9.3

really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
$3,290
Average Mileage:
104,800 miles
Total Complaints:
27 complaints

Most common solutions:

  1. replaced with new engine (11 reports)
  2. not sure (10 reports)
  3. need to be rebuilt (6 reports)
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

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

problem #27

Oct 062009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

Extended warranty finished, after which the engine blew up.

- Carlo S., Philadelphia, US

problem #26

Feb 232018

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 174,000 miles

Bought this Explorer brand new in 2003. About a month ago I took it to a local mechanic to get a tire plugged. Went to pick it up and it wouldn't start. Had a friend mechanic take a look at it and after 3 weeks they gave up and said it must be the engine or jumped time. Took it to a Ford dealer and they said it jump time and it need a new engine. They said they can repair with a brand new engine for over $7000, or a used for $5000. I was floored.

The vehicle is in good shape but for the engine to just go out is crazy. The vehicle is not worth $7000 plus. This is a ripoff. At this point, I will never buy another Ford anything. What a waist of money. Now I'm without a work vehicle with a little over 174000. Ford need to do something about this or they are going to lose a lot of customer. I'm ready to trade my 2009 Ford truck in for something else, but not a Ford. Ford Company I'm done buying your vehicles. A peace of crap!!!

- minceyga, Twin City, US

problem #25

Feb 232017

Explorer Xlt, 4x4 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 176,436 miles

2003 Explorer XLT, 4X4, 4.0L V6 Flex Fuel, was purchased used in November 2016, with 175K miles. I put only 1,000 mostly interstate miles on it, and after only three months of ownership, it "Explored" no more.

It all started with my usual 50 mile commute to work. About halfway there it started doing a little "jerk" when climbing a hill at interstate speeds. Wasn't under a heavy load, the whole vehicle was empty except myself, and the load was so little, it didn't even need to downshift. It continued to do this "jerk" a couple times every few miles, like it was a misfire or just cut out power in tiny jolts. Seemed very minor and wasn't an issue. There was no "Service Engine Soon" light illuminated. I made it to work. Worked my 10.5 hours and when I went to leave, I started it and it ran like total sh*t! It mis-fired like hell. The exhaust smelled of un-burnt gasoline, smoke came from the tail pipe, the whole vehicle was shaking from the unstable idle, and then it just died. I try to start it and all it would do is fart a couple times. I can't believe this piece of crap left me stranded, an hour away from home at 3:00 in the morning, after having it for just three months! It gave me no warning other than a few hiccups that started 20 miles ago. No warning lights, nothing. Even when it started running like sh*t. (Yes the bulb worked, it lit up when the key was turned ON.) I had to leave it there and find another ride. I later had it towed home. A mechanic came and looked at it and right away said it was most definitely caused by the inevitable timing chain failure that causes the whole effin' engine to self-destruct when it breaks!!

Apparently this is a very common occurrence that probably will happen to all 4.0L Explorers made around 2002-03. How the hell can a company knowingly make garbage, sell it, and ignore all the customers when the engine dies prematurely. Built Ford Tough, my ass! More like "Built by Ford? Tough sh*t!" Thousands of people have had this very problem with the 4.0L's, and Fraud Motor Company is very aware of it, along with many other problems with the vehicles, such as transmissions. I guess mine was lucky to last as long as it did at 176 k miles. I have read that other people experienced this at as little as 60,000 miles! WTF! If you can't make a car to last beyond that, then you're obviously in the wrong business! I don't see how a company can hear so many complaints from upset customers and completely ignore it. Make it right with the customers, fix the result of purposefully continuing to make these defected engines when you were well aware of the issue. The only choice I was left with, was a total engine replacement, with an engine from a newer model year after the problem was finally addressed by Ford. If there's "nothing wrong with my old engine design" and they were all made fine, then why was there a need to upgrade later models' internal parts to a material other than plastic!?? A total rebuild turns out to be more costly because the engine is so complicated and defective internals are totally inaccessible without pulling the motor anyway. Just the labor bill alone, totals out the whole car!! I now have almost triple of its value invested just to put it back in working order. This needs to be recalled and addressed, and anyone who was stuck with the outrageous bill should be reimbursed and compensated for the pain in the ass caused by Fraud Motor Company screwing us! Where's a class action lawsuit when you need one?

Three weeks after engine replacement, this is the list of stuff that has broken since: all power windows switches quit, door ajar light remains on at all times and chimes constantly, ABS system failed, A/C compressor failed, catalytic converter no longer functions, exhaust leak in muffler started, radiator started leaking, bad front driver wheel bearing, exterior side mirror lights shorted out, rear passenger's window fell down on its own, plastic trim on rear hatch split from top to bottom.... I can go on all day. no amount of ranting is gonna stop this rust bucket from being the piece of crap, money pit, that Fraud Motor Company designed it to be.

