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:
32,000 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 wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #3

Feb 112008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


While pulling out of local wal-mart parking lot in reverse an explosion that rocked my Explorer cross utility vehicle created some panic for my wife and myself. Upon checking the vehicle I noticed that the front left tire had exploded from one side of the rim to the other rendering the tire to be completely ruin. The rim was intact.

- Caguas P.R., PR, USA

problem #2

Jan 132007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. After installing two new tires on the front of the vehicle the contact heard a thumping sound while driving. The dealer stated that the sound was caused by the difference in tread between the new tires and older rear tires, causing the front differential and transfer case to fail. The current and failure mileages were 96,000.

- St.Louis, MO, USA

problem #1

Jan 142005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The vehicle started vibrating without warning the driver was able to pull over. The driver noticed the right side tire tread separated from the wheel. The driver was able to change the tire. The tire was a Goodyear. Please provide additional information on the serial and dot number.

- Melbourne Beach, FL, USA

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