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.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
81,957 miles
Total Complaints:
21 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replaced wheel studs (15 reports)
  2. not sure (5 reports)
  3. traded the truck in (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #21

Mar 182015

Explorer Limited 4.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 159,000 miles


4 of the 5 right rear wheel lugs have sheared off and the 5th is loose. Looks to be recent event as my wife was just in 9 days ago for a tire check & the tech didn't mention anything about loose lugs during inspection. That was just 9 days ago! Also had one lug replaced on front left wheel about a year ago, as it was cracked. At that time the tires were rotated and all was well, up to last night when my wife & daughter were coming home from school event and the wheel began to wobble excessively. Fortunately she was almost home & made it to the driveway at a slow crawl. This could have easily been a major accident had the wheel separated. Come on FORD! Fix this multi-complaint lug failure and ISSUE A RECALL on these lugs! Lives hang in the balance!!!!

- , Rainbow, TX, USA

problem #20

Sep 022014

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I've had lug nuts & studs fail on rear left tire, and now they are falling off my right rear tire. This is a horrible issue, and I see I'm not the only one having these problems. This is very dangerous and could cause a serious accident. Ford needs to put better quality studs on their vehicles!

- , Memphis, TN, US

problem #19

Aug 042012

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 180,000 miles

My wheel didn't actually come off, but it was about to. I was driving home at 2:00am from a dance club (and no, I wasn't drunk - I don't drink). I thought I was getting a flat tire. I pulled over about 15 mins from home (had a 30 min drive in total) to check my right rear tire, & low & behold it was a lug problem. Of 5 lugs, two were sheered off & two more were missing the nuts. Only one was complete. This had actually happened to me about four years ago as well, on the same wheel. I was chalking this up to incompetency at the garage where five weeks before I had had new tires installed; however, after having the lugs replaced FOR FREE (as I requested), the garage is telling me that that particular wheel looks a little corroded and maybe that's what's causing the problem. (They checked the torque on all the other wheels & they were all where they were supposed to be.) When this happened before it was a Ford dealer who had worked on the car & thus repaired it for me. Nobody ever said anything about my wheel being corroded. So what the heck is the solution? Do I need a new wheel? And after seeing all the reports of wheels falling off or lugs sheering off (on this site especially) what's up with this? I don't know of any other human beings whose wheels keep falling off their cars. Thank God I discovered it BEFORE it came off. Imagine a single female driving down a highway at 2:00am and her wheel flying off. Not a pretty picture.

- , Denver, PA, USA

problem #18

Jun 032012

Explorer Limited 406

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,000 miles


click to see larger images

wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs

While driving home from getting coffee I felt a vibration. Thought a tire was going flat. Then the sudden drop,raise than slam!!! I got out to find all five wheel studs had sheared off and my rear passenger tire was off. I found this site so now I know what the problem was. I called Ford and was told "we can't always meet all of our customers expectations and we hope to regain your trust in the future" Are you F-ing kidding me? You can't meet my expectation that my wheels will stay on my truck? I have called the news station to do a story about this. Read my next post because it happened again yesterday!!!

- , Sterling, Ct, USA

problem #17

Aug 152011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,070 miles

We were travelling in a very mountaines region [at 118 km ] and my wife was driving when there was a sudden viberation, we pulled off the road and found 2 studs broken on the left rear wheel, the 3 remaining stud nuts were finger loose. I retighten and were had to drive home on the 3 approx. 200 km. I also checked the othere wheels and all nuts could be tigtened approx. 1/4 turn

- , Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

problem #16

Jul 282011

Explorer LS 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,795 miles

While driving home on the Ohio turnpike from vacation, going 70 mph, with 5 people in my car I start to hear a noise. Sounded like a flat tire, so I pull over check all tires, none flat. Get back on the road, go about another ten miles or so, and the vibration is so bad I can barely hold on to the wheel, pull into a rest area where two "ANGLES" from Harrisburg help us out. He tells me 8 of the ten lug nuts on the front tires could be turned by hand. If I hadn't stopped when i did I could have killed all 5 of us, not to mention how many other people om the road.

- , Brackenridge, PA, USA

problem #15

Jun 122010

Explorer LS 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


While driving, noticed it was making noise and a slight vibration going over 35, but would go away at 55. Had it looked at when it was on the jack, spun wheel and it fell off. Ended up missing 2 lug nuts, and the rest were loose.