- ford-y k tops, Morehead, US

problem #24

Jul 232015

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,451 miles

So I bought a brand new 2003 Ford Explorer Sport xlt 4x4 at the end of 2003. I really loved this suv. It had some issues but we stayed together.However, in 2015 while driving on a hot summer evening and using the AC,out of nowhere it started jerking and ran like garbage and committed suicide. I though maybe it could have been the fuel pump which it made it die. BUT NO.My Ford left me high and dry on the side of the road.Thank God it was a back road to my parents and not the highway.I pulled over and it died. Tried restarting it and it did but sounded like horrible. Got a few feet down the road and it died in the middle of the road. I checked my fluids regulary. I had it towed and was told it needed a new engine and at that point their was coolant in the oil.How can this happen out of nowhere with out even a check engine warning. This was very dangerous. Now it sits as a yard ornament because you wont get much by junking it .I paid alot for this new like around $25,000. Ford makes garbage product and they don't care. How can so many Explorers have problems and they keep making them and they all have problems too!!???The engine should not have went out just over 100,000 miles. If you are looking at buying an Explorer ,explore something else. Found-On-Road-Dead. They aren't joking either. I had other issues before this ,but this was the icing on the the cake. The plenum gasket went bad at 70,000 miles and it would die while driving ,had to get that replaced, new alternator 2 years before .Breaks were always needing replaced about two years and rotors.The back latch handle broke so you could not open it up ;(. It did great in the snow though.I am terrified to buy a new car now. I bought another beater to get around in .lol Ford needs to man up on these Explorers and take responsibility.

- darlene1203, Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #23

Apr 152015

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,875 miles

On June 30th, 2003 we picked up a new 2003 Ford Explorer from a local dealer in Northern Virginia. Unfortunately we were unaware (my failure) of previous serious problems with the 2002 model year and fell into the world of Ford failures like so many others have before and after us by purchasing a 2003.

During the course of the next 12 years of ownership we experienced several Ford failure problems, which I will report separately, but the last and most serious Ford failure was a blown engine which occurred recently in April 2015 with only 62,875 miles driven!

I have been in and around the American car world since my first introduction to the new car world in 1957. I have had over 15 GM (Chevrolet) vehicles in my lifetime but not one of them laid down on me or left me in such dire straits as the Ford failures (2, another to be reported) I have owned during my lifetime. I can not fathom the reasoning that a company such as Ford, or any car manufacturer for that matter, would turn out such terribly disastrous vehicles and not take responsibility for them! Certainly I can make a credible thought process for this fact and it goes with out saying what that would be!

Driving down the road at highway speeds and your motor blows and leaves you powerless can only be construed as a serious safety issue and a dangerous situation for any driver to have to contend with but since the government does not consider this a safety issue Ford failure owners are left powerless to be compensated for these known factory defect issues that Ford turned a blind eye to and refuses to take responsibility for!

So we come to the disposition and end results of this costly and deeply emotional issue. First off the 2003 Explorer was towed to our home and I inspected the vehicle and found a two (2") inch diameter hole at the left rear of the upper oil pan just above the lower oil pan. Suggested repair cost anywhere between approximately $5,000 to $7,000 among other residual (Insurance, towing, value, nerves, etc.) losses and costs.

Diagnosis: Worthless and repairing ill advised as the vehicle would still be a cautionary tale of future complications from mostly the same problems among other problems and costs I have yet to register.

Prognosis: To continue alliance with the Ford Motor Company and it's defective irresponsibility is no longer an option for us now or ever in the future. We are now officially two (2) time losers with Ford and there will be no third (3rd) time charm!

Disposition: Sold to Chevrolet dealership for $750.00 trade in value.

Suggestions: The only thing a consumer can due is to research every aspect of buying a vehicle new or used. Look at every detail and performance issues, search the Web (carcomplaints.com) for all troubling issues that have been reported. Look intensely in to former model years for a combined history evaluation and use every tool you can or you will be left holding a worthless pile of scrap metal in the end like Ford has left us with!

