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
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
90,516 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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #22

Sep 252010


  • 100,000 miles


ABS light on, second wheel bearing needs replaced.

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #21

May 012010


  • miles
2003 Ford Explorer, front and rear wheel bearings fail. I have had them replaced once, and now they are going out again. After investigation, this is a recurring problem with this year. Something about poor design. Contacted my local deal and he said Ford knows about this, but on such an "old" vehicle, Ford isn't going to take any action.

- Coalton, WV, USA

problem #20

Sep 202010


  • 93,000 miles
93,000 miles and ABS light and loud grinding noise (in addition to applique crack in rear). Need to replace both rear hub bearings, brake pad rotors, and parking brake shoes. Search the web on these problems, and over 3 hundred complaints seen on just one site for 2003 Explorer alone.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #19

Oct 012007


  • miles


2003 Ford Explorer rims are corroding chrome is peeling off could cause rim to become weak or break peeling chrome is sharp and could cause severe cuts to hand when cleaning or handling wheels off car.

- Thornville, OH, USA

problem #18

Aug 222010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 53,000 miles
Wheel bearing needs replacement. Normal driving conditions. At only 52,000 miles the truck started making a humming sound. Had it checked out and the front wheel bearing needs to be replaced. $500!

- Fox River Grove, IL, USA

problem #17

Mar 212010


  • 176,000 miles
Wheel bearing and hub assembly failure.

- Redoak, TX, USA

problem #16

Jan 162010

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles


Overdrive light is blinking and transmission is shifting hard and sometimes not at all. The car has 90,000 miles on it. Nothing has ever been toed. It is a daily commute car I have owned since brand new. There is no way I should already need a new transmission. Also the wheel bearings have gone on both sides of the front of my car. This has happened to countless other people with this year (2003) Explorer. I have researched both and this is a common occurrence with this car. And both are extremely hazardous for safety reasons. I believe this is a huge defect from Ford and needs to be investigated.

- Waterford, MI, USA

problem #15

Jul 092010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 83,000 miles
2003 Ford Explorer ext with less than 85,000 miles. After having my ABS (antilock brakes) lights come on several times, I had the ABS module completely replaced. The light continued to come on afterwards, so I had sears complete a front end inspection. Found out that the vehicle needs both front end wheel bearing hub assemblies replaced. This is apparently affecting the tires and the brakes as well. Had I not found out when I did, the bearing could have went out completely, and caused a crash and possible injuries and death. This vehicle does not have alot of milage on it and should not need bearings this quickly. I am not the only person with this complaint... after alot of research, I have found alot of ppl with this problem. View this website for more info..

- Dalton, GA, USA

problem #14

Jun 132010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
My car is a 2003 Ford Explorer with aluminum wheels. Overall the car is in great condition. When washing the car there is some chrome peeling from the wheel at the hub extending out to the lug nuts. I removed the wheel after some effort due to the corrosion of the aluminum. I cleaned he corrosion from the aluminum at the hub and found internal pitting between 1/8" and 1/4" deep when probing. I am a architect with a engineering background and in my opinion the loss of aluminum structure is significant and the wheel no longer safe. The other wheels have some chrome peeling as well and will also need to be replaced although I have not looked at the depth of the pitting or removed the wheels. As Ford has the Explorer has had issues with wheel failure in the past and this is a issue that was not observable when I changed the brakes about a year ago to very significant now it may be worth looking into. I have a photo of the aluminum if you like and will retain the rim when I get a new one. The other three wheels have not been removed if you wish to see these in the near future undisturbed prior to replacement. The threaded portion of the axle is corroded with no threads visible and 10% of the diameter lost. The center of the wheel behind the plastic cap was 20% filled with corrosion residue when I removed it. The other side has not been opened up yet. I have had other cars over the years including Ford and never have seen an issue like this.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #13

Apr 092010

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
The front bearings on my 2003 Ford Explorer have gone out in the past two weeks. The vehicle has 75,000 miles on it. The car stopped steering and I had a very difficult time driving it to the nearest repair station. Had I been on the highway it would have been a disaster. The right front bearing went at the beginning of the month and the left at the end of the month. The mechanics that worked on the vehicle stated that they see many of these. Additionally we had to replace the rear strut assembly since the spring actually snapped. This too was familiar to the mechanic. When researching this issue I have found that many owners have the same problems. The mechanics I have spoken to stated that wheel bearings should not go that soon and that this is a hazard that should be fixed.

