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 5 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #50

Apr 042007

(reported on)

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles


I was driving the thirty miles to pick my daughter up at school. I started hearing/feeling something in the driver's side wheel. Since my husband was sleeping I didn't mention it to him and went on to church. On my way into town the noise/vibration got much worse, and my ABS light came on. I called a friend who is a mechanic, and he agreed with my husband that it was the wheel bearing. I met my husband so he could drive it and hear/feel it. Sure enough when he took the wheel off, the hub assembly was broken. Thankfully I didn't wreck with the kids in the car. I'm staring to agree with the Found on Road Dead, Fix or Repair Daily idea. GRRRRRR!!!!

- , Wichita Falls, TX, USA

problem #49

Apr 172009

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

The front and rear wheel bearings failed on my 2003 Ford Explorer all at once. The vehicle is driven to and from work on paved payment with no off-roading. The wheel bearings should not fail at 67,000 miles. I have owned 2 other cars with higher mileage and this never even came up as a possibility. Ford pointed out the problem, but failed to admit it was a design flaw. I asked how many have they replaced around that mileage and they said a lot. I wonder how many Toyota's, Nissan's, and other foreign companies have this problem? I can't seem to find 100 (if not 1000's) of complaints on them, yet, I find them on the Exporer!

I am saddened to say I am no longer buying American. Start making a better product to show you need to make $65 an hour. The only accountability being shown towards this company is it's low stock price and decline in auto sales. Too bad they didn't fix problems like this before people started buying foreign cars.

My advice to future owners. Please do not waste your money. Take it from other people who lost theirs to help you know enough about this vehicle to not waste yours.

- , Olmsted Township, OH, USA

problem #48

Apr 132009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

This is my second posting about wheel bearings on the 2003 Explorer. In my first posting one of the front bearings failed. I took it back again due to moaning/whining/roaring noise in the rear end. Both bearings were bad in the back. The mechanic took the left side off and replaced it. He said the noise was mostly gone but he wanted to make sure so checked the other side and found it was actually worse mechanically but just not making as much noise. He had a lot of trouble getting the right side off. He said he had to send it out to a place that had a 90-ton press to get the hub off. Then he said he had to cut the bearing off with a torch.

I'm no expert on this, but having three bearings on the same vehicle fail before 100,000 miles sounds like a defect to me!!

My wife and I have had a 1988 Nissan Sentra up to 175,000 miles, a 1996 Ford Probe up to 120,000 miles, a 2001 Subaru Legacy up to 125,000 miles, and a 1988 Honda Accord up to 170,000 miles and I don't remember ever replacing a single wheel bearing on any of those vehicles. The bearings are supposed to be designed to outlive the engine and transmission.

- , Burke, VA, US

problem #47

Dec 302008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


During the summer of 2008 (~ 80K miles) started hearing a moaning/whining noise from the front-end when bearing left over 50mph. The problem got worse over the next couple months and started interfering with steering the vehicle. By late fall the noise was there whether driving straight or bearing left but far worse bearing left. Took it in to get checked out in December (suspected something in the steering assembly) and found out it was the left front wheel bearing, which comes as a combined hub/bearing assembly. This repair cost me $435!!! The mechanic brought out the old assembly and said "Here, feel this!", and when I tried to turn it the bearings felt like I was turning a pepper grinder.

Then he says, "I'd hate to tell ya, but your rear bearings are making noise too. I didn't notice it until we test drove it after fixing the front end." I said I thought that was tire-tread/road noise because it was there for so long I hadn't really paid attention to it.

So I skipped the rear end because I didn't want to pay another $500 or more at the time. Now (April 2009) the truck is back in the shop to get the rear bearings inspected/fixed. Will post the results once I get the bill. So far doesn't sound good.

- , Burke, VA, US

problem #46

Apr 082009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles

I was experiencing a noise in front wheel of my Explorer, and the Ford dealer said to replace the ball joints at cost of $800. Won't go back to those guys. So I went to an independent repair shop and found out the problem was a defective right front wheel bearing assembly part which would cost $285, labor & miscellaneous would cost $125, so over $400 for the total job. The technician said the other 3 will also go bad!

I was in the auto parts business for 35 years & I have never heard of bearing problems of this magnitude. No more Fords for me!