Finally my thoughts and concerns for Americans who step in to the world of car buying. From my experience with Ford and from what has been reported so many times recently concerning defective vehicles being recalled the consumer is always running against the wind from the time you step in to the showroom and beyond. Car manufacturers and dealerships are in this business to make as much money as they can off of each buyer especially those that have little knowledge in the workings of the automotive world. These same automobile manufacturers (such as Ford) have consistently denied serious problems that exist that do not meet the NHSTA recall protocols leaving unsuspecting buyers with costly repairs or complete value loss, such is our case, and complicated, fruitless and nerve racking interactions with dealerships, who like the manufacturer, are looking at overall costs versus responsibility, especially when not enforced by the U.S. Government under safety recalls and specifically vehicles that are beyond the vehicle stated warranty coverage.

As always the axiom, buyer beware, is tantamount to making knowledgeable and concise decisions when buying extremely costly items such as a home, automobile of major ticket items.

I only wish I had done so myself before we pulled of the lot with our biggest and worst financial loss of our lifetimes to date, a 2003 Ford Explorer!

- tomasedy, Warrenton, VA, USA

problem #22

Jan 052015

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

WE BOUGHT OUR FIRST CAR IN 2003. A BRAND NEW 2003 FORD EXPLORER XLT 4.0 V6 SOHC. WE TOOK GOOD CARE OF IT. REGULAR FULL SYNTHETIC OIL CHANGE AND WELL MAINTAINED. MILEAGE IS ONLY 102,000 WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN THE ENGINE JUST STOPS RUNNING. TOWED OUR CAR TO GALPIN FORD FOR DIAGNOSTIC AND BAD NEWS ....ENGINE IS FROZEN. THEY ARE UNABLE TO EXPLAIN WHAT WAS POSSIBLY THE CAUSE... THEY ARE CHARGING ME $6400 FOR A NEW ENGINE.... WE ARE JUST THINKING OF PROBABLY JUST DONATING IT OR REPLACING IT WITH A USED ENGINE.

I SWEAR MY FAMILY WILL NEVER BUY A "FORD" (FIX OR REPAIR DAILY) CAR... BY THE WAY WE JUST BOUGHT A BRAND NEW HONDA PILOT.....

- Alfred M., Reseda, CA, USA

problem #21

Jul 162014

Explorer Limited 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 202,000 miles

From what I have read on your posts here it sounds like my Ford Explorer is toast. Either way the repair sounds costly....$1500 to $5000. I am very disappointed to read that Ford allegedly used a nylon part that would eventually wear causing extreme damage to the motor. Again this is alleged and not accusations but it's a shame when you read over and over the same results! I really enjoyed the 50,000 miles I put on this vehicle and of course it's my lively hood. If Ford has put out a recall on this particular part it would be a great financial help to my cause. I am now working out of my wife's 2003 Avalon :( Just a recap: While stuck in highway traffic my 2003 Ford Explorer Limited with 202,000 miles (synthetic oil changes every 3,000 miles) gave no indication of trouble just stopped. Would not start and had to be towed 225 miles home (Thank GOD for Triple A premium) So far one mechanic says it is the timing chain. I though the A/C compressor locked up causing the engine not to turn. I had a Ford van do that once. He said the engine belt turns O.K. Now they say to tear down the motor to even look at the chain will be very costly. I believe I have a salvage vehicle unless someone has any suggestions. GOD is good all the time and all the time GOD is good!!!!!

- hcole, Land O Lakes, FL, USA

problem #20

Apr 302014

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles

MY 2003 EXPLORER WOULD NOT START ON APRIL 29,2014. CALLED SHOP THAT PUT IN A STARTER 3 MONTHS PRIOR AND THEY CAME TO GET IT ON APRIL 30, 2014. THEY CALLED ME AND SAID THAT THE MOTOR IS LOCKED AND THAT IS WHAT BURNT UP THE STARTER. IT WAS JUST FINE THE NIGHT BEFORE ON APRIL 28TH BUT IT LOCKS UP OVERNIGHT, HOW CAN THAT BE?

I HAVE PUT ALL NEW TRANSMISSION, ALTERNATOR, STARTER, BATTERY AND WHEEL BEARINGS IN THE LAST 2 YEARS AND THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I HAD THE OIL CHANGED THE WEEKEND BEFORE NOT TO MENTION OTHER THINGS WRONG WITH THIS VEHICLE BUT ALL THOSE DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE ENGINE FAILURE. MY JOB PUT ON 20 HOURS A WEEK SO NEEDLESS TO SAY I CANNOT AFFORD TO HAVE THIS FIXED AND SINCE SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE HAVE HAD THE SAME PROBLEM WHY CAN'T FORD PAY TO HAVE THIS DONE.

