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 4 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #182

Jan 282012

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles


We are having the same problem as everyone else. O/D light started to flash along with check transmission. Took it to Ford dealer and got an estimate of about $3800 to fix. Right now this is our only vehicle we have to drive. I have two minor children and my husband just had a total knee replacement! I rely on my Explorer everyday for kids extra activities and to get my husband back and forth to rehab for his knee. Along with transportation to and from work! More bad news is...we are the second owner and still owe about $4500 on this vehicle. WOW what a mess FORD !!!! I can not believe that there are so many more people out there with the same problem. I could not and still can't believe on what I am reading. UNBELIEVABLE...This Ford Explorer was NOT built FORD TOUGH along with many others too. I do not plan to fix, just pray somehow we can get out from under it. We definitely will NOT buy another FORD!!!

- , Jefferson, OH, USA

problem #181

Jan 172012

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,224 miles

I have an 03 Explorer that the o/d light flashes and the automatic transmission seems to be skipping over 2nd gear. from a stop, it will wind out to about 4300 rpms and then shift hard into 3rd gear. there is no dipstick to check the fluid and a mechanic said it needs to be looked at by a transmission shop. I don't have the money for what I'm told would be around 1500.00 to rebuild. from what I've read on the net is, it seems to be a very common problem that ford won't recall to fix. according to the warranty book, there is no specific upkeep for this transmission I got suckered into buying a warranty contract about a year ago, I hope it's covered.

- , Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #180

Jan 092012

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,359 miles

119,000 miles is too soon for a modern car to have transmission problems like this. We need to get enough people to form a class action.

- , Athens, GA, USA

problem #179

Dec 132011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles


This is the first major problem with this truck. Now the more I look on the net. I guess I am lucky. My tran. Lasted this long. 139,000 miles. Has any one had any luck getting Ford to pay to get this fixed? If so did you call Ford directly or go through the dealer?

- , Essexville, MI, USA

problem #178

Dec 172011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

There should be no way that a car with only this many miles should need a new transmission! We are really aggravated that Ford has not stepped up to have a recall because apparently from what we are reading, this is a very big problem! I am so angry that they have let this go on, that I probably will never buy another Ford!

- , Billings, MT, USA

problem #177

Jun 152011

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

First the O/D lights began to flash at which time I began to panic but the engine light goes out. So I decided to do some research and discovered this is a common occurrence to which FORD refuses to address. Truck can neither move forward or backward now. I was told that I need to replace the converter. $$$$ Ready for a trade. Definately not another Ford

- , Lawrenceville, GA, US

problem #176

Oct 222011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles


just like everbody else like the suv but dropping a new tranny in at 96k is bs ford needs to man up and face this issue having a family with 4 boys thought this would be a good suv can't afford to fix it don't know what to do now. also repaced both front wheel bearings and new ball joints less than a year ago

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #175

Jan 032012

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

I have been a faithful Ford customer having owned Maverick, Fairlane, Falcon, Explorer, Expedition, Galaxy 500, Taurus, etc. I bought a 2003 Ford Explorer brand new. I'm the only driver and never towed anything. My OD light came on at 103,000 miles and transmission had trouble shifting gears. I was alarmed after checking the internet at the number of people complaining about their transmission going out. I called Ford and told them what was going on, asked for a goodwill repair, and after they refused, a goodwill discount repair. Both the Customer Relations and the "supervisor" read from a sript, and treated me with indifference. A transmission specialist said that Ford mis-bored the Servos and it was a bad design. He did a rebuild, put sleves in the Servos, and said that was what should have been done in the first place. Beware if you buy an early 2000 Ford with the factory transmission still in the car.

I wont be one of those customers who say I will never buy another Ford, but I will certainly shop with competitors from here on out. I am no longer a loyal customer!

- , Covington, KY, USA

problem #174

Dec 172011

Explorer XLS 4.0L Flex

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

Same problem as everyone else. Beechmont ford recommended new transmission due to high mileage 106,000. Don't understand how this is considered high mileage when recommended service is not until 150,000. Always try to buy American but I give up, going to Toyota.

- , Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #173

Mar 012011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,000 miles

This was my complaint to Ford. I honestly think that we need all report it to the NHTSA and then go about starting a class action suit against Ford. Does anyone know how we can go about doing such a thing? There are over 1,000's of complaints in regards the 2002-2003 For Explorer’s having severe transmission problems that costs more than the cars are worth to fix, and most still have the problems. I think it’s outrageous how Ford can just ignore this issue, and not offer a recall fix to the problem. Oh unless there isn’t one, because Ford screwed up on these years and made faulty vehicles. I have always been a Ford owner, and hope to always be, but I guess that possibly I will have to be the one to start a class action suit for this problem again Ford. I know in this economy that this will hurt Ford tremendously. We have all started to contact the NHTSA and begun formal complaints about this issue as it is a safety issue will all of these models not just a handful.

- , lakewood, co, USA

problem #172

Dec 302011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles


Found out a week after purchasing that this is a common problem on 02 and 03 Explorers. Was hoping mine was the exception, 8 months later I find out it is not the exception. You have to let off the gas to get it to shift from 1st to intermediate gear, the o/d off light is flashing and service engine soon light stays on, every where I read it claims the problem only gets worse until transmission completely quits. Told only solution is to overhaul or replace tranny, ranging from $1500 to $3000. Also stumbled across a web site,, that claim they have a solution for it. Haven't tried it yet, may if Ford refuses to fix their obvious screw up. Ford owes its owners a recall, this is a manufacturers flaw that they should be obligated to repair. If ford doesn't make good on this (which they haven't and most likely won't) I will never purchase another Ford, and relay that to every one I know. Toyota makes good on their mistakes to their owners, as well as many other motor companies as should Ford. Very disappointed in Ford, I've always been a Ford person,but not anymore after this. Who could afford up to $3000 on a newly purchased vehicle? A transmission should not go out this soon, and/or sooner in a lot of cases I've seen.

- , Milford, OH, USA

problem #171

Sep 112011

Explorer Limited 4.3L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

Driving home from a weekend trip, the check engine readout came on and the OD lite started flashing, I took my SUV to the Dealer the next day, The option is buy a rebuilt transmission for $3800 or have mine repaired for $2,200, I called Ford customer service about getting a good will repair or discount (Ford only owner for over 30 yrs) and was refused any help. I bought this SUV new and I have babied this car for the last 8 years it has less than 96,000 miles on and so far I have had the rear-end rebuilt, the dashboard replaced 2 times a wheel bearing replaced and I am not spending another dime on this lemon, anybody want to buy a 2003 Ford Explorer with less than 100,000 miles on it I am puting it up for sale, and buying a Honda,

- , Layton, UT, USA

problem #170

Nov 192010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

145,000 miles and o/d light starts flashing, check engine light and check tranny light comes on. $2600.00 and a rebuild later, and it still happens! Mechanic replaced the pressure solenoid, again, and all was well for a few months. (I say "all was well" loosely, as it still clunked and shifted hard on occasion). Then, CLUNK, it happens again! Mechanic rebuilds entire transmission, AGAIN, and a day and half later, o/d light flashes, check engine and tranny lights come on and it wont shift properly. Frustrating!!!! The mechanic came highly recommended and has a good rep. 30 years exp. He is totally upside down in this thing and has honored his guarantee. We are both out $$$$ and time, and the problem still exists. It is setting in his garage at this very moment. My advice to anyone else with this problem...Take the $2600 and put it towards another car!!!


problem #169

Feb 112009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I had a 2000 Ford Explorer and the tranny went up at 75,000 miles. I still owed on it and couldn't afford the repair so I traded it in at the only place that would take it, The Ford Dealer. I got into a 2003 Explorer and wouldn't you know, the same thing happened 3 years later, the transmission. I had the transmission rebuilt and had the solenoid replaced also. After a $3000.00 repair bill I was driving my Explorer again! Well, this wasn't long lived. A year later the rebuilt transmission blew!! i was told that even if I put a brand new transmission in, the problem would be more than likely to re-occur! Ford was using the old Bronco II aluminum transmission and the rods were rubbing. Ford is very well aware that the aluminum transmission is not strong enough for the Explorer. So aware that they changed the design in 2004. Even though they changed the transmission there still is NO way to check the transmission fluid! I have been a loyal Ford owner since I started driving...not anymore! I have given Ford over $140,000.00 for the four Fords I have owned, you would think I would at least get a coupon for a free oil change for all this trouble! I got nothing, not even a response to the complaint I filed with Ford Motor Company. I am only 35 years old and I have a lot more cars to buy in my lifetime. I can promise you this...Ford will not see another penny of my money!!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #168

