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 3 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #202

Sep 282012

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles


My 2003 ford explorer has been jerking and shifting hard....this went on for about a month until the o/d light light started flashing ...sounds like its going to be a solenoid issue but still in process of being worked on...after reading up on other post and doing research it could be many problems with this lemon transmission ford designed. I'm the second owner and bought this vehicle with 30000 miles on it. I have only towed a 700lb mower and a trailer for short distances a few times. I have also replaced a wheel bearing at 80000miles with another one possibly going out....until the transmission problem I have been mostly happy with this needs to own up to this poor designed transmission and at least cover the cost of the transmission to show some loyalty to their customers...I will never buy another ford explorer after my experience and then finding out this is a really common problem ford has and don't want to own up to....SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE......CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT ...THEY JUST CAN'T CONTINUE TO GET AWAY WITH THIS

- , Atlanta, IN, USA

problem #201

Oct 222012

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

After I pulled out of my driveway, I put the truck into first gear, it wouldn't do nothing just rev up. Now it won't even go back into reverse. I've had this truck for less then a year with no problem. The O/D light recently started blinking and now the truck wont go anywhere. Ford doesn't want to acknowledge the problem either. Last ford I will ever get. I will make sure nobody else gets one too.

- , Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #200

Oct 172012

Explorer Lx V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

Ford needs to recall these damn transmissions. I can't go to work or school because I can't drive my suv because the o/ d light is blinking and transmission message is on and I was told u need a new transmission. This is ridiculous I had an older explorer years ago and I had the same problem had to replace the transmission twice. You would think they would fix this problem.

- , Springfield, MA, USA

problem #199

Oct 172012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,000 miles


O/D light flashing on dashboard. Difficult for car to shift from 1st to 2nd gear when accelerating. Replaced the transmission. Now the car just drives in OVERDRIVE all the time, and the O/D off light is still blinking...

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #198

Mar 122012

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 152,000 miles

just today the problem started with the o/d light flashing shifting to hard rpms way to high and i just paid the damn thing off this feb.. come to find out 3rd gear is burnt. not gonna fix it, just drive it till it can't anymore and then get suckered into another car payment.

- , Marlborough, MA, USA

problem #197

Nov 162011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

Okay.....along with everyone else. I WAS a loyal Ford purchaser. I all of my vehicles as well as my kids vehilces have been fords with the exception of my toy, a Jeep Cherokee.

Soooo, we purchased the vehicle. 4 months afterwards, the OD light comes on and the vehicle switches out of OD. Was told that the shifting solenoid had to be replaced....$300 without install. Had that completed....5 days later, it starts all over again. 1 Day later the wife is driving on the freeway and vehicle drops down and wont go over 5 miles an hour. Had to have the tranny rebuilt...$2500 at "Edwards Transmission". Problem returns within a couple of days. They say its not the Tranny rather the transfer case. Replaced....another $900. Guess what....problem still there. Took back to tranny shop (still under warranty) and they said now it's the Timing Chain....went to my other mechanic to have it checked out and get an oil change....guess what? The oil pump quits, filter is clogged and engine has to be rebuilt....$3500. This is bull.....Finally got Ford on the phone, they say sorry about me but will offer me an X Discount to trade in and purchase another Ford.....NOT!. I will be dumping this vehicle in the resale market quickly before I have more money in it than it was worth brand new. All this and my wife still needs to get back and forth from college and work as well as shuttling our other 3 kids to school, sports, etc.... Ford should have recalled and fixed this issue. In the long run, they would have made more money from dedicated consumer's returning business.

By the way, after extensive search, the issue has to do with the bore outs AND the gromet around the external piston. The medal wears aware and the piston floats. Simple gromet and fixed, but the tranny has to be dropped again and opened up to complete...."Ed's Transmission" warranty ran out during rebuild, but they had no clue. Even had another shop run diagnostics and provide the code to them.....BUNCH OF CROOKS!!!!!

- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #196

Aug 112012

Explorer LX 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


When the 0/D light started flashing and the car became sluggish and wouldn't change gears, I looked for an answer online. I found a lot of complaints about this transmission problem. I still owe $4,500 for the vehicle. Ford should do the right thing and help their customers with a recall. I am very disappointed in the Ford company for such shoddy workmanship. Any class action lawsuits count me in.

- , Alma, GA, USA

problem #195

Aug 012012

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 162,000 miles

i would like this issue fixed it seems that everyone is having this issue and should be addressed.

