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 2 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #222

Nov 262013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 207,404 miles


Continuing O/D transmission service lights after inspection, fluid flushing, etc. Service center said these transmissions are poor at best. I've been a Ford customer since my 1964 Falcon. Ford needs to recognize the complete failure of the of the 2003 model and do right by its loyal customer base.

- , Essex, CT, USA

problem #221

Nov 022013

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,360 miles


- , Grand Island, NE, USA

problem #220

Mar 132012

Explorer 4.9L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

why has Ford not done a recall on this transmission issue with so many complaints? my 2003 explorer has had no problems till two days ago, same broken tranny band issue and $2500 to rebuilt. OD reads 96000!!!!! Ford you NEED TO FIX THIS!!!!!!!!!

- , Manteca, CA, USA

problem #219

Sep 082013

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles


I bought my 2003 Ford new from the dealership. Over the past thirteen years my Explorer has been a champ. Over the last year the transmission might seemed a little tired, but I did not notice any real significant issues. Then after the rear lift window frame split by the Ford emblem after going through the car wash, my SUV must have reached it's expiration date. Now a week after replacing the tires ($650.00) and having the vehicle tires aligned and an inspection ($380.00) the overdrive light came on as I drove to work and the transmission let me know something was wrong with slippage and high powerless rpm's.

On the way home the light came on again with the engine light. I pulled my manual and find little reference to the OD light or it blinking - it just says for the most part "Take to a qualified service technician to avoid damaging your vehicle system(s)." I looked for a dip stick to check the transmission fluid and could not find it. I checked online and learned that there isn't one on this model - what moronic engineer designed a vehicle without a dip stick to check the fluid level. Now I am disheartened to read all the lousy reviews from others with Ford's that have experienced the same costly problem. My SUV made it over 100,000 miles and now it looks like it will cost me dearly to get her back on the road. Saddened by the stupidity of the Ford engineers on this one.

Update from Nov 12, 2014: Well. My trusty Ford SUV finally let me down when the transmission just up and quit. In the end, I really like my Ford SUV so I paid. Over $3300.00 to get the sealed transmission fixed. Who seals a transmission so that the fluid can't be checked normally. I was told a band broke inside the transmission and that the fluid was in poor shape. After repair my SUV was almost like new. Now that the transmission has worked for a year, it doesn't have that new snap off the line like it did. I still love my Ford though.

- , Sanatoga, PA, USA

problem #218

Apr 282012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,200 miles

The Car is a few years old, actually pampered by an "A" tech, and is serviced every 3,000 miles.

A few years ago it took a long time kicking into gear (forward) only when cold, and dealer performed a valve body update. We bought the car in 2006 with 36,000 miles on it, and we never towed with it, or are we hard drivers... 2 days ago the transmission started not to shift correctly, then started to stay in gear longer... now the o/d light is flashing, loss of power, trans is slipping seems like between 2-3 shift. And now in addition the check engine light is on as well. I just feel that with the way we service and respect this vehicle, a potential failure of this size @ 74,000 miles is too soon.

Regardless of warranty period, Ford should step up to the plate and replace my transmission, and any other transmissions that have failed... I owned FORDS SINCE 1976, AND IF THEY LEAVE ME HIGH AND DRY, THIS MAY BE THE LAST FORD FOR ME!!!

- , Port Chester, NY, USA

problem #217

May 012012

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

I have read other comments that this is a very popular problem with 2003 explorer. So why no recall?

- , Colonie, NY, USA

problem #216

Aug 032013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,100 miles


Just like Ford got a bail out, so should consumers who brought this SUV!!!!! Ford do right by the coumsumer and recall this SUV. Make right, what YOU made wrong!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #215

Apr 282012

Explorer ES 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Original owner of a 2003 Explorer (90,000 miles). OD light started blinking and transmission rpm spiking between 2nd & 3rd. Looks bad. Hate this vehicle. Replaced steering rack and too many other suspension parts over the years (bearings). Now the trans is junk. Just thankful I didn't do the possible road trip this past weekend. Have not taken it to the shop yet. Still trying to determine my plan after hearing the cost. Lost all trust in it.

