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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
30,500 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #4

Nov 212006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles


: the contact stated the transmission failed while driving 30 mph. There was smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle and when the contact stopped to inspect the problem, leaking transmission was noticed. The service dealer was notified and the vehicle was towed to a transmission shop where a computer diagnostics identified the problem as a failure to the onboard computer. The manufacturer was not alerted.

- Bridgeport, CT, USA

problem #3

Jun 122006

(reported on)

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2003 Explorer engine stalling and surging when driving and coming to a stop. ***** the dealer reprogrammed the PCM. 8jb

- Butler, PA, USA

problem #2

Jan 272006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
: the contact stated the vehicle experienced a problem with hesitation when the speed was kept constant. The dealership replaced the mass air flow sensor. The hesitation problem continued, the vehicle was returned to the dealership which was unable to duplicate the problem. While backing into the driveway the vehicle suddenly accelerated. Although the brakes were applied the vehicle did not stop. The vehicle hit the contact's home resulting in a neck sprain injury. The acceleration continued until the shifter was moved into drive. The dealership was unable to determine the cause of the acceleration. Also, contact complained that ABS light was on and pedal felt stiff. Vehicle ran rough. In addition, removed and installed automatic transmission main control valve body.

- Newport, MI, USA

problem #1

Sep 112003

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Consumer called complaining about having transmission problems. While vehicle was parked it started rolling back. The dealer was contacted, and stated that they could not find anything wrong with the vehicle.

- Belleville, MI, USA

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