- , Naples, FL, USA

problem #45

Mar 012009

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

I had to replace all 4 wheel bearings after 62,000 miles. It seemed like such a coincidence that at first I thought the mechanic was trying to pull one over on me until he showed me them one at a time.

It's like Ford put toy bearings on the truck. They look totally undersized for the job. No wonder they failed. The last few miles driven in the Explorer sounded like an airplane taking off, with the wailing and droning sounds especially loud in the front end.

What the hell is Ford thinking---there is no chance anyone who goes through this after just 62,000 miles will ever buy a Ford product again. These are expensive, time consuming, and safety issues. Ford is so shortsighted its unfathomable. My Explorer has been, by far, the most expensive car to maintain I have ever had.

- , Longmeadow, MA, USA

problem #44

Mar 122009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


We bought our car a year ago and we noticed a rubbing sound so we took it in and they said they had to replace the bearing. Well In November we had a rear end issue so we took it in and they said it was bad again. Well it is now March and guess what we need another one. Imagine that.

- , Atlantic Beach, FL, USA

problem #43

Mar 122009

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

I've always bought "American" and, for the most part, been satisfied. This 2003 Explorer has been fine in most respects but about 1000 miles ago(54000) I started hearing a mild "roar" from the tires. The tires were only 6 months old so didn't expect any problems from them - thought it might be new pavings on the roads I drive. Wrong! With the help of this site and a test drive, the driver's side front bearing was definitely the problem. You could hear a low roar when spinning the jacked up tire - other side okay for now. Out of extended warranty by 2 months - what a bitch! Cost to replace at Ford place $450 - independent garage quoted $302 ($122 part,$150 labor plus tax). I usually drive cars to 100,000 miles - first wheel bearing failure ever! Also, first Ford Explorer ever. Maybe the last.

- , New Orleans, LA, USA

problem #42

Mar 032009

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Oh my god! I can't believe the pile of identical problems at the same mileage.

The humming inside my truck is deafening! Sure enough, both rear and the right front bearings are bad. Only 75,000 miles-ridiculous. $650 for both the rear, $500 for the right front due to an ABS connection. From what I read, the other front will go soon.

Oh yeah, pinion seal leaks and the driver's door proximity switch doesn't work (dome light stays on, door locks don't work with the key out). Pull the bulb or you'll have a dead battery some day.

- , Green Bay, WI, USA

problem #41

Jan 022009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

Ok, so fix the heater, then hear sounds like my SUV will be taking off soon, sounded like a jet! Take it in 2 months after the heater blend door issue, find out that the Wheel bearings are toast on the passenger side, oh and by the way the driver side not too hot and the rear bearings not the greatest either, so replacing those @ $475 each!! Kind of funny I have not soaked into this "tough truck" the exact same amount that Kelley blue book says its worth!! see my next one, there is more!

- , New Cumberland, PA, USA

problem #40

Jan 312008

Explorer XLT 3.4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


both wheel bearings replaced at once,what a stupid idea to not make the wheel bearings removable on the hub.

- , Goldsboro, NC, USA

problem #39

Oct 012008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

I will never buy another Ford. I brought it in because of noise in the front end. I thought it was a wheel bearing and it was. Then I was told the rear left bearing was going too. There was some noise that I noticed. I had both fixed. Started to drive home and the noise in the rear was loader than before. Brought it back and was told that maybe it was a bad bearing. Possibly another $400 on top of the $700 already paid. This car has cost me more for repairs than any car I have ever owned. Note: at a little of 40,000 miles I also had to have the rear differential rebuilt because the seal failed and all the oil dripped out. That was a $1,600 nightmare. No wonder foreign cars are beating out American cars. I try to buy American but not anymore. I will check AutoBeef first in the future before buying.