- , North Adams, MA, USA

problem #194

Aug 112012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 190,000 miles

I've been reading the many complaints on Ford transmissions from the year 2000 - 2004. Why haven't Ford recall their vehicles? It's costing us thousands of dollars to get it fix. Not sure if it's worth getting fix or just buying a new car. Do anyone know the estimated cost to have the transmission replace? Do you know if Ford is offering any discounts?

- , Port Chester, NY, USA

problem #193

Jul 152012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,190 miles

Did replaced the gear just last December, now after replacing the back shocks last Saturday, OD light now flashes at an interval of 2 kilometer with a loud sound on selecting the next gear. I have scanned without any code or pending code. how do I get through this as I can't afford another gear in less than 7 months.

- , Isolo, Lagos, Nigeria

problem #192

Jun 032012

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,500 miles


The transmission is having trouble shifting from first to second gear. The car runs into high rpms in first gear and then shifts hard into second followed by a quick shift into third. Everything else runs great and the transmission shifts smoothly (up and down) into all other gears, but like other problems reported I fear a complete transmission replacement is necessary because Ford put a less than quality transmission in their Explorers during that production period. I have driven many other Ford vehicles including multiple Taurus, Sable and Cougar (both Mercury) models, and they have all lasted well into the 100K+ mileage. This vehicle has not even made it past 90K and it already has a significant problem - a huge reliability and expectation letdown. My future business with Ford rests on how well they handle this issue and reward customer loyalty.

- , Columbia, MD, US

problem #191

May 062012

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Yes the o/d light came on with the check engine lite right at 115k miles ... Tranny shop decided it was the solenoid box $750 later I still have the same problem and now they think a rebuilt tranny is the fix .. I said you have got to be kidding !! It might cost more than this vehicle is worth !! The gears have not properly worked in the 3 years I have owned the vehicle .. Used auto dealer screwed me and wouldn't answer any calls and the manager was always gone .. I stopped going back to the Honda dealer in North Phoenix for anything .. I had intermittent tranny issues right after the purchase and had an AAMCO dealer work on it .. still had problems ... somewhere on these blog sites someone mentioned they had a fix kit for this model of ford trannies .. anyone know about that ??

btw: my last vehicle was a 98 explorer did not have near the problems but I won't buy another Ford of any kind ..

- , Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #190

Apr 072012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 205,000 miles

This will be the second time since I have had this car that the transmission has failed. First, at about 25,000 miles. I had a rebuilt engine put in as well at about 140,000 miles.

- , Andover, NJ, USA

problem #189

Feb 152012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Ok folks, I found a very simple and cost effective resolve for this O/D light issue. Hopefully, it will work for you. Read a ton of horror stories and went to a few Ford stores and they diagnosed my problem without seeing, what a surprise. Now that really made me feel very warm and fuzzy inside. Not to mention the cost of repair they pulled out of thin air. I do have a little intelligence, so, I checked out my brake light switch. It was very sensitive.......just barely touch it and the brake lights come on.

The Brake Light Switch does three major electrical tasks: 1.Turn on brake lights. 2. Kill the cruise. 3. Disengage the Overdrive. HMMMMMMMMMM

I found Ford did have an issue with this switch, but NOT with Explorer.(Same Part). Went to my local parts store, spent very little money and installed the switch, but did not do all the additional wire splicing, as it was not needed. To this day....Fingers are crossed, The problem has vanished and ALL IS WELL.

Think about it.....Try it. Worked for me, Maybe it will work you. GL and GB

Update from Apr 20, 2012: For those of you who also complained of erratic shifting and or not shifting normally, I found the TPS failed. This is the Throttle Position Sensor that feeds info to your transmission via the computor. Cost is about $60.00 and is "medium difficulty" to install. I replaced it and the shifting is normal now. I do not trust the Dealership to look for simple solutions that do not run up a large expense.(MY PERSONAL OPNION). I suggest to invest +- $30.00 in a Haynes or Chiltons manual at your local parts store for your vehicle as it does explain most issues and gives you removal and installation proceedures. It WILL NOT cover everything, but is very very handy to have. Also,I have found a free site called Both of these have saved me a LOT of money. If your computer continously recieves eronious information, it will normally send out the same, usually causing premature failure. I recently retired from DuPont and my major task was to train my customers in "Customer Retention". Most large Manufactures have their own protocal, and do not accept outside advice. I have also been an ASE MASTER Body/Paint technician for years which demands knowledge beyond just Body and Paint. I really hope my simple fixes work for you also.