- Cos Cob, CT, USA

problem #12

Oct 232009

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 128,000 miles


Wheel bearing/hub failure.

- Camden, TN, USA

problem #11

Mar 232010


  • 120,000 miles
While driving at 20-30 mph while making a left turn, and after hearing a noise that sounded like a blow-out, the right rear passenger tire was thrown from the vehicle, after review of the vehicle, the lug bolts were all severed from the vehicle. No damage to the rim or the tire existed

- Grapevine, TX, USA

problem #10

Mar 072010


  • 142,000 miles
The vehicle is a 2003 Ford Explorer. Has 142,000 miles. Had tire rotation at 137,000 miles in Jan 2010. On 3/6, we drove 120 mi from home to baltimore, parked in parking lot for 6 hours. Drove 50 mi to tyson's corner va, parked in hotel parking lot. On 3/7, we drove 15mi to daughter's home in arlington. Left car there for 7 hours. Drove back home along routes 66, 495 and then 95. Went about 60 mi when I noticed the steering wheel was shaking a bit. Kept driving for maybe 5 mi before I heard a noise from the front end near the wheels. Decided to pull off the highway and get to a service station to check tire pressure. Checked tire pressure and began to back out when the right front wheel fell off. There was only 1 lug stud remaining that was broken off about 1/2 " above the brake drum. The other 4 lug studs were missing, and seemed to be sheered off about 1/2" below the drum. Thankfully, the wheel did not fall off on route 95, else we and, most likely others, would have been seriously injured or killed. I had the car towed to my body shop, also the dealership that I bought the car from and had the tire rotation done. Looking at some forums, it seems like this is not the first/only time that a Ford Explorer has lost a tire by broken lug studs disappearing. I will get the vehicle repaired and then will sell the vehicle. I will also have the other lug posts inspected, but who knows if anyone will see anything. I believe that this issue warrants further investigation, if none have already been done. Thank you.

- Ocean City, NJ, USA

problem #9

Jan 102010


  • 74,000 miles
I own a 2003 Ford Explorer XLS with only 74500 miles on it and both front wheel bearing assembly have gone bad. I know that these will fall off while driving causing serious injuries.

- Redford, MI, USA

problem #8

Nov 282007


  • 68,000 miles
Right front wheel bearing. There is only 68,000 miles on my 2003 Ford Explorer and the wheel bearing has to be replaced. After doing some investigation, I found that there are several thousand complaints about bad wheel bearings for the Explorer. Shouldn't this be a recalled since it is a safety hazard"??"

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #7

Aug 102009


  • 112,000 miles
Purchased the vehicle from carmax on 9-19-07 it has been towed in at least 5 times and has been in for service for the same issues over and over again transmission, radio/nav system, spark plugs breaking off and going into engine, back firing when starting vehicle, starter / ignition switch, front noise and loss of power.on 11/28/07 it was towed in 2 months after I purchased it. They stated on the invoice brakes and emergency brakes severely rusted, carmax has said they performed two inspection on this vehicle 1 in va. And 1 in md. How did they miss brakes ( on Monday, march10th 2009 heading South bound I95. The SUV ( 2003 Ford Explorer) started to shaking violently. At this point, I had started slowing down from 65 mph to 55 mph to get off of 95. Moments later the tire flew off of the Ford Explorer, before I even had a chance to get off. Fortunately, I kept control of the SUV and was able to get over coming inchs of hitting the guard rail and other cars around me.. the tire went of the road up the hill and back down onto 95. The tire went about 2/10 of a mile down the road. Fortunately, the tire did not hit anyone else and no one hit the tire. I came slamming to a screeching halt hard on the front passenger side of the car, jamming my left arm. The car has been towed to carmax in white marsh, md. They have stated to me, via voice mail, that this is not supposed to happen. This was due to faulty wheel studs and we should follow up with Ford. My warranty will not cover any of the damage that has been done to SUV. After doing research on Ford explores I have found that they have had this problem with faulty wheel stud since 1998. Yet, I have not seen any recalls. We are very fortunate that my family was not in the car. I feel that Ford Explorer need to been investigate as well as recalled. They are very unsafe and it looks like Ford is covering these issues up.

