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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
100,889 miles
Total Complaints:
79 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace/rebuild transmission (59 reports)
  2. not sure (12 reports)
  3. rebuild / replace transmission (4 reports)
  4. belt/clutch repair (2 reports)
  5. rebuild transmission (2 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 4 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #19

Oct 222008

Explorer SportTrac V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,100 miles


Although the mileage may be a bit high for a 2003, they were mostly freeway miles and my truck was always maintained properly; fluid levels were always checked and spot-on, oil changes every 3,000 miles, periodic tire rotation, no heavy loads or off road use. Then one day, without ANY prior symptoms, I had NO reverse and it only drove in 2nd gear. The O/D light began flashing as well. My previous vehicle, a 1969 Dodge van drove for 750,000 miles with only 1 engine and 1 transmission replacement.

- , Napa, CA, USA

problem #18

Oct 132008

Explorer Limited 3.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

Blinking O/D light and eventual transmission failure. Dealer wanted $4265 to fix and private transmission rebuilder charged $2500. Also cracked panel under rear window. I've got all the standard failures. I won't buy another Ford, they don't care, so nor will I...

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #17

Sep 072008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

Started as o/d off light flashing on/off, then (within a day) started feeling really hard shifts, next day it locked itself into first gear only.

Took it to a transmission shop, they said it looked typical for Ford transmission failures.

Cost to fix $3090, plus it took 4-5 days for the shop to get to it, so 4-5 days of rental fees.

Get this though: the rebuild kit comes with a 5-year 100,000 mile guarantee. Now, how is it that a rebuild kit can give me a 100k guarantee, but the original warranty only had a 36K on it? And Ford wonders why they can't sell cars anymore?

- , Saint Peters, MO, USA

problem #16

Aug 082008

Explorer Eddie Baurer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,929 miles


This vehicle is a top of line and has so many sensors it tells you when you fart butt here was no indication of a transmission problem. I have owned many vehicles and this is a money pit. The dealer quoted me $5643.00 but a local transmission shop estimates $1500 - 2000. I see there are lots of complaints but a Ford says these are good transmissions. They are good but only short on life. I could understand if this was an inexpensive truck and not taken care of but that is not the case. I think Ford knows the problem and just have never done a recall. Soon to be ex ford owner. I would buy European before I gave Ford another nickel

- , Saint John, N.B, Canada

problem #15

Jul 292008

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

Let me start with a little background. The only reason we possess a piece of _ Ford is because the Ford Windstar we owned for 2 years was facing its 4th $800+ repair with transmission problems looming on top of that. Knowing no one would take the Windstar off my hands, I told the dealer he would take it back at fair market value without need of repair and also give me a good deal on a new vehicle since we had so much trouble with the Windstar. Well, it was only a good deal if you throw out all the necessary repair costs to Ford # 2 - the Explorer.

We just paid over $600 last Friday because the check engine light kept coming on. Now today, the transmission is gone. Ironically, the check transmission light didn't come on until this morning as we were pulling into the mechanic and there was only one functioning gear left. How on earth is Ford getting good ratings for reliability??? I am beginning to think their customer base consist solely of 80 year old women that only drive their car to church on Sunday because once you crest the 30,000 mile mark, it is all down hill.

FOR SALE - 1 COMPLETELY RE MANUFACTURED FORD EXPLORER. Should be a good car now as nothing is original!

- , Lees Summit, MO, US

problem #14

Jul 012007

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

Transmission failed. It was a transmission without a dipstick that was supposed to last 100,000 miles before service. It failed at 63,000. Right now at 80,000 I have to replace one of these new front wheel bearing packs which are overpriced and have a limited life as compared to traditional wheel bearings. It's a disposable truck! No more for me.

- , Castro Valley, CA, USA

problem #13

Jun 122008

Explorer Eddie Bower V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


In less then two months it started out with O/D light flashing and rough shifting after the O/D was off to having to jerk & rock the vehicle by hard acceleration just to get it into reverse to get it out of the parking spot to not even shifting into anything to go. I found the problem at first could be corrected just by turning the vehicle off and letting it reset or cool off, to it not wanting to go into reverse out of parking spot when it was hot outside to it just not wanting to go regardless of the outside temp. What a pain in the ass! When I took it to the Ford Dealership right after it started the o/d light flashing & rough shifting, the dealer's service department's response was it has 80,000 miles on it and needs a new transmission to correct the problem. They told me the service engine light would stay on all the time until the transmission was replaced. Well they were wrong. The service engine light would come on some times and at the end, it was totally off! We falsely thought that maybe the dealership was wrong with their diagnose since they had only hooked the vehicle up to their computer, but the vehicle proved them right in such a short time.

- , Gardners, PA, USA

problem #12

Jun 212008

Explorer XLS 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

I don't know what everyone is complaining about. Sure, I've had to replace both rear bearings, both front bearings - twice, the hinges on the rear hatch, the computer - twice and now the transmission, all in less than two years. Just normal wear and tear, right? DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND AVOID FORD! I hear Toyotas are reliable....

- , Owego, NY, US

problem #11

Apr 032007

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

You pay good money and expect a good SUV and what do you get? You get a piece of crap that won't even let you put it into gear. The transmission totally failed. Ford should have to reimburse everyone who has had problems!