- , Norristown, PA, USA

problem #214

May 032012

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 138,000 miles

My truck is a 2003 Ford Explorer, the transmission started slipping and the OD light started blinking on my way home from work. So when I get home I get online and it seems that almost everyone with this model is having problems but yet Ford does not want to admit the bad transmission. Seems to me there should be a class action lawsuit.

- , Williamsport, IN, USA

problem #213

Jul 052013

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

The O/D light came on in my 2003 Ford Explorer (135,000 miles), along with a 'clunking' when it hit about 30 miles per hr. As it was I was on my way for an oil change and basic check before I drove it to the shore. Told the service manager of the Ford dealership, he and another service guy shook their heads and said at the same time "that's not good". Needless to say, Ford dealership wants $4500 to replace the transmission, codes are PO733 & PO745. Called another trans shop, was told with those codes the trans should be replaced, waiting to hear how much they will charge.

I think it's disgusting that Ford doesn't own up to this problem, I saw a graph on line, 2002 Ford Explorers trans have gone out 3,000+ customers. 2003 1900+ customers 2004 1400+.......I shouldn't have to decide whether to get a new/used car and scrape this one, I love my explorer, or spend the money to repair it.

Our 20 year old Toyota Camry lasted to 225,000....finally traded it because the steering rack went out, $2,000 repair...Very minor issues and maintenance.

So many people in the same situation, there really should be a lawsuit filed.

- , Germantown, MD, USA

problem #212

Feb 012013

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles


Error P0745 was validated as Pressure Solenoid Failed and the BAND Broke. Ford Dealership in Pennsville NJ recommended Rebuilt transmission. I am waiting Pricing and options. If this is such a wide spread issue, why hasn't a recall been issues for this item, or Ford sharing expense of a poorly designed product.

- , Swedesboro, NJ, USA

problem #211

Jun 162013

Explorer NBX 4.0L, V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,400 miles

Just thought I would add my experience.

O/D light starting flashing on 16 JUN. When engine is turned off and restarted, O/D light will reflash after driving 4 to 5 minutes.

Dealer came up with diagnostic code P0741. Recommend fix is replacement of entire transmission for $4,200. There were no "lesser" recommendations. Dealer also claimed to never have heard of any transmission problems with Explorer model years 2002 through 2004. When told to Google it, dealer then responded any transmission problems were "statistically insignificant".

Will take to transmission shop tomorrow for another opinion.

Update from Sep 19, 2014: I had the transmission rebuilt by AAMCO at a cost of $2,750. They gave me a 24,000 mile/2 year warranty. The AAMCO guy knew all about it Ford Explorer transmissions. The car now has 128,500 miles on it and is working fine transmission wise.

- , Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #210

May 122013

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,990 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer Limited 4.6L engine. The O/D light began flashing about a month ago and the check transmission light would come on when the mph reached 49mph.

Yesterday I drove the car and tried to park in a parking lot and the shifter would not go below Neutral. I couldn't put it into reverse or park. I rolled it out of the space and brought it home. My nephew who works on his mother's explorer and his own mustangs came over to help. I couldn't remove the key because it would not go into park. He put extra pressure on the shifter and was able to force it into park but then when I tried to drive it, none of the gears would engage. It's sitting in front of my house now useless. Won't go at all. It was a certified pre-owned when I bought it but the dealer has since closed up shop and opened a Nissan dealership. I don't know what to do. I have no car now.

- , Pompano Beach, FL, USA

problem #209

Dec 272012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

O/D off light started blinking, transmission would not shift correctly. Took to transmission repair shop and had to have the whole transmission rebuilt at a cost of 2200.00!!!

