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 8 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #102

Sep 032010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles


O/D Light came on during a trip - took it to the mechanic - estimate of $4100 to repair. The car is a 2003 and only has 75,000 miles - ridiculous to have to put in a whole new transmission! Ford lost another customer!

- , Springfield, VA, USA

problem #101

Apr 072010

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

OD light flashes and Check engine light flashes. Transmission jumps and truck is barely drivable. Took it to a dealer and was told I needed a complete transmission overhaul which costs about $3,700. Too many people with this issue. There should be a recall. So if you know of someone who has a Ford and has experienced problems please tell them to speak up and register their complaint by calling 800 392 3673. Be ready to provide VIN number and other identifying information. I was told they record every complaint thus creating the data base that could be the determining factor in a recall. If we never speak up then Ford wont know anything is wrong.

- , Lithonia, GA, US

problem #100

Sep 012010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

Identical problem that everyone else is reporting here. O/D light starts flashing, check engine light comes on, trans starts slipping, etc. Already had the transmission rebuilt at 60,000 miles. If anyone starts the Class Action suit, please let me know. I cant really afford to have this fixed right now and am wondering how long I can drive it before it quits totally but have no choice to do that until I can get the money to have the repair done. Ford, please acknowledge you have a problem

- , Flower Mound, TX, USA

problem #99

Aug 312010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles


I wish I knew about these sites before purchasing a FORD the acronym for F ound O n R oad D ead! The OD light came on, brought in to Stop and Go Transmissions, apparently the transmission harnes is deterioated, 2nd gear and 5th are not good and the list goes on. I also have the crack in the back gate! Based on the enormous amount of complaints against the 2003/2004 Ford Explorers, I am going to contact our local news TV station see if it's worth investigating.

- , Bethany, CT, USA

problem #98

Sep 102010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

In reading all the complaints and there being no recall by Ford, there may be a case for a class action suit. I will need to look into this, as the miles seem to vary from case to case. My car has 150,000, a question is, is that a normal amount of miles for a consumer to expect to have to replace their transmission? Please e-mail me at with any opinions in this matter and any interest in moving forward against Ford. Thanks

- , Medford, NJ, USA

problem #97

Sep 162010

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I just purchased this car used last year(10/2009), this is ridiculous

- , Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #96

Sep 072010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


Yes, same exact issue. od light then service engine soon. But here's a thought FORD...Let's make it so you can get your fluid changed regularly. I couldn't get ANYONE but a ford dealer to touch my transmission, not even for a flush. Because it's sealed and there's no dipstick. Lesson learned. Don't buy a car that you can't easily maintain. Or it means they want your car to break down so you have to go get it fixed.

Interesting side note also, our local transmission shop actually has a patent on a servo bore tool used to fix this explorer transmission problem. Ford Motor Company themselves recommends this tool be used on all of these specific explorer tranny repairs.

- , Cumberland, WI, USA

problem #95

Aug 212010

Explorer V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 79,900 miles

Same thing as everyone else. The o/d light started flashing, followed by the service engine light. Took it over to Ford Monday morning and got the call... 2nd and 5th gear are not working. 2,800 for a rebuilt one with a 12 month 36000 mile warranty, or go for a 5 year-100k mile warranty for $500 more. The Service Advisor I spoke with from Ford told me that there was nothing I could have done to avoid this issue. It was just a horrible design. I went ahead and called Ford Customer Care and complained about this issue. Got just a sorry about that but it's out of warranty and we can't do anything for you. What ever happen to "Built Ford Tough" or those commercials that used to say 200,000 milestone. I couldn't even make it to 80k. To put it in a nutshell... Ford's response is sorry for buying a faulty product but we can't do anything for you. Can't meet me half way or even part way. I asked them if they stand by the product they sell and she responded with "as long as it is under warranty." I think under 80k is too early for a transmission to be replaced. I purchased this vehicle brand new in 02 and have drove it under 10,000 miles a year just for this major problem to happen? I have had 3 toyotas that have made it well over 100k without a transmission problem. No more Fords for me. I'm thinking of contacting my local news team and see what can be done about the situation. I'll keep everyone posted. And if there is a class action in progress right now.. let me know please.