- , Brackenridge, PA, USA

problem #14

Feb 262011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

As my husband, myself and my 8 yr old daughter were driving not too far from our home, we were slowing up to turn and the next thing we know our tire is rolling 6 ft in the air as it had completely come off of our 2003 Ford Explorer. We had to have a tow truck come and bail us out, I am so glad we were not on 95 because this would have turned really bad, Not to mention that as our tire was rolling away, it bounced up and crushed some one's windshield while they were driving. We thought someone had tampered with the tire because there would be no way that a tire with all 5 tightened lug nuts could have popped off. What a scary situation this has been, but I will say that it was nice to be reassured by this site that it most likely was a faulty wheel and not someone trying to harm us. However; this incident could have killed us or someone else. Ford needs to know about this because dangerous is a mild word, when it comes to something like serious.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #13

Jul 172010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

Driving home from a family vacation with our two children under 3, our wheel fell off at 70MPH!!!!!!!! We were lucky I was able to stop the car without anyone being hurt. The state trooper and the tow man said "most are not so lucky". . . After being stranded in SC for four days our car was "fixed" to drive home, there was still body damage to be fixed. Then we had our car in a dealership to repair the body damage for 3 WEEKS! I have made calls to Ford and they said that the car had to be looked over by a Ford rep before any repairs are made to determine if they are at fault. Well if you are around home I suppose you would have that kind of time but being more than 500 miles from home and needing to get back to work we didn't have that. So we are out over $1000 in hotel nights, food, rental car, ect that we didn't expect. But Ford did say "cars have to be inspected by Ford, and enough of them before any recalls will be made. . . So if this happens to you and as the look of it, IT WILL. Have your car looked at by FORD before any repairs are made!!!!!!! Also at least let them know of their faulty craftsmanship!

And if anyone starts a class action case against Ford please shoot me an email!!!!!!!!!!!! I'd be more than happy to join in! May even start one myself!

- , Hamilton, OH, US

problem #12

Jun 101997

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

lug nuts on my 2003 ford explorer sheered off multiple times,first time just had it serviced at gurley leep ford,next day bam!i had to argue with them because of course it was not their fault,their mechanics would never over tighten anything.they sheered 3 other times,last time took to oliver ford they said it was drivers side rear axle,thousand dollars later,knock on wood havent sheered in year and a half.i have owned many,many vehicles never had this problem,very dangerous!dont understand the axle?we have never had this vehicle off road always taken care of it paid 30 grand brand new.

- , Plymouth, IN, USA

problem #11

Mar 072010

Explorer XLT 6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles


click to see larger images

wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs wheel came off while driving, faulty wheel studs

Was driving from Washington DC to NJ. Drove about 60 miles before I felt a shake in the steering wheel. Then I noticed a noise coming from the front end. Pulled off at the next exit and into a gas station. Checked air pressure. Started to back up when the front right wheel fell off. Only 1 lug stud remained and it was sheered off about 1/2 inch above the brake drum. The other 4 lug posts were missing or sheered off about 1/2 inch inside the brake drum. We could have been killed and possibly killed others if this happend on Route 95 going 65 mph. Some people say it was a failed attempt by someone trying to steal my tire. Others said the tire rotation that I had 5000 miles and 2 months before might be the reason. I feel it is some flaw in the lug posts, especially reading others issues. Does anyone have some suggestions about determining what happened? How do I find out if Ford is recognizing this issue? How do I let Ford know that I had this problem? We are so thankful that no one was hurt, but the entire incident is extremely frightening. Thanks for any comments.

- , Ocean City, NJ, USA

problem #10

Oct 062009

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8 Sohc

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,451 miles

I started hearing wheel noise about 82,000 miles and got online and found that many other people have had the same problem with the wheel bearings going out and having corrosion around the rims. Well I was driving and the whole rime flew off after leaving a stop light. All five lug nuts broke and caused alot of damage to the right rear quarter panel. I found all the lug nuts on the road with the studs still in them. I brought this to ford and they did nothing, but offer me to buy more. This is ridiculous Ford needs to recall this I am leaving for Iraq in 10 days the last thing I need to worry about is my wife and kids having to deal with more of this.

- , Belleville, Ilinois, USA

problem #9

Dec 232008

Explorer LTD V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,141 miles

Driving to Queenstown NZ for our Christmas holidays with my family, Wife, Son 5yrs and Daughter 3yrs old. After 6 hrs driving we arrived into Queenstown, as I slowed I notice a clicking noise from the rear of the vehicle. I stopped and looked (getting dark) however I could not see anything obvious. The following morning I checked and found 2 wheel studs missing and of the remain 3, 2 were loose and one tight all on the RR.

I have ordered new parts, unfortunately only 2 are in stock in New Zealand (thanks for the parts back up boys#$@) So when the service department reopens after the New Year, I will arrange to have the 2 missing replaced.

Ford, I'm surprised, this is a basic part and a failure like this should never occur, thought you were better than this.

