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:
81,968 miles
Total Complaints:
42 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace transmission (18 reports)
  2. not sure (17 reports)
  3. possible replace fluid body valve (3 reports)
  4. replace transmission solenoid body (2 reports)
  5. had inspected - suspect air in line (1 reports)
  6. replace servo motors (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #22

Sep 062008

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles


Noticed that the gears seemed to clunk when going from 2nd to 3rd. Then the gears seemed to slip and car was going nowhere. I don't drive this car hard at all! This is my baby ... only 3 payments to go! Now I have to shell out another $2500 to repair the friggen transmission!!

- , Arvada, CO, USA

problem #21

Jul 112008

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

This happened to my friends mountaineer as well. I am just disappointed with Ford. Many people have the same problem and there is no solution, just temporary fixes.

- , Sterling Heights, MI, USA

problem #20

Jun 132008

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

When I hit the gas hard it gets up and moves, but it feels like the gears on the tranny or clutch or something slip a bunch when I do that. Also, when the transmission shifts, it feels like it "bumps" into gear. You feel three jerks as it shifts into gear. This doesn't happen often when I go really slow, but I can't even get on the interstate without it happening.

Piece of junk!!

I just bought it last February and the trade value is less than what I paid for it, so now I'm upside down on the loan. Someone please tell me what the hell is going on and tell me whether its worth keeping the Explorer or just trading it in and taking a three thousand dollar hit.

- , Frostburg, MD, USA

problem #19

Jun 022008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles


I am so disappointed in Ford. They should have recalled the 2003 model of the Explorer. The mechanic told me he has seen more Explorers in with the same problem. This is an outrage! I have spent so much money on this Explorer. I will never buy another Ford and I will make sure to tell everyone I know about this!

- , Wilmington, NC, USA

problem #18

May 312007

(reported on)

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

sometimes shifts hard. and also sometimes will not go into reverse.

- , Muskegon, MI, USA

problem #17

Feb 042008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

I feel Ford should have recalled these vehicles......this is due from a faulty box made in France/ this is what I was told by transmission specialist. He has seen this problem a lot in 2003 ford explorers.That is terrible that Ford has not helped with any replacement costs at all knowing the transmissions are indeed not running right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , milford center, OH, USA

problem #16

Mar 112008

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,150 miles


So after getting our Explorer back from just having the compressor replaced, it began upshifting awkward. I knew it without looking it up. The tranny was slipping and it began chugging. We were able to get it back to the shop after putting 150 miles on it. It was toast. I looked it up and found out that many others have had this problem. What a piece! Only 64k on it and the tranny takes a dump! This is unbelievable and now that I see how many people have faced this I get even more upset with Ford for not having a recall. No help from them.

- , Warsaw, IN, USA

problem #15

Jan 182008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

We have some of the similar problems as others. We went to a nationally recognized transmissions shop who told us that this is standard for FORD transmissions and they didn't know why FORD had not recalled the transmissions. They had probably six or seven Explorers and several Escapes in their shop with the SAME problems. Shifting hard from second to third gear, slamming in reverse, the O/D light on. We were told 1000.oo to replace belt that was broken or replace engine with a rebuilt one to avoid the problem FORD has. We couldn't believe the cost! We our out of warranty and with a problem so standard why isn't it being recalled?

- , Huntington, WV, USA

problem #14

Jan 102008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,000 miles

I should have know better 3 vehicles 3 family members same year I HATE YOU FORD!

- , Brick, NJ, USA

problem #13

Jan 012003

Explorer ES

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

As with my other problems with this explorer (splitting back panel, bearings all had

to be replaced) this problem just adds to the frustration. Right now I am having trouble

with it again so I will have to take it back to dealer. I had to buy 2 extended warranties

because I have had so much trouble I don't trust it. Piece of junk. Won't buy another


- , Warrior, AL, US

problem #12

Jan 222008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles


When I put my Explorer in Reverse from park, the RPM's go below 300 (watched it on the computer that they hook up to it at the dealership) and sometimes it will stall and it always seems to jump. (it moves the vehicle) I have taken it into the dealership 3 times and they keep telling me that "most people learn to deal with it", "it could be a software issue" or whatever other BS they can think of. It just started to do it when I put it into drive also. Each time I take it in to the dealership they never seem to even look at it until a couple days later (and YES I have an appt everytime). I would take it to a different dealership but the rest of them are in Anchorage which is about an 8 hour drive.

