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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
33,850 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 #2

Jul 142007

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 63,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 10 mph, the vehicle shifted into four wheel drive without warning. The contact pressed the reset button on the dashboard, which deactivated the four wheel drive feature. She also stated that the door open light remained illuminated. The dealer has not inspected the vehicle. The current and failure mileages were 63,000.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #1

Jan 092005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,700 miles
I bought a 2003 Explorer new from the dealer and ever since I had this vehicle it has clunked into gear from park to drive, from reverse to drive, and sometimes when I am parked and put it in reverse to pull out of the spot it lunges back for no reason. I am afraid to even parallel park not knowing if it will go and lunge back and hit the car behind me. I have had it to the dealer approx. 9 times for the trans and they cant seem to fix it. They keep pulling at strings and changing parts and trying to fix the problem but it has not been fixed yet. This was 1 year ago and I am still having the same problem, the vehicle has been having more problems as the year went on and I continue to take it back to the dealer but they still cant seem to fix it. It started 10/2003 and this is 1/2005 and still not fixed...

- N Cape May, NJ, USA

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