- , Christchurch, STH IS, New Zealand

problem #8

Jun 172008

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

On June 13, 2008 I drove my family to Connecticut for my sister in law�s graduation and on our return trip on June 17, 2008, while traveling on the highway (I 95N), the steering wheel began shaking violently. I immediately exited the highway and while at a stop sign on the exit ramp a vehicle pulled up beside me and advised that it looked like my rear driver�s side tire was about to fall off. I pulled into the first available parking lot and discovered that I had lost two lug nuts off that rear tire and the other three were loose. Had it not been for the traffic slowing me down to approximately 35-40MPH and I had been traveling the posted speed limit of 65MPH, There�s no doubt in my mind we would have been involved in a fatal accident. And to think, I had my pregnant wife, 11 month old daughter and my two teenage sisters in the car...Has anyone of you who have had this same problem attempted to sue Ford for not recalling this vehicle for this defect? please email me at

- , Edgewood, MD, USA

problem #7

Jan 172008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,328 miles

I was driving home from work with my son in the Explorer and we were on a secondary road when all of a sudden the vehicle started to loss control (luckily I wasn't going to fast 50 km/hr) I was able to pull over to the side of the road. I thought I had a flat tire. When I looked at the wheels I had no flat but the rear driver side wheel was crooked, when I pulled off the cover over the wheel nuts, the wheel studs were broken off in the cap and the tire was hanging on by one bolt. Had the vehicle towed to the local dealership and had the damage repaired in January 2008. Thought this was a once in a lifetime problem a fluke!!! Well it happened again 5 months later same tire same problem. See my next complaint for these details.

- , Sooke, BC, Canada

problem #6

Jun 142008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,195 miles

This is the Second time this has happened same tire same problem in 5 months. I was taking my son to a birthday party and I was on a secondary road not going to fast (luckily I wasn't on the highway I might not be here to tell my story) I felt the vehicle losing control there was a loud thumping sound coming from the wheels. I thought(hoped) I had a flat tire

managed to pull over onto the side of the road, looked at all the tires no flat, the rear driver tire was crooked, took off the cap covering the nuts, all the bolts were sheared off except one was holding the tire on. Once again I must have a guardian angel to protect myself and my son from a potentially fatal accident had I been on a highway and going faster. My car is now back at the dealership and they are investigating to find the cause of this problem ( I told the service manager about this website and the other complaints lodged with the same problem and he is looking into it) I am crossing my fingers they find the problem and that Ford will acknowledge it.

My extended warranty wouldn't cover the repairs the first time this occurred 5 months ago

Any one else reading these complaints with the same problem should take a minute and enter your own story. The more complaints lodged maybe Ford will take it serious and address the problem. I used this website to investigate my problem after it happened the second time and was able to a get a reaction from the Service Manager by producing the stories of the other people who have had the same problem. Thank you for offering this service to others so we don't feel we are all alone in our bizarre problems.

- , Sooke, BC, Canada

problem #5

Apr 232008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,200 miles

This is the second time I've this problem. This time, the wheel was being held on by one lugnut. My wife had just dropped off my 4 yr. old daughter at school/daycare. We just returned from a funeral 3 nights ago and I go crazy thinking about what could have happened if that wheel had come off going 65mph on Hwy 72 in SC. at night!!!! I replaced one stud approximately 3 months ago and now this happens. I'd get rid of it, but i've only had it a year and I owe more than the vehicle is worth.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #4

Dec 192007

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110 miles

I have had this 2003 Explorer 4x4 since new. I have had 9 wheel studs break; three times the wheel has come off while driving, fortunately at low speeds. Each time factory parts were used for the replacements and the wheel studs have never exceeded thier torque specs.


- , Manchester, NH, USA

problem #3

Oct 252007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT ?

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

I am in total shock this has happened to two other people in the last three weeks, I figured it was something that could NEVER happen.

Luckily, our WHEEL FELL OFF (rear on the passenger side) when my husband had just pulled away from a stop sign in our subdivision. All the lugs on that tire are sheered right off. It's at the body shop now due to the body damage. My insurance company has not been in yet to take a look at it (but that's another rant) so I don't have an estimate yet.

When it's fixed, it will be traded in, who would drive it after this???

- , Germantown, WI, USA

problem #2

Oct 232007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,710 miles

We were travelling on the high way at 110 kms/hr and the rear wheel started vibrating . I almost lost control as I pulled off a busy 4 lane where i discovered 4 of 5 bolts had been sheared off the wheel! this was incident#3 and the most serious . This is a serious design flaw . I can't get the dealer to acknowledge problems but know of 2 others with the same problem.

- , Fredericton, NB, Canada

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