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:
44,912 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 #8

Feb 262016


  • 154,000 miles


Continental Contitrac P235/70R16 dot A308 46kw 311 noticed vibration while driving, tire tread was separating; installed spare. Had vibration again a month later. Both tires had tread separation. Installed in 2013; approx 20K miles. Replaced all 4 tires; have old tires.

- Banks, OR, USA

problem #7

Dec 092014

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 35,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer equipped with Michelin cross terrain tires, size: 235 R70/16 (na). While driving approximately 40 mph, the rear driver side tire blew out. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate tire and vehicle failure mileage was 35,000. The consumer stated when the tire blew out, it caused him to swerve off the road. There was no accident. Updated 03/03/15

- Wilmington, NC, USA

problem #6

May 112008


  • 61,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The vehicle has Continental tires. The contact stated that the inside of both front tires on his vehicle were slick. The dealer rotated the tires, but currently the rear tires are experiencing the same failure. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer, but they could not determine the cause of the failure. The tire line and size were unknown. The failure mileage was 61,000.

- Valdosta, GA, USA

problem #5

Jan 162006


  • 22,300 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The vehicle has bf goodrich tires, size P245/65R17, rugged trail T/a. the rear passenger side tire keeps losing air. The dealer replaced the valve stem, but the failure persists. The tire is fine for two weeks and then needs to be inflated again. The dot number was unavailable. The failure mileage was 22,300.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #4

Dec 162007


  • miles
I have a set of wild country xtx tires that has some sort of manufacture default. They are chopping something terrible. I have only had the truck for 6 months and I went into have them rotated and they wouldn't rotate them because of the way the tires look. The tire size that I have is lt 235/70 R16..I don't know if U need anymore info on them. But they look like they could be getting very dangerous to drive on. And would like to know what else I could do bout this problem. They didn't look this way when I bought the SUV. Otherwise I would have had the car company put new tires on the SUV when I bought it. I tried looking up the company who made the wild country tires but didn't have any luck. So I thought I would let U know bout it.

- Kendallville, IN, USA

problem #3

Feb 192008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles
The shocks and the wheel bearings on the back left passenger side tires on my 2003 Ford Explorer are shot. My Explorer has 87,000 miles on it!!!

- Naples, NY, USA

problem #2

Sep 022003


  • miles
While driving at 40 mph right front tire blew out, causing, the driver to pull of the road. The dealership has been notified.

- West Palm Beach, FL, USA

problem #1

May 052003

(reported on)


  • miles
While driving the steering wheel began to vibrate excessively. The consumer looked out of the rear view mirror and noticed the tire was rolling down the highway.

- Detroit, MI, USA

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