- , North Pole, AK, USA

problem #11

Jan 022008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,250 miles

2003 Explorer with a 2002 Transmission. Lucky is starting to slip...just after I replaced the rear axle seals, front ball joints, wheel bearing, rotors ad

of $2,250....oh tires last year ad an ABS sensor...for $800. I knew that I should have traded it. I will no doubt get rid of this FORD and never return...that is my advise to all of you!

- , Cumberland Center, ME, US

problem #10

Dec 172007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,250 miles

Well I just bought my truck (I regret it!!!) and not even 40 miles after I bought it already started to have problems with the transmission. Clunking on the 1st and not down shifting after acceleration. When driving at steady speeds the truck would jerk every .5 secs. Honing sounds in the front and back. The compass is broken and calibrating it doesn't work so every 30 secs the computer beeps! The drive home was 3 hours long so I had to turn the radio up so I wouldn't hear the darn thing!!! I wasn't even sure I was gonna make it home cause the transmission kept getting worst.

- , Quebec, Quebec, Canada

problem #9

Aug 162004

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles

Hard shifting, clunking and hesitation when trying to put in gear from park. Every Ford dealer we talked to gave us the same bs answer: "what you're feeling is normal, not bad...its a non-serviceable transmission so we have to replace it...blah blah blah".

The problem became apparent before we hit the 20,000 mile mark so it was covered under warranty the first time. Now that we have 103,000 miles on it, we'll have to pay.

COME ON CLASS-ACTION!!!! Where are the lawyers when you really need one???

- , Canton, TX, USA

problem #8

Sep 242007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,400 miles

shifts into reverse hard at first, then a while later noticed shifting into 2nd & 3rd hard too... sometimes doesn't do it right away but after i've been driving a few miles, my mechanic says its the transfer case, the tranny shop says it needs a new tranny so I took it to the ford dealer tonight and we'll see what he says.... keep ya posted.

- , Haverhill, MA, US

problem #7

Jul 302007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

I have had my 2003 explorer for 3 months and I am FURIOUS. I have 67k miles and had to replace the transmission. But first I had to replace a gear range sensor thinking that would fix the problem and at a cost $48 I was trilled. But no luck. It still slipped from 2nd to 3rd. But wouldn't slip if the o/d light was flashing. It would just shift hard. That is when I had to replace the transmission. I have never been a big ford fan and at the time it was the right price and room with three kids. I have instilled into my three boys that they will NEVER buy a ford. I will also be sure to tell everyone that I know to never buy a ford. I think ford needs to open their eyes and see that this is a major issue and something needs to be done. So in the mean time I will go back to Chevy. (You know ford is bad when your 5 year old says you shouldn't have bought and piece of junk ford and to get a bowtie. NO MORE FORDS!!!!!!!

- , Clay, KY, USA

problem #6

Jul 042007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12 miles

We bought this vehicle and experienced the transmission slippage AND shifting issue on the first day of ownership. We called the dealer, Dick Masheter, who told us to wait and have them look at it on the first service visit. We did this and they "could not duplicate" problem. We have complained of this issue on most visits. We demanded that the service department record this issue in our vehicle history so that it would still be covered after the warranty expired. The vehicle now has 52,000 miles and the issue occurs frequently. We will be reporting it again later this week. Will update if they address the issue.

- , Columbus, OH, USA

problem #5

Apr 302007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles

From the very first service appointment, I have been reporting a problem with the transmission. Every time it went in for service, I complained about it, and every time, they claim they cannot replicate the transmission problem, that they put it on the computer and that it was calibrated properly. It has gotten progressively worse, especially when towing a trailer.

- , Groton, MA, USA

problem #4

Apr 202007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.6 L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

As with everyone else here I'm starting to realize this is a common problem with this particular transmission and around the same 70,000 miles. FORD needs to recall this transmission. After a 12 billion dollar loss last year, FORD needs to instill consumer confidence in this and their other products as well.

- , Amherst, OH, US

problem #3

Mar 132007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0 V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

My dad has a 1997 Ford Explorer with 212,000 miles and has had no problems with the transmission, so i decided to get a 2003 Explorer. I have 50,000 miles on it and the transmission went. The first gear would take longer to shift and then it would miss second gear and it does not even go in to fifth. I called the local ford dealership and they said it was not covered under any warenty and they wouldn't do anything for me. i mean a trucks transmission should not be going with 50,000 miles, that means they did build there trucks right for there customers. And by not helping to fix the problem means they don't care about there customes, just that they got their money. Thanks Mike

- , Webster, NY, US

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