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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
80,967 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 #3

Mar 132012

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,900 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while restarting the vehicle, the gear shifter detached from the steering wheel. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer where it was diagnosed with a failure to the steering column that needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 75,900...updated 04/11/12 the consumer stated when he put the vehicle in reverse, the entire gear shift came out in his hand. Leaving the vehicle in reverse. He was able to turn the ignition switch off. A cast iron bracket was completely broken off in the steering column. Updated 05/31/12

- Apple Valley , CA, USA

problem #2

Aug 182009


  • 127,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. When attempting to shift gears, the column shift lever had fractured. He had to push the vehicle to the side of the road-way. The vehicle was then towed to a dealership, and he was advised that he would have to purchase a new steering column. The manufacturer was notified, and he was advised that they would not provide assistance. The vehicle was taken to a local service station and repaired. After the repair the failure re-occurred, the current mileage was approximately 130,000. The failure mileage was 127,000.

- Temecula, CA, USA

problem #1

Nov 032006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 10 mph, the contact heard a noise similar to a tire blowout. She pulled the vehicle off the road and discovered that the lug studs for the driver and passenger side rear wheels had sheared off. The vehicle was towed to the dealer and the studs were replaced. The failure occurred twice. The contact attempted to shift into park, but the gear became stuck. She jiggled the gear until it went into park. The dealer was unable to determine the cause of the failure. The failure mileage was 40,000 and current mileage was 60,000.

- Plymouth, IN, USA

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