- , Kent, WA, USA

problem #94

Aug 212010

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles

The O/D light started flashing a week and a half ago and now the Service Engine Soon light just came on. Basically it's having problems shifting from 2nd to 3rd and 5th is gone. We are still driving it right now b/c it is still drivable even though 5th is gone We did take it to Advance and had the code read. The code let us know the Sol.B was having problems, but I'm sure it's much more than that. We plan to have it put in the shop in the next upcoming weeks.(if it lasts til then). From what we've read on this site it's probably going to be expensive, so we are getting prepared to take out a loan. The car does have 142000 miles and really has never given us much of a problem until now.

- , Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #93

Jul 152010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

This is crazy, I bought this truck brand new! First the cigarette lighters went, then the O/D light started flashing. Two weeks later the ABS light. The mechanics had to rebuild it twice before it was fixed. He also said the the trans was soooo messed up!!!! What is going to happen next?

- , Irvington, NJ, USA

problem #92

Aug 242010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles


I have a 2003 Explorer Eddie Bauer edition. While on my way to pick my daughter up from basketball practice, and without any warning, the O/D OFF light started to flash and within a minute, the CHECK TRANSMISSION light also came on. I was not sure what was wrong so I pulled off on the side of the road and restarted the car, just to find that within 2 minutes it happened again. I then noticed that it seemed like it took a longer time than usual to shift from 1st to 2nd gear. Then when it went from 2nd to 3rd, it shifted harder than normal. I am scared to drive it, but I have nothing else to drive, and I have to take 2 kids to school every day and go to class myself.

This is rediculious that there are this many complaints against the same problem and FORD doesnt want to man up and take the responsibility. I still owe on the piece of junk and now need close to $2000 to have it fixed. This is a joke. I will not buy another FORD ever again. They should have to refund money to everyone who has had to replace the transmissions in these models and then recall the ones that are lucky enough to not have had a torn up vehicle yet. Not to mention within 6 months, we have had to do alot of other work to the stupid thing.

This problem NEEDS to be addressed and quickly before everyone else who has these models are out alot of money for something that isnt their fault. And also, maybe they are just low on transmission fluid then without being able to check the fluid level, because it is a sealed system, that is why they all tear up. I am not sure that is why, but it cant help matters any that you cant even check to see if the fluid level is right or not. I just wish someone would help all of us out and get this law suit filed and ruled on because anyone with any sense could see it is 100% FORD MOTOR'S FAULT!!!!

- , Staffordsville, KY, USA

problem #91

Mar 032010

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 157,000 miles

ford has got to own up to this problem.We all should get a class action lawsuit going,then maybe we can force them to do something.

- , Redoak, TX, USA

problem #90

Jul 062010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

So we bought the SUV two years ago and it has been great. When we first bought it the ABS light was on but when we took it in to put on new brakes and get the oil changed when we first got it they said nothing was wrong. We figured it was just an electrical issue. There was no problem with how the vehicle ran.

Then at the beginning of July we got the A/C fixed. We noticed that it hesitated when shifting gears. I thought that maybe the A/C may have been putting a strain on the transmission. My husband said that it still did it when the A/C was off. Then last week while driving home from my daughter's soccer practice my overdrive light started flashing. I thought maybe I hit the button and didn't notice so I tried turning it off, didn't work, still flashed. Once I got home I turned the car off and turned it back on put it in drive and it wasn;t doing it. We were hoping it was just an electrical problem. Then this weekend it happened when my husband was driving. My husband got the idea to turn off the overdrive when we drive it. When we do that it does not hestitate and it drives as normal. How long this will last, I don't know but for now it has to do.

