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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
68,908 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 #10

Jan 232015


  • 129,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the rear wheels shook and detached from the vehicle. The contact replaced the wheel bearings, but the failure still occurred. The lug nuts were tightened twice by the dealer, but the lug nuts on the rear wheels were still loose. The dealer stated that they did not have a repair for the failure. The VIN was invalid. The failure mileage was 129,000.

- Pembroke, VA, USA

problem #9

Mar 182015


  • 159,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the rear passenger side lug nuts sheared off the wheel. The contact stated that the same failure previously occurred to the front driver side wheel. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The lug nut was replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 159,000.

- Rainbow, TX, USA

problem #8

Dec 072014


  • 132,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that while driving approximately 45 mph, the lug nuts sheared off the wheels causing the rear passenger tire to become detached from the vehicle. The tire caused damage to the vehicle as a result of the failure. The dealer was not contacted. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 132,000.

- Cedar Rapids, IA, USA

problem #7

Nov 032006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While driving 10 mph, the contact heard a noise similar to a tire blowout. She pulled the vehicle off the road and discovered that the lug studs for the driver and passenger side rear wheels had sheared off. The vehicle was towed to the dealer and the studs were replaced. The failure occurred twice. The contact attempted to shift into park, but the gear became stuck. She jiggled the gear until it went into park. The dealer was unable to determine the cause of the failure. The failure mileage was 40,000 and current mileage was 60,000.

- Plymouth, IN, USA

problem #6

Nov 302007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles
On the way home from work yesterday I noticed an unusual vibration from the front driver's side wheel of my Explorer ? almost felt like a flat spot on the tire. Also heard some squeaking /squealing which was much worse in turns. When I got home I checked and found: - one wheel stud and nut completely missing - one wheel stud loose/broken (tried to tighten nut but it kept spinning freely) - one loose lug nut. The remaining two lug nuts were tight. By tightening the one loose nut it allowed me to drive on car without the vibration ? at that point had only three functional lug nuts. Took it to the dealer today and they claim corrosion caused the failure, but only on that wheel. Replacement of the entire hub was required as you cannot replace individual studs. It would have cost $400, but because of my extended warranty it only cost me the $50 deductible. My feeling is I should not have even had to pay for that, this appears to me to be a defect or design failure. Found many similar complaints & reports on

- Hartland, WI, USA

problem #5

Oct 212007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles
My husband had just pulled away from a stop sign when he felt the vehicle crash to the ground and saw the rear passenger tire roll into someone's front yard. He exited the car to find the lugs broken in half. My three year old is very upset, keeps talking about being in an accident. We are uncertain as to the amount of damage to the truck, we have not heard back from the insurance adjustor yet. There is body damage that is visible, who knows what the underside of the truck looks like. I do have in my possession one of the lug nuts, there are two more at the body shop. We couldn't find the remaining two, who knows when they were lost. This is the third incident I have heard of this month of the same exact thing happening (

- Germantown, WI, USA

problem #4

Oct 012006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • 45,734 miles


While driving the 2003 Ford Explorer it started to shake causing lose of steering and brakes. The left rear wheel the came off because the lugs had unscrewed. The vehicle was taken to a dealer who determined that the front differential had blown apart from the inside out. It appeared that the damage was caused by uneven tires and the 4X4 engaging and disengaging on its own.

- Preston Hollow, NY, 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

problem #2

Mar 262005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 31,084 miles
While driving at interstate speed, the vehicle began to vibrate. When I pulled off the interstate, I noticed that 3 of the 5 threaded lugs were broken on the right rear wheel. I had to be towed on a flatbed towing vehicle to a Ford dealership for repairs. The dealership replaced the wheel assembly, hub assembly brake shield and lug nuts. It should be noted that the wheels were rotated on March 11, 2005 by a local Ford dealer prior to the incident.

- Franklin, IN, USA

problem #1

Dec 232004

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Wheels studs (lug nuts) keep breaking. I have replace 4 different wheels studs within the last year and a half. They either break when taking a tire off or while traveling. I replaced those wheel studs that I noticed missing or when having a tire repaired.

- Charleston, IL, USA

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