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 11 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #42

Feb 142008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,500 miles


Like everyone else in these complaint's, it started out as an O/D trouble light flashing. Took it to the local dealer (whom I also purchased the vehicle from) and was told a $100 computer fee and then a $900 tear down charge would be applied just to see what exactly was wrong. Since the vehicle was of course not under warranty, I took it to a different recommended repair shop. They told me what all the problems were without even hooking up computer, as they are repairing approximately 6 Explorers a month for exactly the same problems. The end result is only $1200 for repair not $3600 as quoted from the dealer. To add, shop owner also stated most trucks are coming in with the problems around the same mileage bracket of 55,000 to 65,000 miles.

- , Taylor, MI, USA

problem #41

Mar 232009

Explorer LX V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

Before having the truck checked I knew there had to be an over problem with the 2003 Explorer and I was proven right but unfortunately Ford had not taken this into consideration. I still hold a car note on this and have only had this truck since 2007 it was bought used. Now what am I supposed to do?

- , Waterbury, CT, USA

problem #40

Mar 152009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,324 miles

This is the second Explorer I have owned. What a dumb a$$ I am for buying a second one when I replaced the 1995 Explorer I had with two; count them !2! transmissions. I bought my 2003 about 2 years ago and it only has 69,000 miles on it and was working fine and then get in it Monday morning and the O/D light is flashing and taking a long time to shift from 2 - 3 gears. Then that afternoon the Check Engine light comes on. I don't know how long I will have to drive it so I have left it parked afraid I might do more damage. I was so shocked when I googled this problem and found out it was the transmission. I thought that Ford had fixed this problem. I am so flipping disgusted right now!!! Now I am going to have to put a lot of money into this truck to fix the transmission, not to mention fixing the two window motors that went out a couple months ago. I WILL NEVER EVER OWN ANOTHER FORD AGAIN!!!! If anyone knows how to get Ford to answer for this please email me and let me know. This is not fair!!!

- , Hazard, KY, USA

problem #39

Mar 072009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,992 miles


Add another victim to the list...Took the vehicle into Ford cause the O/D light was flashing, complete rebuild. Aluminum case with a Solid steel piston!! Who gets paid millions of dollars to design a product thats complete garbage!! And they wonder why they are going bankrupt!! This is the last Ford I ever purchase all this truck has been is problems...if your looking at a used one...LOOK AT ANOTHER LOT!!! Try Nissan or Toyota!!

- , Maple Ridge, BC, Canada

problem #38

Mar 102009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles

As others, the economy has me scraping by as it is. I can't afford to fix the transmission so what do I do now? Give it back to the bank? Then I won't be able to even get another vehicle. Thanks Ford.....not!

- , Neenah, WI, USA

problem #37

Mar 112009

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,807 miles

OD light flashing/ check transmission light on/no warning/ second slipping/ I have no fifth/ fluids changed no help/rebuild recommended

- , Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada

problem #36

Feb 272009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


I bought my first new vehicle in 2003 . Eddie Bauer explorer and pai 40k. at 40 thousand miles transfer case and rear end needed to be replaced and repaired.Just out of 36 thousand mile warranty. Now at 70k miles tranny needs to be replaced. I Called Ford and they said nothing they can do to help me out. I wish congress would tell them SORRY WE CANT GIVE YOU BILLIONS IN TAXPAYER MONEY to BAIL YOUR ASS OUT. Would love to see that .I will never buy another ford again neither will anyone in my family.

- , Commack, NY, USA

problem #35

Feb 262009

Explorer XLT 4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,500 miles

54,500 miles I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO REPLACE A TRANSMISSION, especially I just bought the lease out 30 days ago and have kept up on everything so I did not take the extended warranty. What a piece of junk!!!!

- , Mentor, OH, USA

problem #34

Feb 192009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Dad worked for Ford, only bought Ford, but only because he received the employee discount. This is the 3rd Ford I have owned and disliked. Problem started around 75,000 miles, I bought it at 50,000 miles and this is my first problem, besides the "door open" light that is constantly turning on and off (I'm told this is also common on explorers). It's going to cost around 1750 to rebuild the trany at Columbus Transmission and I'm having it done. Hope it lasts...

- , Reynoldsburg, OH, US

problem #33

Jan 122009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,458 miles

Well add me to the list. 2 weeks ago the O/D light is flashing and feel the transmission slipping. going to the shop next week...what a mess....Just what i was looking forward too...Im totally surprise to see all these complaints about the OD..I really wasnt expecting this.......way to go ford!!!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #32

Jan 282009

Explorer EB 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,500 miles


Looks like am just another customer that FORD neglected. Car seamed to work fine one moment, next thing you know there is flashing light, and bang everyone wants to charg $2500 to $3000 to either replace with a rebuilt or have the tranny rebuilt. You could save about $1000 on a used model with about 40K, but after reading these reviews I think we are gonna go with a new vehicle. FORD might help there cause getting some engineers to find out how to make a transmission that will last.

- , Norwich, CT, USA

problem #31

Jan 232009

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,800 miles

less than 80000 miles and i need a new trans mission now i see why Toyota's # 1 also hub bearings and a noisy rear end..