- Aberdeen, MD, USA

problem #6

Oct 132008


  • 94,000 miles
I bought my 2003 Ford Explorer in Sept 2007. After driving it to and from work I noticed a loud humming sound up front @ 94,000miles. When I finally had it looked at 2 months later, I had to replace the drivers side front side wheel bearing. Now a few months later the passenger side front bearing is humming even worse so I had that one replaced. 10,000 miles later the drivers side has started doing the same thing again. I do not live on a dirt road, there is no reason for this to happen in such a short time. I have never had to replace a $400 wheel bearing (each) in my life on any truck or car that I have owned until now on a Ford explore.

- Viroqua, WI, USA

problem #5

Sep 202008


  • 72,000 miles
Chrome wheels on my 2003 Ford Explorer limited "centennial" model are cracked and pitted at the center hub where they get mounted to the vehicle. I tried to buy new tires recently, but the tire dealer will not install new tires on these wheels. They say they are a safety hazard and that the wheels need to be replaced. They said the wheels could fail and cause loss of control of the vehicle. I replaced one of these wheels back in 2006, but now 2 more of them are cracked. These are top-of-the-line chrome wheels and sell for more than $400 each.

- Erie, PA, USA

problem #4

Jul 042008


  • 81,103 miles
One of the rims on our Ford Explorer fell off the car at high speed and, according to Ford, it came within seconds of falling off on a previous occasion (also at high speed). These are the factory rims that came with the car when we bought it new in 2003. The dealer has now determined that the rims are so rusted that when they are removed for service and then replaced without having the rust removed, the surface of the rim is rough and does not "mate" properly against the hub. Eventually, the rusted material starts to flake off, which causes the rim to loosen against the hub and the lugs to snap off. The cause of this problem was not identified by Ford until after the most recent incident (July 4, 2008). The rims have been causing problems since September of 2005, when the car was two years old and under the original warranty (we also had an extended warranty that expired a few months ago). Despite having the car serviced at Ford dealers at least 11 times between September of 2005 and July of this year, nobody ever told us that the rims were so defective that they could fall off at any time. Our dealer has offered to pay half the cost of new rims, but we refuse to pay a single cent. We have not done anything to contribute to this problem, which could have killed our family twice.

- Grafton, MA, USA

problem #3

May 042006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,260 miles
2003 Explorer limited. Recently had to replace my tires. I replaced all four tires at a local sears. The wheels that came with the car were optional equipment that the previous owner must have requested. 17" 5 spoke chrome. As sears was removing wheels two of the 4 center caps fell apart and could not be used again. After the tires were placed back onto my car sears rep asked that I put about 20 miles on the car and bring it back just to check. About two days later as I was returning to sears I heard a rubbing sound coming from what appeared to be the left front. As I pulled into sears, the garage the rep listened and said it was coming from left rear. As a mechanic placed a key on the lug nuts all lugs had worked themselves loose and he actually could turn them with his hand. I had to put my spare tire on as a replacement. A couple of the other lugs on the other wheels were about a 1/4 turn loose. I reported this to kenny ross only to get no real answer from them just as I did with the bubbling/peeling paint on my hood. Evidently their corporate office told them to always blame them because that is what they seem to always do is blame their corporate off office and their hands are tied, your out of warranty, or warranty does not cover. What happened to just honestly working with people to resolve the issue. No wonder they are in trouble. Anyway all four chrome wheels also had visible cracking as well and sears said that the lug holes on the wheels are slightly oblong so that is why the lugs work loose. I had to purchase aluminum spoke wheels. This is on a 2003!! go figure. I also told the kenny ross rep that I should have bought a Toyota or GM. His reply was this happens on all cars. Haha, what a response and just what you want to hear. No Ford in my future and I will unload this one as soon as I can!

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Read the next 2 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?