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:
89,578 miles
Total Complaints:
130 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace wheel bearing (43 reports)
  2. replace complete hub assembly (26 reports)
  3. replaced wheel bearings (23 reports)
  4. 3rd party repair, no way i'm giving dealer more money (14 reports)
  5. not sure (11 reports)
  6. dealer replaced all the bearings (6 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 3 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #90

Oct 012010

Explorer Sport v-6

  • 82,341 miles


Kind of pissed off. I just bought this used piece of crap from Car city thinking I obtained a nice vehicle. Had it for nine months and only put just a little over 3,000 miles on it just to find out the hubs are failing. Looked up the issue on the internet to just find too many complaints to count from others with the same issue. If anybody knows how to force Ford to do a recall let me know I will help out. This is a serious and expensive issue for people to be driving these vehicles. Now I have to wait to fix it because I don't have the money in this day and age thanks to the economy but now I have to not only replace the hub but get new tires also. I think that the tires should be replaced by Ford also due to the fact that they were worn due to the hub issue. I'll seriously be pissed If I have to replace the brakes and rotors too because of this. I now have a dead vehicle that I'm paying on but can't drive. If I wasn't worried about my credit I would let the damn thing go.

- , Muskegon, MI, USA

problem #89

Oct 182010

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

This is the 4th time I've had the wheel bearings replaced on this vehicle (Three different tires, one of the tires twice) and there's only 80,000 on it now. First time replaced at about 35,000 miles. There's a problem FORD!!!! Do something about it. Otherwise I will never buy another Ford again.

- , East Aurora, NY, USA

problem #88

Oct 022010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

I have a ford explorer to with the same f.. problem, wheel bearings, it sucks because I was so proud of ford, and argue with my friends all the time by being on the ford side!!! I bought it with a 90.000 miles and I drove it for two years, now it has 147000 and gives me a lot of headaches, I just got done the brakes all 4 the wheel bearings, and steel. I have some noise from the front I have no idea what that is , the service engine light turning on and off ,abs light the same, the cruise control an the horn doesn't work too, looks like I have to spend a lot of money for the repair,bought the car have to bring the money not to spend them!!!! I think the European cars are much better!!!

- , Boston, MA, USA

problem #87

Dec 012009

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles


So I bought my 2003 Ford Explorer and everything was fine until about 65,000 miles. I noticed a noise coming from the rear and thought it was tires. I replaced the tires and no change. It progressively got worse so I took it in and was told it needed wheel bearings by two different mechanics. I replaced at that time the right front and right rear, cost $525.00 for part and labor. When I got it back about a month later I started to notice a noise again, so took it to same place and he said the remaining two were bad also. I again replaced them the left front and rear Costing $ 550.00. Since then I have had to replace the Right front again and both the rear back ones costing $600.00.

So in total including the originals my vehicle has had 10 wheel bearings on it. This is unexceptable and ridiculous!!!. I don't know what to do anymore and am very frustrated to say the least. The parts came from a well known establishment and I am hoping I can at least get some of my money back. I found a new mechanic who changed the last two and said they were extremly bad and was surprised to know it had only been about 16 months since they were changed. FYI beware of buying a ford. I will never purchase another one..There are other things wrong with this vehicle and my best friend also has owns one and has sunk thousand of dollars in to it also.

- , Vassar, MI, USA

problem #86

Oct 192010

Explorer NBX 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

Vehicle had been making a humming noise from the front driver's side wheel. The noise got so bad that we got it checked out. Our mechanic thought it was just the driver's side bearing, but he checked the other one and it's bad too! He said he's never seen both wear out at once like that. The cost is $387 per wheel. Reading all the complaints, it's obvious that something is wrong and Ford should have issued a recall!! Crossing my fingers the right side bearing doesn't completely fail before I can afford to get it fixed.

Update from Oct 21, 2010: Just wanted to clarify that the hub assembly was replaced.

Update from Nov 12, 2014: Update, November 2014 (135K miles): both rear bearings had to be replaced, one in July and one this month, at $400 each.