So Monday I started doing some online reseach, I found this website along with others and now I see how common this problem is. I am really disappointed because I really love the Explorer. I wanted to get a newer one next year. I am also flabergasted that Ford has not put a recall on these transmissions. I found a phone number 1-800-392-3673 this is Ford Customer Relationship Center, I called and he took down my info and logged the problem yesterday. He made it sound like that if they get enough calls about the problem they will issue the recall. So if you haven't called then maybe it wouldn't hurt. I have also decided that I am contacting my local news stations to see if maybe they can get somewhere with getting a recall on these trans. Whos to say that we get new trans or get them rebuild and it doesn't happen again. That is what I am afraid of. Hopefully we can get by until we can buy another car with driving with the overdrive off.

- , Ypsilanti, MI, USA

problem #89

Jul 272010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

This alleged transmission failure/ expense comes only 4 months after the second rear bearing/ differential replacement. Also the Ford service stated the wheel bearings were all bad and had to be replaced. They stated this was after all the extended warranty expired. The first differential repair was done under warranty.

Recently retired and in a situation of cannot afford these type of expenses or to afford new car payments. Very disappointed with the vehicle design and the service departments. They knew of these issues while the vehicle was under warranty and did not advise of the eventual problems.

- , Troy, IL, USA

problem #88

Jul 192010

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Identical problem that everyone else is reporting here. O/D light starts flashing, check engine light comes on, trans starts slipping, etc. The truck is at the Ford dealership as I type, and I have not gotten a final estimate of repairs. If anyone starts the Class Action suit, please let me know. I know this repair will cost a fortune, and of course, like most of you on here, I cant really afford it, but have no choice but to have the repair accomplished. My daughter uses this truck to commute to school and work. Ford, acknowledge you have a problem before it becomes a "Toyota" embarrassment to you. Of course, people are not getting hurt or killed, just "taken for a ride!!" All the way to the bank!! Talk about a rip off!!

- , Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

problem #87

Jun 212010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

I was driving one day and my O/D off light started flashing, then next the Check Engine light, and now the ABS light along with occasional door ajar. I took it to Advance Auto for a diagnostic and they said the Solenoid needs to be replaced. I plan to take it to a shop today to see what the real problem and see if I need to get it fixed or get a new vehicle. What sucks is I have replaced the tires, brakes, battery and more and I owe more then it is worth so I may be stuck with this clunker.

- , Millville, NJ, USA

problem #86

May 212010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 190,000 miles

Well, you add me to the list. I was picking my kids up and we were in the drive thru lane at McDonald's when somebody noticed I was leaking tranny fluid. We got our food and ate. I took a look underneath and then called for the tow. My mechanic called me yesterday with a bunch of problems with my tranny. O/D sensor, bad gear ratios, etc....Bottom line is the tranny needs to be taken out and rebuilt and then reinstalled. A message to Ford, no more sealed units without dip sticks! I check all my fluids on a weekly basis. If I had a dipstick I may have picked up the lowering level of tranny fluid and maybe I wouldn't need a as much work done.

- , Milford, CT, USA

problem #85

Apr 082010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Same problem O/D light flashes, called Ford and need to get $125 diagnostic to tell me what this site has already told me. I havn't been driving since the light started flashing.

I had the transmission replaced (under warrenty) at 94,000 miles. This vehicle has been nothing but problems. Engine rebuilt twice, Front of hood has paint peeling but its not covered. I've noticed that this is another common problem on the 2003 explorer.

- , Turnersville, NJ, USA

problem #84

Jun 302010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

Ford, please recall this. Transmissions should last longer

- , Cary, NC, USA

problem #83

Jun 302010

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,238 miles

My O/D light started flashing and then the engine service light came on the next day. The engine would race when I took off from a stop sign or light and then drop into gear. This all happened with only a little over 48,200 miles on the car. I'm over 60 years old so I don't drive like an idiot. I get regular oil changes and really keep up my car.

This really ticks me off when Ford does not stand behind their product. I have 2 friends at work that both owned 2003 and 2004 Explorers and according to them, the exact same thing happened to them. Both stated they will never buy another Ford.

- , Kansas City, MO, US

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