Dec 092011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

My 03 explorer flashing o/d hard to get it in second gear unless I let go of gas and let it switch other than that all gears works fine . I love this truck but damn, since april 11 so many problems .. Door ajar issue (fixed) ball joints need replacement ,recently change both inner rods ,then back window hitch broke (recalled from ford) then heat seat went bad, I can't afford a new tranny , I stared a petition in to have ford recall 2000-2005 explorer with od lights this is BS. This is my last ford and no more ..I been doing research and I don't know if a sensor or oil change . So many possibilities . I have a job and kids I need my truck . So please if anyone knows something know like I said it runs fine but so confused..

- , New Haven, CT, USA

problem #167

Dec 072011

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

Ok so here I go... My wife came home and said that the od light was flashing and it was shifting funny. So I took it out for a ride and noticed the problem right away. I also noticed that it just turned 86,000 miles so I thought that it may have been flashing for some kind of maint. Well I found this site and my jaw just dropped. This is crazy. We have 5 kids and she is out of work. We can't fix the car because we do not have the money... We are the 2nd owners and it has very babied miles on it.. It is a creampuff. We think that it is a shame that Ford will not stand behind this problem. I have never had any problems with fords in the past but I can absolute assure you that this will be the LAST Ford that we will ever buy.... Such a shame.. Put us in for any class action suite......

- , Waterford, CT, USA

problem #166

Aug 052011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,600 miles

Purchased new in 2003, Ford Explorer. Now has 124,600 miles, problem is same as everyone else O/D light flashes and service engine soon light is on. Delayed shift to second, 4,000 rpm, I think it is actually shifting to 3rd gear. Transmission has always shifted well until now. At 30,000 miles I requested from Ford dealer to change trans fluid and filter, their response it is permanet fliid and never requires changing. I checked and there is no drain plug on transmission. That is probably why they quit. Ford should do a recall on these lousy units.Can you say class action suit. What did you do to resolve issue ? Repair or replace ? If replaced, same model trans ?

- , Milford, KS, USA

problem #165

Jul 292011

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I was on a 500 mile road trip when the o/d light started to flash. Pulled over and turned off the suv to get the light to go off. I started to drive again and the light came on again immediately. It was the middle of the night so I waited til morning and started to drive up the street to a repair shop and the o/d light started to flash again, and the check engine light came on and the transmission would not shift out of 1st into 2nd accompanied by high reving RPMs. After taking the suv to a repair shop the estimate to repair is between $2375-$2775. There were no other noticeable indications or warning prior to this problem. After researching and finding that Ford Explorers have had these same problems as much as they have had, and not stand behind their products really disgusts me. American Made really should mean something, but apparently it doesn't. And our government just stands on the sidelines and allow big business to continually abuse the american consumer. No wonder people aren't encouraged to spend money in this economy. FORD you have American consumers here crying out for your help with a product that you manufacture. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? ARE YOU GOING TO HELP US? ARE YOU GOING TO ANSWER OUR CALL? You recognize that this is a manufacturers default. Please help!!!

- , Lancaster, CA, US

problem #164

Aug 012011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Another one here!!! o/d light flashes , check engine light comes on ,, auto zone tells me the code that comes up is pressure control solenoid b .. i cant believe everyone else is having this same issue.. obviously its a faulty design... i cant believe its going to cost me so much money for a car that's worth less then 9,000 dollars... no way to check the transmission fluids either, this sounds like a smart design by ford

- , Glassboro, NJ, USA

problem #163

Aug 022011

Explorer XLT 4.3L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,565 miles

I can not understand why Ford has not sent out any recalls on this problem. I just had this sympton start today. I searched on the Internet and couldn't believe that there are 125 cases just on this FORUM alone.

I am affraid to bring it to my trusty transmission gurus, becasue i do not need a bill of $4,000 or so right now. I have never towed anything with it. I am the second owner and when I bought it the hitch had never been used.

It seems that I am the only Canadian with this problem. But reading all the other complaints with the same problem and reading that FORD knows of the situation, then I belive we should start a class action law suite.

It is my first FORD but I will not buy another one again. I would rather take my chances with one of the other Domestic car builders..

- , Ottawa, Ontario, canada

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