- , Ballston Spa, NY, USA

problem #38

Sep 072007

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

Ok So I bought my 03 explorer in 2004 with 12000 miles on it. It was a gem. At about 65 thousand miles i started noticing a noise that I thought were my tires. So I talked to my tire guy and got "the best tires you can buy" from him. Well that didn't fix the problem. So I go to ford and tell them whats going on. they tested it, said they didn't hear it. I got more specific with it said it happened between 59 and 74 mph. They said they didn't hear it. Well I had them take apart the bearings "CUZ EVEN I KNEW THATS WHAT THE PROBLEM WAS". Well they replaced the front bearings for me for merely 850 dollars. I then drove to NYC to a Yankee game with some clients of mine. Got on the hwy and THE NOISE WAS STILL THERE. an embarrassing drive for me 3 hours of hell each way. Needless to say my clients weren't happy and neither was i. I got on the phone immediately with ford and said WTF, nothing is fixed. I brought it back to them, to have them tell me that the front need replacing another 850 and the car sounds normal. Now 22000 miles later ITS HAPPENING AGAIN. IM SO FREAKING PISSED about htis car, and nobody will buy it cuz of the noise. Thanks ford YOU BLOW

- , Port Saint Lucie, FL, US

problem #37

Aug 212006

Explorer TT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,000 miles

Didn't really mind it the first time,,But I got very sick and was in a coma for two months,,My wife went back & forth to WVU Hosp,Daily,,Now I'm starting to get what's left of my life together,,And Hello,,Here We Go again,,,AT 65 mph It reminds me of the gulf war ,,,Because It sounds Like an M1 Tank,,And feels like its running on tracks,,Can't wait to see how much this will cost,,Just think,,I was thinking of getting a F250 D,,,Don't think so.THANKS FORD!!!!

- , Oldtown, MD, USA

problem #36

Aug 202008

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

After changing the stock tires that wore out at around 35k, I put slightly more aggressive tires on (same size) so I assumed the noise that developed was due to them, but it turns out it was both front wheels bearings. I only wish I did the work myself as it ran my $810, and who knows what else is going to pop up with this car.

- , Middletown, NY, US

problem #35

Jul 012008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

The front wheel bearing started making some noise so I climbed underneath for a look and checked the manual. What I see is a part that looks like it was designed for a short life. The narrow bearing pack looks like it has to endure an unnatural twisting force. I guess it was cheap and easy for Ford to install. Did I mention the transmission failed too. It's an automatic without a dipstick that was supposed to go 100,000 miles before service. It was gone at 63,000. I begged my wife not to buy this vehicle to begin with and now I have to fix it.

- , Castro Valley, CA, USA

problem #34

Mar 112008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

replaced Front Wheel Hubs, Loud humming noise from front end.

- , Park Ridge, NJ, USA

problem #33

Jun 092008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,000 miles

I feel a rubbing, almost grinding sensation through the steering wheel coming from the driver front wheel. I was told my wheel bearing was loose. Since it's a hub style bearing it's about $250 for just the part. The Exploder only has 53k miles on it. This shouldn't happen. Now I just wait for the other wheel bearings to fail. I think it's worth mentioning this is a TIMKEN bearing. They deserve the blame/credit for this lovely design.

- , Toledo, OH, USA

problem #32

Jun 112008

Explorer NBX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles

Well maintained explorer, normal use only. Discovered during a routine tire balance and rotation. Hadn't noticed anything abnormal during driving, which seems odd. Very dangerous situation, driving on this much longer could have been catastrophic. Mechanic confirmed that wheel was dangerously close to breaking loose. Quoted repair cost (at a dealership) was around $600 to replace both the bearing and hub.

- , McAdenville, NC, USA

problem #31

May 012005

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

Took the Explorer to Capital Ford in Wilmington NC for front end noise. Dealer told me that it was tire noise and not to worry about it. Well.......Bought new tires and the problem did not heal itself. Bought new tires at 66K and the problem was still there. A suggestion is thjat if you think it is tire noise, drive on a dirt road and compare. My drive on the dirt road did not improve at all. Bought some new tires because I needed them and the noise did not improve. Although I liked the massage to my hands through the steering wheel, I admitted that there was another problem. I searched the web the other day after the noise was still getting worse and found a few disgruntled consumers with the Ford dealerships and their usual "tire noise" answer. Well, I replaced the front wheel hubs this morning and all is well now; the left hub was a real mess once I got it off, but the right was ok. Replaced both of them anyway. The Explorer is running smooth. Since I did the repair myself it only cost me $460.00 for all of the parts and my labor was approx. 2 hrs. Since the front calipers were off, I also did the brakes too. This is included in the price.

- , Leland, NC, USA

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