Update from Apr 24, 2012: After posting my comments, I received some feedback from others that have experienced complete failure of the transmission. I would like to share more on my experience, with no judgement towards the owners of these Explorers. My wife is the driver and travels 60+ Interstate miles per day for work. We, also, can not justify any additional major expenses. Having said that, when the O/D light began flashing, we also were informed the brake lights were on, (without appling the brakes). That is why I looked into the switch. (No mechanical issues yet). My thoughts are that the switch sent a signal to the PCM that the transmission should be in the highest gear (O/D) at freeway speed, and is not , triggering the warning lamp. Utilizing my past experience, I found if the transmission is not in the correct gear for the speed, it can overheat and destroy itself. Same theory for the erratic, freewheeling, high reving shifting that followed the O/D light issue. (Check engine light on)The trottle position sensor relays information to the transmission via the PCM as to what gear it should be in. If this sensor has failed, sending inaccurate information to the transmission, I believe "Self destruct" mode kicks in. Maybe, just maybe, I just got lucky with these repairs. So far, as of last night, no transmission issues. It may come home on a rollback this afternoon. If that is the case, we have, at least, extended it's demise for over 5,000 additional miles. What I have shared will not repair a trashed transmission, but maybe will prolong it from destruction at a minimal cost.

- , Benton, AR, USA

problem #188

Mar 252012

Explorer XLT 4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,300 miles

As cars are built with less quality, I believe when I pay over $20,000 for a car and drive it lightly (never towed anything) than a transmission should last well over 250K. Online forums show this is not just an issue with me but lots of other Ford owners. Without a recall from Ford I am forced to get very little back when I go to another vehicle, because the dealer will screw me at trade in and I can't sell it personally knowing their is a transmission issue. PLEASE HELP

- , Lansing, MI, USA

problem #187

Aug 012011

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

After replacing torque converter a year and half earlier for $1500 thr transmission message and O/D light came on and trans stopped shifting into second gear. Engine revved high before hard shifting into thrid gear. Had dropped 2nd and 5th gears. Extremely slow movng into drive speeds and severe shifts. ford advised trans and torque convertetr needed replacement.

Ford was aware this model transmission had faults in 2002 and continued installing in 2003 models ignoring safety issues and passing replacement costs on to owners. Shame on Ford for tarnishing a company and family name.

- , Middletown, NJ, USA

problem #186

Feb 022012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 154,000 miles

just bought a 2003 ford explorer 2 weeks ago and on the way home from the dealer had a hard banging underneath and the O/D light was flashing. took it back to the dealer, they said the magnetic clutch coil was bad so they replaced the transfer case at no charge but just called and said its still doing it!!!!! its pretty bad i bought a vehicle 14 days ago and only got to go 20 minutes from the lot before i had problems! i dont know where we go from here, im a single mother with three kids working days and going to school at night who NEEDS A VEHICLE!!!! i want to get my money back and find something else. if theres this many problems with the transmission/transfer case now where am i gong to be in 6 months. i cant afford to buy 2 cars!!!!

- , Westernport, MD, USA

problem #185

Feb 032012

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,235 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer, this is the 2nd time around. First was about a year ago but I believe I was taken for a ride by the mechanic.. So Now I have had to have a rebuilt trans put in..This is BS.. Ford needs to have a recall on these and I will be calling Ford Customer Service line.. 1800-3923673 Come on when U-haul won't even rent a small trailer to you if you own a Explorer there is a problem...

- , Chelsea, MI, USA

problem #184

Jun 152009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

click to see larger images

o/d light flashes

My problem is basically the same ,why did ford build this seal trans fist of all.They're not the only mechanics that can fix the problem. Had i known about this type vehicle ,i would have never got in it.My od flashes ,service light is on ,1st gear is taking to long to shift and i am problem 129 on the complaint list .Guy , gals we need to do something about this issue.To much money is beening paid out and is taking food ,out of my kids mouth about a problem that is very difficult to handle .Folks we need closure ,and the only way is to become a unit of one to establish a class action law suit on all ford product issues.But first let's start with the chief complaints a Lemon transmission.

- , jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #183

Feb 122012

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

Does no one have an answer to this problem? I haven't even begun to proceed to taking it somewhere (hopefully) honest to get an answer to this problem. I am not very happy seeing everyone else's experiences here. Is there no real solution other than having to replace the transmission???? Why isn't this problem a recall if it is so prevalent? Anyone filing a class action lawsuit?

- , Tigard, OR, USA

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