- , Trafford, AL, US

problem #10

May 122007

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 149,000 miles

I noticed for several months that my transmission was jerky. It would hesitate at stop signs when I accelerated and then lunge forward. I had driven about 200 miles on a trip and noticed that my transmission seemed to be shifting funny. The faster I went, the worse it got. I had no choice but to drive home in it. The o/d light began to flash and I was about to lose my mind afraid of a break down. I made it home and took it to the dealership the next day. They quoted me $3400 to replace the transmission. Next, I went to AMACO and got a $2500 quote to rebuild if they started on it immediately. I then found a local mechanic who rebuilt the transmission for $1250. Since then I have put another 25K miles on it and haven't had another transmission problem.

- , Americus, GA, USA

problem #9

Dec 102007

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles


Well, well, well. 1 wheel bearing bad at 50k. Three more at 91K including a repeat. Finally transmission blows at 97k. Dealer indicates this is all typical wear and tear. Well, guess if that's typical for a Ford, then they need to get out of the auto business. I'm buying a Subaru and never going back. Too bad. I've owned a 67 Mustang, 69 Cougar, 94 Ranger, and 99 F150. Always been happy, but they seem to have lost their capability to be even slightly competent.

- , Fort Thomas, KY, USA

problem #8

Jan 042008

Explorer XLT 4.0L, V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

This piece of sh*t broke down on me on a Friday! I called the dealer and they said to bring it in Monday cause they don't have real mechanics on weekends only oil change guys. Idiots! I had to have my trans replaced after the o/d light came on started flashing and wouldn't shift correctly. I thought it was gonna stall right there and then. Luckily I had an extended warranty. Now i have a problem with a cracked rear panel. When i Ford gonna get off its fat ass and do something for their customers?

- , Lombard, IL, USA

problem #7

Oct 132007

(reported on)

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,370 miles

O/D OFF light flickering and gears diagnosed as most others here, replace solenoid, that didn't work. At least Firestone shop refunded $862.00 when he coudnt fix it over that 3 day repair fiasco. I was advised take to dealer, most likely a "electric harness failure". By the way a solenoid replacement should never be more than $400 I was told by tranny guy after the fact when I depended on local Firestone guy who said "no problem" he could do it...not so it seems in the long run.

Dealer says Firestone missed problem completely. Dealer says 2nd and 3rd bands gone so 2800 for a rebuild or 3900 for new. Just paid this off in March. I have owned Ford since 1970, and my brother builds them in KC.

The Explorer has been well maintained, never expected this at 81K miles.

I had to rent a Suzuki SUV for a week,it was a nice car, I may go foreign now for the features. It will kill my UAW brother but this is a ridiculous cost and pain in the butt for car you depend on for work and a travel to help out invalid parents.

- , Mandeville, LA, US

problem #6

Aug 162007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

We bought a used 2003 Ford Explorer XLT in 2004. Had 20,000 miles on it. The transmission failed completely last Tuesday. We had 60,000 miles on it at time of failure. The transmission was so bad it couldn't be rebuilt so we are going to have to put in a new one for $3940 (labor + tax). We took care of it and never took it off roading. The original warranty was only 3 yrs or 36,000 miles so of course it is coming out of my pocket. Of course the new transmission will have a 3 yr. 75,000 mile warranty. Why didn't the origInal one have that? I've learned a valuable lesson. I WILL NEVER, EVER, EVER. EVER BY ANOTHER AMERICAN CAR AGAIN. It pretty much comes down to this. You can either pay more money upfront when you buy a foreign vehicle like Toyota or Honda (That will last a very long time with little failure rate) or you can pay the same amount or more later on with an American-made car. American auto manufacturers should be required to put in foreign transmission because the ones they make suck ass. I hope all American auto companies go out of business. They deserve to fail. Their products suck ass and no wonder they can't compete with Toyota or Honda ETC. They don't deserve to. SCREW EM. They will never get my hard-earned money again. F*CK YOU Ford.

- , Aurora, CO, USA

problem #5

Aug 192007

(reported on)

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Transmission failed at 65000 miles. Never abused, just normal highway driving in cruise control. Complete rebuild cost over $2700.00. Vacationed at home thanks to Ford's cheap parts. I will be replacing my Explorer with either a Honda or Toyota. Ford should come to terms with its problems and stop screwing the American Consumer. We do have ways of getting back. Stop buying Ford products! FIX OR REPAIR DAILY, I should have listened to my Father (over $6000.00 for repairs in five years.)

- , Longmeadow, MA, USA

problem #4

Aug 152007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V-8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #3

Jun 122007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

This was the first time the tranny went out. We had to do it again at 65k and again at 85k (bad relays or some sh*t). We sold it and guess what? 1500 miles and 1 year later its out again I hear on the person we sold it to. The transmission shop calls them Ford EXPLODERS. Ha #$@!&^% Ha.

- , Colonial Beach, VA, USA

problem #2

Aug 042007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

had the shifting thing going on in and out of 2nd and 3rd, took it to the dealer, said its just the way the explorers shift. no lights came on, 2 weeks later Transmission just stopped working, no light, just didn't go. it was covered under warranty and they replaced it but it still shifts in and out of gears. now the warranty is over. i see, i will buy the next transmission..

- , Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #1

Jun 292006

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

For a three year old vehicle, I never though I would have to spend 2500 to rebuild the transmission. The check engine light came on, 2 days later, I'm paying to rebuild the transmission. I noticed the 2nd gear was slipping. Labor intensive repair.

- , Houston, TX, USA

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