NOW I KNOW WHY I LIKED MY CHEVROLET BETTER. WHEN I HAD IT I DIDN'T LET IT GO UNTIL OVER 300,000.00 MILES AND IT WAS STILL GOING WITHOUT THE MOTOR EVER BEING TAKEN APART FOR FIXING. AND IT WAS A 1991 CHEVROLET CAMARO WITH A V8. I HAVE HAD NOTHING BUT TROUBLE WITH THIS VEHICLE. I BOUGHT IT USED IN 2007 I THINK ( I DON'T HAVE THE PAPERWORK IN FRONT OF ME ) AT DUNCAN HYUNDAI DEALERSHIP IN CHRISTIANSBURG VA. I DID NOT TAKE IT TO THEM SINCE THERE IS NO WARRANTY AND THEY ARE HIGH IN PRICING. I'M REALLY AT MY WITS END BECAUSE NOW I HAVE NO VEHICLE AND NO MONEY TO GET ANOTHER ONE OR HAVE THIS ONE FIXED.

- Robin G., Christiansburg, VA, USA

problem #19

Oct 122012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 121,733 miles

I have a ford 2003 explorer xlt. I brought it brand new and I was the first owner. Other than having the catalytic converter replaced in 2010 that was the only major problem I had with the SUV until now. On 10/12/12 the engine light came on and did not go off. I parked the SUV on that Friday and did not move it again until 10/14/12 when I took it to the mechanic to see what was going on. As I pulled the vehicle into the mechanic shop it stopped and refuse to turn over. The mechanic looked at me and said I know what is wrong your engine just died. The mechanic did a diagnostic test and it confirmed what he originally told me. I called the ford dealer to see how much it would cost to fix it the engine and he informed me that a rebuilt engine would cost me $6500. I went to other places I got a quote for $4900. I contacted the ford hotline for complaints and informed them about the engine and they stated that there is nothing they could because the SUV was out of warranty in which I already knew and did not contact them to look for a warranty.. I asked ford did they have a engine problems with this particular model and they said no. It was not until I got on the internet and started doing research that I found that a lot of other consumers with this particular model had engine problems and that they either junked the car or had a rebuilt engine put it which was really expensive and ford did nothing to help them as well. Other problems I had with the SUV model is that the rear view window plastic casing cracked, The rear supension on the passenger side cracked after the SUV was 2 years old or less. Also the ABS malfunction and various other consumers have stated that they have brought this to ford attention and did not get any results. I was also informed by several mechanics that the 2003 ford explorer had engine problems when it rolled off the assembly line. But I guess the good side of this is that I did not have to have the rotors changed until the SUV reached 121,733 miles, the back breaks was changed for the first time, and the SUV did not need an alignment until this time. The SUV broke down on it's ninth birthday and has not worked since. The bad part is that I am a single parent with a child in college which is a major expense and to have this kind of problem to arrived now is just horrifying. Who else is out there is having such horrifying problems?

- Mary M., Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #18

Feb 182013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 230,000 miles

I got the car from a used car lot three years ago. I was told the car was ok even though it was sold as is.

I used it for around town and about 5 miles both ways to work. I got regular service for it. There were a few times I had trouble starting it, but I thought it was ok. I took it on vacations to Maryland. It sat up since last December til February when we were going to have it serviced for the trip. I went to start it and it popped and would not start. I got that it could be the battery, starter to the motor. I let several different shops look at it and they all just could not come up with anything definite to do but the most expensive repair. Now I am stuck with a junk vehicle. My second car is a 97 van that I have had since 03 and that works better then the 03 ford explorer.

- Florence P., Charlotte, NC, US

problem #17

Mar 072012

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 133,000 miles

I am 47 now and have owned 33 ford cars and trucks since I was 15 yr old . I wish there was a way that I could talk to Bill Ford person to person ,I would tell him I will never ever but another Ford as long as I live.They are putting out "JUNK" . 1996 Crown vic plastic intakes blowing apart,2002 f 150 spark plugs blowing out of the motor and now 2003 explorer plastic timing chain parts Again nothing but "JUNK" .STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM FORDS

- Joe L., Auburn, AL, US

problem #16

Sep 302011

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Don't mess with this V6 it has 4 timing/balance chains with plastic support guides inside the motor. I changed my oil on time and the motor never burned any oil, most of my mileage was freeway. Started with a tick which equaled a frozen valve, you would think a simple valve job, not on this beauty quoted $1,400 to pull one head alone plus $250 minimum for one head work and its recommended that both heads be worked. So you have to replace the motor, when rebuilt= at least $3,500 what a joke. If you own one of these finely engineered motors never ever over rev it with all those chains and plastic guides you're sure to slip a gear tooth and bam your motor is toast.

