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 7 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #122

Nov 012010

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles


I have a 2003 explorer that began with the od light flashing, then the car started slipping and kicking after shifting gears. this car just reached 70k and i don't have a warranty. this should definitely be recalled and fixed by ford. they know we are not at fault and they should be held criminally liable for putting us in dangerous vehicles that consistently drain our wallets. everyone should contact local news and complain. lets set a date to do just that. when enough people make the effort, they will see how serious we are.

- , Fresh Meadows, NY, USA

problem #121

Dec 112010

Explorer XLT Black V-6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,500 miles

My O/D light started flashing today - reading the posts I know what is about to happen. Can towing the car in now prevent any further damage or should I try to drive it to the dealership or transmission shop for repair?

Sounds like Ford should be well aware of this problem by now. Add my case to the class action suit when it comes up.

- , Charleston, SC, USA

problem #120

Sep 242010

Explorer 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

I had my explorer in the dealer for a complaint about the transmission at 36,000 miles, they said they could not find anything wrong with it but they did say that they would note it. This is totally unacceptable for the price we have to pay for these vehicles! My od light started flashing and 2nd gear is slipping and my overdrive is not working. Called a transmission place and he said he has a backup of explorers to fix for the same problem. Estimated cost to fix will be 1800 to 3300, REALLY FORD A TRANSMISSION OUT WITH THAT AMOUNT OF MILES! Next time you you want keep your customers coming back make products that will last longer than foreign cars! I have always owned a Ford but this will be the last time! So enjoy your so called profit for now!

- , Monroe, MI, USA

problem #119

Aug 092010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,000 miles


I have purchase 3 Ford Explorer in the last 20 years, I have never had a transmission problem with any of them but the 2003. I still have my 1997 it has over 175000 miles without a transmission problem. The 2003 that I bought brand new just like the 1997 has a transmission problem at 69000 miles. Just think I was going to buy a new 2010 Explorer before this happen, no way now.

- , Evanston, IL, USA

problem #118

Nov 122010

Explorer 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 158,000 miles

I just paid $2600 to have the transmission rebuilt in 2008 and I'm right back at square one again with the EXACT SAME ISSUE! It is beyond frustrating!!

- , Nottingham, MD, US

problem #117

May 012008

Explorer 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

I bought the vehicle in 2005 and had have the transmission rebuilt 3 years later.

- , Nottingham, MD, US

problem #116

Nov 132010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,012 miles


When I purchased this hunk of junk I paid for the extended warranty through ford, when it expired, I wanted to purchase more warranty but was refused. So I found another company that I purchased warranty with for $3500 for 36 months ish...

I took my child to see Santa parade Saturday evening and O/D light began flashing :s

the truck was sluggish and revving really about 500 rpm more that normal. I just made an appointment to get diagnoses and estimate repair cost- Ford refused to comply with my current warranty? Really get Ford to do the repairs? help any suggestions?

- , Chelmsford, ON, Canada

problem #115

Oct 142010

Explorer XLT

  • 92,000 miles

A transmission should not need a complete rebuild at 92K miles. This is ridiculous. I have a 1969 Mustang with the original engine and transmission (knocking on wood right now). How is it that 40 years ago they knew how to build a better product. I was planning on buying another ford within a year or so. Will definitely be rethinking that.

- , Drexel Hill, PA, USA

problem #114

Sep 282010

Explorer XLS 4.OL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles


- , Portland, IN, US

problem #113

Nov 082010

Explorer 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

Unfortunately I'm not the first nor will I be the last to come across this problem with the Ford Explorer o/d light flashing. As I see there where numerous reports of this problem before on earlier and late model Ford Explorers. It doesn't seem that the mileage matters much because I've heard some complaints from people with less than 70,000 miles on their car so I guess it just depends on not if but when it's gonna happen. It happened to me all of a sudden as I was driving home and the o/d light started flashing. I went online and researched this problem and I came across this site and noted all the complaints about this very common problem in the Ford Explorers. I wish I had came across this site before I purchased this car but now there is nothing I can do about it and the end result is I have to replace the transmission to the tune of $3600. Never again will I purchase a Ford Explorer and to think I was thinking of buying a brand new one.

- , Hamilton, NJ, USA

problem #112

Nov 032010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,765 miles


Started last June with hard shifts followed by a blinking overdrive light. Local mechanic found a broken overdrive servo piston in the transmission and repaired it for a little over $300. Forward to early November and the trans starts to act up again. I'm thinking "another servo piston "?

No such luck. Now it's the solenoid cluster in the valve body. Over $700 this time. Ouch.

The icing on the cake comes when the mechanic (who is also a friend, our daughters hang out together) informs me the rear differential is on it's way out. That will be AT LEAST $2,000 when that happens. He also shows me a bunch of TSB's and industry articles showing all of these driveline problems are fairly widespread within this vintage of Explorer. I won't even get into the other nickle and dime crap (heater blend door actuator issues anyone ?) this thing has put us through over the years. I performed every maintenance item required on time. I even changed the trans fluid even though the Ford service writer told me it was "unnecessary" as it was lifetime fluid. Maybe he was right as it was a pretty short lifetime.

So all in all I got just under 80,000 miles. We had owned the car since brand new. Did I mention the air conditioning compressor that locked up at 65,000 ? That one was good for for the better part of $1,000.