- , W, NJ, USA

problem #30

Dec 012008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Like others, the problem started with the o/d light flashing. Then the service engine soon light came on and car would not shift properly from 1st to 2nd. I was a happy Ford Explorer owner until now. Drove my '96 Explorer for 8 years without any major issues. I'm very disappointed in the 2003 and will probably make this my last Ford. Not fixing this issue - too pricey. I'll try to take advantage of some dealer overstocked inventory.

- , Stone Mountain, GA, USA

problem #29

Jan 012009

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Ford really needs to do a recall. This is a piece of sh*t.... ford really means FOUND ON ROAD DEAD!!!!! I will never buy another ford again. I wouldn't even want it if I won one. The transmission is a joke.... We are one of the lucky ones and found an honest, good mechanic. If you are in Arizona you really should look up Shift Solid transmission and talk to nate not only does he get it right and fix the problem, he was the only one that was honest with me from the start which says a lot when dealing with this transmission... Do not take it to a FORD Mechanic they do not need any more of our hard earned money!!!!!

- , Queen Creek, AZ, USA

problem #28

Jan 012009

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I am extremely shocked at the volume of complaints for this issue and the lack of attention Ford has given, or not given, to this obvious lemon issue. Count me in on the class action suit but with the estate of the auto industry today, I'll probably be paying for this repair out of the bailout money.

Looking for a reliable mechanic for help and am HONEST solution.

Any ideas?

- , Saginaw, MI, USA

problem #27

Nov 172008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

Had same problem that started with flashing O/D light. Took to local dealership for check, flashing had stopped but showed an error. Dealership told me it needed a transmission flush -- paid $178 for that. Two weeks later transmission became very clunky, almost to the point of not shifting. Took to dealership again ... they pulled transmission and said it was severely damaged. Had rebuilt transmission installed for $3,600. Got car back two days ago and so far all is well.

- , Harrisburg, IL, USA

problem #26

Nov 172008

Explorer LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I havge a 2003 ford explorer (not worth capitalizing), which only has 68000 mi on it. I have taken great care of this vehicle despite numerous issues from the start. As a result I purchased the extended warranty which has recently expired. I too have had transmission failure. The dealer recommended replacement of the unit which was going to cost 3500. I called a local transmission place and they believe I can rebuild and will charge me approx 1200. If times weren't the way they are I would be purchasing a new vehice (Honda Pilot?) However, with the economy and the holidays I am left no choice. Ford has never been helpful!!!!!! With any issues and believe me there have been many!!! I should have ditched it along time ago. Needless to say I will NEVER purchase a ford again should they even survive this economy!!!!

- , Whiting, NJ, USA

problem #25

Oct 272008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,324 miles

My wife's birthday on Monday, we went to lunch and noticed the o/d light flashing. The we noticed the gears slipping without ant noticed. I took the explorer to someone we trust to look at it. He said it was definitely the tranny. He said there was nothing that we did wrong it was Ford putting in transmissions that were designed to fail. Shame on you Ford! If you knew this was going to be a problem you have done a dis-service to the public. Thanks for screwing up my children s Christmas. Ford should have a new slogan" Have you called a tow-truck lately?"

- , Sandy Springs, GA, USA

problem #24

Oct 062008

Explorer Limited 3.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

Blinking o/d light leads to failure of the transmission. My transmission is still working but shifting hard. I took it to a Mercury/Subaru dealer. I avoid Ford dealers, they are greedy. The dealer said $4265 to fix and an interesting comment. They will no longer be a Ford/Mercury dealer in about two weeks. They are located in Chicago and said the other dealer Lynch is also being cancelled. Perillo is the only one left at least in my area, North Chicago.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #23

Aug 242008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

I feel like all those people who invested in Enron. First, last May my vehicle was at my local dealership for 7 weeks up on a hoist waiting for a rear tie rod that could not be found in the country. Spent around $500 for a rental car which Ford refused to pay. Not under warranty but would have taken a few days to fix if Ford had the part available.

Now for what you wanted to hear. Went down at 107,000 while traveling in the UP (if from Michigan you know). OD light flashing and after a while the service engine soon light came on. Took it to Newberry Motors in Newberry, MI where they charged me $111 to plug my car in to a little computer that told them there were 3 errors that had to do with the transmission. I drove the car, made it back to our house a few hours away. Took it to a local shop. They replaced the control module with a new one which, when tested, showed 15 errors. They sent it back and replaced with another. He thought it solved the problem until a few days later we were back with the OD problem and shifting as well. I was directed to a transmission place by a friend of mine. The guy took me for a ride in the car and explained to me what was going on. He said it would cost $2000 but should only be $1700, since I already had the control module replaced, to rebuild the transmission. He said he would update it and make mods to it so I won't' have a problem with it again. He said other transmission places rebuild it like it was before which is of course bad. I hope this solves the problem. I dealt with Ford with my rear tie rod problem and had enough of their fake sympathy. My favorite quote is still from my wife when one of the Ford reps said "We understand your frustration." She replied, "NO, You don't! You drove to work in your car today!" We have 2 Hondas (Accord and CR-V) that run circles around the quality of this vehicle. No more Fords for us or my little girl when she gets older. My parents won't buy Fords because of my situation. Please contact if class action lawsuit. HONDAS RULE! Also, shame on you NEWBERRY MOTORS! Transmission guy did what it took you to do in 5 minutes and didn't charge me a thing!

- , Marion, MI, USA

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