- , Loudon, NH, USA

problem #85

May 102010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

We have the 2003 FORD EXPLORER EDDIE BAUER EDITION, and noticed a whining sound starting when you were driving it. We weren't really sure what it was, til we realized it was wheel bearings. The noise was so loud tho, we couldn't figure out which one was making the sound. Til one day, the noise got a lot worse and it was coming from a back wheel. We replaced that one and still could hear the noise from before in the car when driving it. Long story short, we ended up replacing all 4 wheel bearings, which I add, is not cheap at all. And low and behold, we once again hear the same noise. We think coming from the back once again. This is ridiculous that you would have this much trouble from a car. I have never had this many wheel bearings to go out on one car alone. FORD is a joke obviously and needs to make their products with better quality. I still owe on this vehicle and this is one of a few problems we have had. The most recent being the transmission, and now it cant even be drove, so I am paying a car note on a car that cant be used. What a JOKE!!!!

- , Staffordsville, KY, USA

problem #84

Aug 072010

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,200 miles


I also heard a load roaring noise coming from my car. I even thought it was my tires. I first replaced both of the front tires. Cost me about $500.00. Then it continued so I bought another set of tires ($700.00). The noise kept getting louder. Then there was the thumping I have been feeling under the drivers side. I had all 4 hubs replaced for $1,536 dollars and there is still a thumping noise coming from the drivers side.

The load roaring noise is gone but after I have spent all this money. Taking my car back to dealer this weekend to try and figure out what the thumping is.

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #83

Jun 302010

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

I just got done paying off this vehicle and a week later it started making a humming vibrating noise in the front end. (It figures!) After MUCH investigating at auto shops - looks like it is the front right bearing. Mechanic said I might want to start looking for a different vehicle sometime soon - before this one nickels and dimes me to death!

- , Fridley, MN, USA

problem #82

May 032010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

What a pain in the rear. This is my second go round. Extensive repair for the do it yourself mechanic. Expensive even if you do it yourself. I was quoted at $1,300.00 for the front alone. GET OUT OF HERE.....


- , Cottage Grove, WI, USA

problem #81

Jul 012010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

BOTH front end bearings out at the same time...with less than 84,000 miles. ABS light went off... had ABS modules replaced...light came back on... had Sears do a free front end evaluation. Found the problem. I filed a complaint to hopefully start a recall on this problem. If you have this problem too, please file a complaint and get Ford to fix this issue!!!!

- , Dalton, GA, USA

problem #80

Apr 202010

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles


Had front wheel bearings replaced, now can hear noise coming from the rear end...rear bearings next.

- , Deerfield Beach, FL, USA

problem #79

Dec 222009

Explorer SLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,569 miles

i bought my 2003 ford explorer in 2004. this was one of the best vehicle i had bought. when i first bought it, it had a bad bearing. i called the car dealer and they fixed it after given me hell saying it was my fault that it was bad. about a year later i had to put another bearing in the back. that one lasted me about 4 months. now once again i replaced it. everything was going well intill now. once again i have to change a rear bearing. ford should really consider fixing these problems before they lose everyone's business.

- , Derby, NY, USA

problem #78

Jul 012009

Explorer Sport

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


Front passenger side hub blew out at 75,000 miles now at77,000 miles drivers side hub is shot.Will NEVER buy another Ford,will seriously have to think about it if I am offered one for free.Nothing is free when is comes to owning a Ford.

Front wheel completely locked up while I was driving, luckily I was on a back road. Tried replacing it with a used hub bearing to save a little but now have to replace both sides. Needed all new front and back rotors, pads and tires just to try to pass inspection otherwise like others on here I'm making payments and paying insurance on a vehicle that's undrivable. Wish I would have known about all these complaints before.

- , Beaver Falls, PA, USA

problem #77

Apr 102010

Explorer 4X Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

We had the right front bearing replaced and now the left front is gone. The mechanic has said this is a normal occurrence for the '03 Explorer. I cannot understand why Ford does not issue a recall and fix this issue. We also had the back strut assemblies go two months ago and this again was not something new to the mechanic. thanks ford!

- , Cos Cob, CT, USA

problem #76

Apr 122010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

Last week heard a loud humm from the rear end that did not go away when I unloaded the diff. Figured it was a bad rear wheel bearing based on the number of reported issues on this site. I decided to do the work myself and replace both rear bearings, which was good as both were shot. After checking with a local machine shop I trust, they charge $65 per side to fit the bearings and use a 50 ton press, they do lots of them . They also told me to buy MOOG bearings ( CarQuest sell them $90 each, $165 each retail ) they have seen lots of premature failures of cheap bearings bought over the internet ( mostly Timkin and no-name brands made in China and India ). I did ask about the premature failure of replaced bearings, and they suspect another big reason is poor workmanship in pressing in the new bearing. There must be NO LOAD at all placed on the bearing when pressed into the hub.