Our solution to all of this ? We traded it in today on a Honda. Seriously. Any vehicle made in this century should be able to make AT LEAST 100,000 miles without breaking a sweat. My first new vehicle ever was a '85 Toyota pickup, which I drove for 14 years and well over 200,000 miles.

Vote with your wallet, it's the one language they understand.

- , Clementon, NJ, US

problem #111

Oct 012010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,900 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer with 66,900 miles on it. It started having trouble being sluggist and some vibration then the o/d off light started blinking. I have had all my work done at the dealer where purchased. Even light bulbs. I have wonderfully maintained my Explorer and get all recommended maintenance. It is currently at the dealer getting a rebuilt transmission. Despite the dealer contacting Ford and their local rep, Ford once again won't do anything. Fortunately, since I'm a great customer, the dealership is reducing my cost by $650.00 which is really nice. Like the dealership. Hate Ford.

I simply won't buy any model of Ford ever again in my life. (I've also had multiple repairs on the A/C and have the dreaded crack in the panel below the rear window which Ford also won't take responsibility for). Ford really needs to step up and do something. This problem is so common and if they don't want to offer help, perhaps they should stop making vehicles...

- , Souderton, PA, USA

problem #110

Oct 062010

Explorer LTD V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

This is a Gripe, a rant and a yell!!! big corp continues to rob us at every turn.

My 2003 Ford Explorer started today acting up with the "boom" that felt like my entire engine hit the earth. then my O/D light came on. its amazing the amount of people who have had this issue, but only one person got it fixed....and is still having problems. AMAZING! DIVIDE AND CONQUER and they will never come together for ONE cause!

Update from Nov 15, 2010: Everybody on this site seems to have the same issue with the Ford Explorer. I have 123k miles on my truck and had the Service light come on and the O/D light. I got it fixed by company here in Washington DC and they fixed with new drums, sensors, solenoids, clutch, rear wheel drive for $2100. Right now works great!


- , Catonsville, MD, USA

problem #109

Aug 062010

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,000 miles

I took my car in multiple times while still under warranty and complained of poor shifting and issues with the transmission. Twice they fixed solenoids and still didn't run right. Then when I am about to leave on a road trip the O/D light starts blinking and shifting erraticly. I take it in and they inform me of a huge list of issues and say I need a complete overhaul of my transmission.

My Ford dealership said they tried to get Ford Warranty to cover out of warranty since I had come in with transmission issues so many times. Ford DENIED the coverage and I had to pay out of pocket over $3,000.

We are a FORD family with over 8 Fords over the years... LOYAL! Yet left to fend for our selves.... FORD needs to cover this and the rear cracked door issues on this model. RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Oakland, CA, USA

problem #108

Sep 252010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,003 miles

Im having the same issue as Im seeing people describe on this side. my o/d light started to flash. Then my check engine light came on. Then I noticed that my car started taking a longer time to get out of first gear. I knew something big time was wrong. LIke most thing, I google it first...and thats when I saw all of you having the same issue. I was hopeful at first because I thought that because it was a big issue that there would be some type of beneficial recourse for us. After reading all of the other complaints, I doubt that very much.

So now, like the rest of you, Im going to have to get my transmission serviced....great. Ford needs to do something for us. At the very least, give us a really good trade in to get a new model without the problems. I paid alot for this truck so Im stuck with it...Lucky me. Once I get it serviced Ill update this. Until then Im going to contact ford and see what noise I can make over there...Ill update the site with that info also. Good luck folks

- , Jamaica, NY, US

problem #107

Sep 202010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

so i guess im another on the list!! last week the o/d light starts flashing and then the next day the check engine light came on. took it to FORD and they wanted $75 just to tell me what's wrong with it. so i drove a mile down the road to advance auto and they hooked it up for free and told me that it was the solenoid d (something in the transmission). I called the ford company and complained, maybe if enough of us do MAYBE they will do something, if not i still think we should make it a pain for them!!!!! there number is 800-392-3673. then call the national highway and traffic safety administration (they help more) and file a complaint on ford 800-424-9393!!!

- , Ararat, NC, USA

problem #106

Sep 242010

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

ford should take car of this transmission. it had 78000 on it never used hard,no towing,no kides,one driver. roley701

- , Greenup, IL, USA

problem #105

Aug 012010

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

It's a shame that Ford knows this particular model year has issues and will not offer to repair the problem

- , St. Thomas, VI, USA

problem #104

Sep 112010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Same problem here, O/D light flashing, service engine soon light came on later that same day. RPM's all of a sudden go up, but car won't pick up. Car jolts and makes a screech sound occasionally. Not sure what is wrong yet or the repair cost, but I did research and found this site, now I'm worried.

- , Ansonia, CT, USA

problem #103

Aug 232010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

I jumped in to the web to find an answer on why the O/D light is flashing, only to find it is more common than i was guessing, I called the ford customer service 1800 392 3673 op 5 and then opt.1

After I explained the problem and a brief waiting the best answer was "you need to visit your nearest dealer to inspect the vehicle....." basically I'm fearing I have to replace the transmission or some crazy stuff like that.... could anyone tell me if they actually fixed the problem and how??? Is it the transmission? FORD should send a national recall for this problem.

- , Laredo, TX, USA

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