came on. I took it to several places and they all said the 2nd and 5th gears was burned out. Since I didn't have an extended warranty what was I to do, I'm a mother with 4 kids and no job for the time being, and I need my truck but I don't have the money. I even filed against the company with the attorney general but Ford refused to cooperate. Now it's been over a year and I'm still driving with me shifting the gears myself and I haven't enjoyed the fact that I payed off my truck a year ago yet. It's sad because Ford got alot of money out of me but they can't help a customer for as little as $2500. All this happened after I spent money on getting new wheel bearings at 45000 miles, which is telling me that I got nothing but a lemon, but you have to have a warranty to claim it as a lemon. So now I feel that I'm stuck and I get no enjoyment every time I drive because when the gears stick it only reminds me of how much a fool I was to get a Ford truck. The good thing about this is that their are programs out there that will help with repairs as long as you fall into the low income guidelines, but they only give you a certain amount and I know I have to dig in my pocket anyway. All I know is that Ford will never get my business from me because they show no compassion for their customers that came from their fault.

- , West Mifflin, PA, USA

problem #49

May 292009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,500 miles

I unfortunately own a 2003 Ford Explorer with only 72,500 miles on it, that I just had the pleasure to replace the transmission in ! If I knew that this was a common problem with explorers, you bet I would have never bought one. I agree with other explorer owners that Ford needs to take action for their faulty transmissions and pay for this expense. This was a very costly repair, total was $2200.00, and you bet I will be the thorn in Fords side until I am compensated for this expense. I did get some help from the service department at the Ford Dealership I went to, which was better than nothing. Good luck Ford Explorer owners, you'll need it !

- , Leominster, MA, USA

problem #48

May 262009

Explorer LTD V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

Still trying to decide what to do. Ford dealer quotes $2,076 to repair converter, front pump, solenoid filter or Replace cost $3,800 for a re manufactured transmission. Taking it to AAMCO for estimate now.

- , Lenexa, KS, USA

problem #47

Dec 202008

Explorer XT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,565 miles

The O/D light began flashing one day for no reason as well as the service engine light. I noticed the truck was shifting different and overdrive was not working. Took it to the local Ford dealer which was a mistake. They diagnosed the problem to solenoids or something (?) in the transmission and said the only fix was a rebuilt transmission (no kidding?). They charged me $350 to diagnose and offered to replace it for $4000 with a rebuilt transmission. When I asked them if this was a common problem with these trucks they said no! Talked with a couple of local transmission shops and they said this is a very common problem with Ford Explorers and the best fix is a new or rebuilt tranny. NOt wanting to spend thousands of dollars on the truck, I found a used tranny at a local wrecker for $600 with 1 year warranty and had it installed. Going to trade off or sell before the year is up and will never buy another Ford product again.

- , Virden, MB, Canada

problem #46

Apr 082009

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer and one day the o/d light was flashing. Like an idiot I bring it to a Ford dealer to have them check it out and they try to charge me $332 to tell me that I need a new transmission. I refuse to pay and end up forking over $120. I bring it to a transmission place. They take it apart and tell me that I will have to pay $3,900 to get a new transmission.

A) The car is only worth $2,500 and B) I still owe $3,600 on the note.

What am I supposed to do? Are there other transmission shops out there that will fix a junk transmission for $1,500-$2,500?

- , Acton, ME, USA

problem #45

Apr 152009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

No major problems with my Explorer until now. The ride is noticeably rougher and the O/D off light was on and the check engine light turned on, so I took it into an independent garage to get the codes pulled and hoped for the best. I was told that there were several problems that needed attention, including a new transmission solenoid. Associated problems included the left rear wheel bearing, left front wheel bearing, rear brakes and rotors, a broken pinon drive seal. All together $1,800 worth of repairs.

I need the vehicle and I am getting everything fixed, but I am not a happy camper with Ford. These seem like a lot of problems to have to take care of.

Initially, the diagnostic codes indicated a transmission solenoid problem, but after replacing it, the check engine light persisted and the problem was not fixed. The next option was a rebuilt or remanufactured transmission, I opted for the less expensive rebuilt transmission and the independent dealer that had my vehicle backed out the charges for the solenoid and installed the rebuilt transmission. They had the vehicle for three days and it runs fine now and the rebuilt tranny has a 12 month/12,000 warranty, which I hope I don't have to use.

It was suggested that I contact Ford customer service regarding a goodwill credit, but that call proved fruitless. The final repair tab for the transmission service alone was $2009.45.

This is the last Ford vehicle that I will purchase...

- , Munster, IN, USA

problem #44

Apr 032009

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

I had the overdrive light come on in my 2003 Explorer. When I brought it in, I was told it was the transmission and I needed a new torque converter. This was a $2417.00 expense. I think this is just outrageous. I am ashamed to say that I stuck up for Ford during the bailout sessions the other American car companies lobbied for. This is something that has just happened to me. I am shocked that Ford has never addressed this problem.

I assure you I am not done with this.!

- , Berlin, CT, USA

problem #43

Mar 312009

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,500 miles

Similar to all the others in here, No prior notice of trouble. O/D light starting flashing. Brought it in to dealer who gave me 2 options; try to fix the existing one for a minimum of $1900 with no great guarantee or install a rebuilt w/100k mile guarantee for $3900. Original has 89k miles on it and the truck has been great up to now. 4 grand is a tough pill to swallow but I can't see going with little to no warranty. Just thought I'd add mine to the list.

- , Westport, MA, USA

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