Its not a difficult job, it took around 45 mins per side to strip, just need PB Blaster a 36mm deep socket for the axle nut the rest are standard 18mm, 19mm, 21mm, and a BFH, I do have the official FORD Work Shop manual that has the steps laid out in order with the required torque figures. I did find one of the dust boots damaged on the toe link, I used a generic dust boot from NAPA that was a perfect fit.

While I had the rear stripped down I replaced the rear rotors, brake pads and also the parking brake shoes and hardware as my wife seems to drive around with the parking brake on at regular intervals. Hint, put the parking brake shoes on before the hub is re-installed, much easier.

The Explorer rear hub takes a pounding especially with the crap roads in N VA, so although I am not happy with the rear bearing failure ( replaced the fronts at 75K ), I think that they lasted a reasonable time given the limitations of the design. Ford should come out with a modified hub and drive shaft that would allow for a larger bearing ( being able to add grease would be nice ).

Overall the Explorer has been as reliable as my Tahoe :-( , and a lot better than my Land Rover. What lets it down is where Ford have cut corners ( e.g. under sized rear wheel bearings). I will replace the Explorer this year and it won't be with another Explorer, looks like it will be a new Kia Sorrento or Kia Borrego. Drove both last weekend and they are a great vehicle for the $$.

- , Manassas, VA, USA

problem #75

Mar 262010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,000 miles

bought vehicle used about 2 yrs ago. had tires replaced 2 times and now finding out why we had to replace tires so much.....wheel bearings. cant get out the cheap way 132.00 each side. nope... I gotta spend 250.00 each side that doesn't include labor. I cant afford this expense , cant drive the damn vehicle, but still have to make payments on it and keep insurance on it. I think ford should recall these and fix them,otherwise this is my last ford product.too many people with the same year have had this same problem.

This is too dangerous for my family to ride around in this piece of crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Camden, TN, USA

problem #74

Jun 112007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,319 miles

This was the left front bearing. 18,000 miles later had to replace it again. 1000 mi after that had to replace the right front bearing and at 51,654 replaced the right rear hub and bearing.

- , Manyua, OH, USA

problem #73

Mar 012010

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

Teenage son driving to school and started hearing a grinding noise coming from right front wheel. I had just drove the car the day before and all was fine. At accelerated speed started losing control of the vehicle and pulled off. About a week ago ABS light came on, but owners manual states ABS won't work but brakes are fine, which they were and less than 1 year old. Car was driving fine.

I attempted to take vehicle less than 1/2 mile down road to mechanic but at any speed over 10mph steering became impossible. Turns out wheel bearing completely worn out and wheel only being held on by a cable (caliper?). Had to replace both rotors & pads(less than 1 yr old each) due to damage from wheel bearing & hub (about $600 total.) All with no notice, noise or warning other than the ABS light. My son could have been killed! The previous day he drove over 100 miles on the highway! I was thinking about a buying a domestic car, but after a new transmission 3 months ago ($2600) and now this I'll stick to my Toyotas and Hondas. This is the 1st American made vehicle purchased by me in the last 20 years. Go ahead and blame me for the demise of the economy but I'd rather keep my family alive.

- , Brighton, MI, USA

problem #72

Oct 102008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

If several people are complaining about the same thing, I believe there is a huge problem. All my bearings are going bad. Within a years time I have had to replace 3 wheel bearings. This is something that never happens on on most vehicles. What the hell, this is definitely a recall issue to me!!!!!

- , Orlando, FL, USA

problem #71

Dec 192009

Explorer V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 77,000 miles

My two college age kids were traveling home for Christmas. The weather was beautiful, clear and roads were dry. They heard a load whining noise that they thought was a stereo problem but when they turned everything off the noise continued. They both agreed the noise was coming from the front tire, but since they were between Fargo and Jamestown North Dakota they kept driving. There were no noticeable problems with steering, of course they whereon a straight section of the freeway. Just east of Jamestown the noise became significantly louder and before they knew it they crossed the median into on coming traffic and were hit by two cars going in the opposite direction. Amazingly no one was killed. The investigating officer blamed the accident on black ice and would not have the vehicle examined. My insurance says mechanical failures are hard to prove and I doubt if they had the vehicle examined either. I am now convinced it was not black ice that caused the accident, but a wheel bearing or hub that gave out with little warning. The transmission was also going out on the Explorer. What a piece of junk. I am just thankful Ford didn't kill my kids or the others in the other vehicles involved.

- , Billings, MT, USA

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