- , Freeland, PA, USA

problem #208

Sep 232010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

transmission started skipping 2nd gear, or hard shifting/long shifting into 2nd. took it to local transmission shop and they said complete overhaul to the tune of 1800. this is just another common problem with this year of explorer. I could have bought another nice used car with all the repairs i've put into this POS. As usual ford doesn't think there is a problem but just search the internet for 2003 ford explorer problems.

repair list 1800 transmission 1200 wheel bearings/hubs (all 4) 400 heating/cooling blend door problem 1100 rear differential rebuild 300+ rear spring/struts (sky is limit here, you can do it yourself for around 300) thats 4800 in repairs when i had only owned the thing for less than 5 years. so if you are planning on buying an explorer plan on budgeting 800-1000 year for future repairs. or better yet do what i'm going to do and not buy a ford ever again... maybe then they will get the hint.

- , Wooster, OH, USA

problem #207

Apr 192013

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

My 2003 Ford Explorer's o/d off light started flashing and the check engine light came on when I was 3 1/2 hours from home. I couldn't shift out of 1st gear unless I shut the engine off and started it back up. I made the trip home to find out a new/used transmission will cost me somewhere between 3-4K. I noticed a lot of similar complaints. This is after I already dumped money for issues with the rear differential and front wheel bearings. Thanks Ford for such a quality product!

- , Gettysburg, PA, USA

problem #206

Mar 052013

Explorer ES V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,000 miles

I have the same problem with my2003 Explorer ( Blinking O/D light and transmission not shifting into second) I had no idea of the range of all the Explorer tranny problems . This problem has just started on my ride and I am in shock to find so many others having the same problem. Obviously it then becomes a design flaw, Ford should do the right thing and have a recall on a problem that they designed and are awhere of.Unless that happens I have bought my last Ford !!!! Ex- Loyal Ford Buyer

- , McKees Rocks, PA, USA

problem #205

Mar 082013

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. O/D light flashing, service engine soon light came on.Will only shift to second whines to go into third gear. RPM's goes up engine revs up. No warning at all. Regular maintenance. Ford needs to fixed this problem. I cannot afford to get this problem fixed.

- , Zanesville, OH, US

problem #204

Mar 012013

Explorer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,567 miles

After searching the internet, found numerous people with the same symptoms and same problem and a bunch of different options to fix, unfortunately costly fixes which ultimately you have to replace the transmission. Searching the internet a number of people stated that they got help from Ford in the replacement of the transmission and that generally most people were turned away. After talking to 2 Ford reps today, and turned down flat for help, i have decide its now a quest.... Ford stated they didn't have enough complaints for the NHTSA to open up an investigation to possibly order a recall...... Soooo, for all those that have issues, CALL FORD AND ALSO MAKE A COMPLAINT ON THE NHTSA SITE or call them at 1-800-424-9393. My family is a Ford family and we currently have 5 Fords in our household, a mustang, ford F150, ford focus, expedition, and the explorer that is having issues. This isn't including extended family. Ford is about to lose future business.... Everyone call in or email, so we can get an investigation started to get the transmissions covered for all the people that own the explorer that are getting screwed.... At 135 thousand miles, a transmission shouldn't go out, My ford f150 has 297,352 miles on it with a original engine and tranny and never a issue with either..... GO figure!!!!

- , Yucca Valley, CA, USA

problem #203

Feb 052013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

My 2003 Explorer was only owned by one person previously. I bought it with 68,000 miles on it. Today it has 86,000 miles on it and three days ago, the problem was confirmed as an internal transmission problem. The repairs are $3500 to install a re-manufactured transmission, which by Ford's word is a transmission that has been burnt out and replaced with all new parts. My husband was not happy and wanted to trade in, but would only get $2000 for trade, and we owe significantly more than that on the loan. Only option is to fix it at this time, but I've been warned it will happen again. There is at least a warranty this time with a new one, where as my extended warranty conveniently ran out in October. If this truly is a defect, than Ford needs to acknowledge that. Had I known two years ago when I bought it, I certainly wouldn't have!

- , Elizabethtown, PA, USA

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