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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
89,091 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 windows / windshield problems

windows / windshield problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #11

Jun 102013


  • 199,000 miles


Back glass on lift gate exploded. Glass went every where. No one was in the thank goodness.vehicle was just sitting in driveway. It just exploded and shattered. There was nothing wrong with the glass. The only thing there was a crack on lower panel that had been there for about 3 years.

- Marquand, MO, USA

problem #10

May 022012


  • 96,000 miles
All 4 of the wheel bearings had to be replaces in a matter of 5 months the rear window has a crack in the fiberglass covering right down the middle said not covered not a health risk but the molding is still cracked from the bottom of window to the bottom of the molding piece brake lights stay on until U get back in and tap the brakes then the light shuts off.

- Plainville, MA, USA

problem #9

Jun 152012


  • 100,000 miles
My son went to leave in Explorer. Noticed hatch had popped open (has been doing this) and when he closed the two inch opening the glass exploded on him and all over driveway. Glass piece in eye which is ok and scrapes on arms and foot. This could have been so much worse and want answers to why this happened.

- Scottsboro, AL, USA

problem #8

Oct 152011


  • 125,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact confirmed there was a crack located on the panel of the rear window. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer to be repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 125,000 and the current mileage was 177,000.

- Roberta, GA, USA

problem #7

Oct 122011


  • 109,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated the vehicle was previously repaired under a recall associated with NHTSA campaign id number 07E104000 (visibility: Glass, side/rear). The repair was performed prior to the purchase of the vehicle. The remedy was insufficient, as a result to the rear liftgate hinge failing to secure the window glass properly. The vehicle had not been repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the malfunction. The approximate failure mileage was 109,000.

- Smithville Flats, NY, USA

problem #6

Mar 142011


  • 80,000 miles
Blend door actuator not working. Not able to defrost windows easily.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #5

Jan 182010


  • 54,000 miles


Temperature blend door starts making a clicking noise and then the heater starts putting out cold air. The front window doesn't defrost. No heat in the front of the vehicle when temperatures outside can reach 0 degrees. The average cost to repair the part is $734.

- West Bountiful, UT, USA

problem #4

Sep 262009


  • 63,000 miles
I was driving my 2003 Ford Explorer at 70 mph in the fast lane of the freeway and decided to pull the driver's side visor down to cut down on the sun's glare. All of a sudden, the plastic mount that holds the visor metal stem in place shattered and the visor came loose dangling in front of my face by an electrical cable. The visor was severely obstructing my vision so I had to quickly grab the it and hold it out of the way with my left hand while steering with my right to negotiate across 4 lanes of freeway traffic until I could stop the vehicle on the freeway shoulder. The electrical cable does not have a connector so it is not possible to disconnect it from the vehicle. As a result, I had to drive the next 20 miles using my left had to hold the visor up with my left hand while driving with my right until I could reach home.

- La Habra, CA, USA

problem #3

Jan 282009


  • 80,000 miles
3 large cracks in plastic trim below glass on rear lift gate "appeared" after a cold/icy day.

- Pasadena, MD, USA

problem #2

Nov 122006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the plastic underneath the rear liftgate's glass door has begun to crack. The door still operates properly. The VIN was unavailable. The current mileage is 78,000 and failure mileage was 74,000.

- La Mesa, CA, USA

problem #1

Dec 312003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
Numerous problem: Brakes, rear window opening, seat belt retraction, heater, rear defrost, body work, etc.. while braking the brake pedal went to the floor and caused extended stopping distance. The rear window hinge failed which caused the window to open while the consumer went through a car wash. The seat belt retracted slowly which caused the belt to become hooked onto the door lock system. As a result the passenger could not get out of the vehicle. The left wiper was not clearing the windshield. The left rear door would not close all the way unless it was slammed hard.

- Mountain Home, ID, USA

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