- Craig T., Walnut Grove, CA, USA

problem #15

Jun 202011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

We baby this car, my wife is a really good driver and soft on cars and this thing just failed out of the blue. What a piece of JUNK! I need a new engine after 99K miles, what a joke. Dealer says $6500 for a new engine, we can put a used engine in for $2000-3000 or rebuilt in for $3000-$4000 but we should not have to after only 99,000 miles. JUNK JUNK JUNK and the ford dealership tried to blame me for not changing oil - bad dealer Rodman Ford of Tauton MA . Based on all the reviews of this ford junk even with a new engine something else would break. $25,000 car now JUNK a boat anchor. The dealers best suggestions were that I should get a new car and or I should have brought the car to him for service for its entire life figures, and ya right I'll never buy a ford again even though I have had them on and off my entire life ( my first car at age 14 was a ford) never again.

- Jim B., north attleboro, United States, USA

problem #14

Mar 212011

Explorer NBX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Had this 2003 Explorer for 2 weeks shy of 5 years.......Purchased used with 32,000 mi and now has less than 60,000 mi. One Saturday, I drove it 10 mi., parked it and when I got in on Monday morning to go to work, it started and died.......3rd mechanic says the engine has seized and is done..........too bad I still owe $$ on it.....NO WARNING......so disgusted with Ford, now that I've read the issues that others have had with these POS......

- Michelle F., Clovis, CA, USA

problem #13

Feb 022011

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

Engine Timing Chain Failed, casing other major damage to engine. Car died on the road and almost wrecked. Nearly $6K to replace engine so maybe will just have to walk away from it. Annoying too that last month we spend $650 to replace valve cover gaskets. We used to be Ford people, but now reconsidering.

- jjm va, Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #12

Dec 142009

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Was driving one day and blue smoke started pouring out of the tailpipe. Took to mechanic and he said motor was shot. Found a 2007 motor for $1000 and put that in Dec. 2009. Driving today and the same thing has happened again with the blue smoke. Told could be a valve or a rod. Not sure what is the problem this time. Also had the same problem with it cutting off a few months before I put the new motor in.

- Kelly M., Beech Island, SC, USA

problem #11

Aug 102010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

click to see larger images

engine failure engine failure

Dear Fellow Consumers,

Thinking of purchasing a new or used vehicle? I highly recommend staying away from Ford. I recently shipped my 2003 Ford Explorer as part of a government move (I am an active duty member of the United States military). When my Ford arrived at my destination and was started, the engine literally blew up. My Ford was towed to a nearby Ford dealer where it was determined that the issue was "mechanical failure" of the engine. Assuming something had occurred during shipping, I was surprised when the mechanic told me that sometimes the "plastic pieces inside the engine cassette come loose, causing the timing chain to slip, and the valve cover to blow off". I was also surprised to hear there is plastic in the engine! Anyway, my Ford Explorer was a total loss. Attempts to get assistance from Ford Motor Company were fruitless.

To those of you who have had good luck with Ford products, I truly hope your good luck continues. To those of you in the market for a new or used vehicle, I strongly urge you to stay away from Ford products. I purchased my Ford Explorer brand new back in 2003 and was hoping to drive it for many years to come. I will personally never purchase another Ford product.

- Your fellow consumer.

- Jim S., Ford, CT, USA

problem #10

May 012010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles

Anyone considering purchasing a Ford product: Be prepared to spend at least 25% of the purchase price (new) to keep the P.O.S. running-after warranty expiration (and don't expect Ford "Customer Service" to provide any help at all). Buy anything but a Ford product!

I have had a blown engine, rear differential failure, and numerous electrical problems.

- Richard M., Murfreesboro, TN, USA

problem #9

Mar 192010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

after having the transmission replaced, rear axle, rear gear, alternator and starter, the engine died. I have spent over $10,000,00 in repairs on this vehicle. All maintenance and services recommended were done mostly at ford dealer. now they want me to purchase a new engine - car is in excellent condition and has a new transmission but the motor is shot. I will never buy another ford.

- charmon, Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #8

Jan 162010

Explorer LXT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,000 miles

We think the problem is blown head gaskets, but since Ford has the only tools available to remove the head gaskets we cannot verify the true problem. When the engine was cold and you accelerated the temperature gauge would spike and the engine light would come on. This would last for a few seconds and after the car leveled out the temperature gauge would go back to normal. On the fourth time this happened the whole engine stopped. Our assumption is it is a blown head gasket but not sure. Most mechanics when they hear this say it is cheaper to just replace the engine. Now not sure what to do with the car. It also has the cracked panel below the back window. Do we scrap or try to salvage.

- rodr, Santee, CA, USA

Read the next 7 complaints »