pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
126,100 miles
Total Complaints:
15 complaints

Most common solutions:

  1. new engine (9 reports)
  2. replacement parts (5 reports)
  3. not sure (1 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 #15

Mar 092016

Explorer LL 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,802 miles

I had a 1991 Explorer and loved it. Never had a problem and I could go anywhere and do anything. It was severely damaged in an accident so I decided to upgrade to the 2003 Explorer. What a mistake. I purchased the newer one with 109,000 miles and it seemed to be a nice ride. Then in February I took a trip to see my daughter and grand kids. When I returned home the car had a rattle. I figured nothing major so I took it in for diagnoses. I almost fainted when the shop told me what was going on. They told me that the guides for the timing chain had broke as they are made of plastic, and that this is a known issue that Ford is well aware of. The only fix was going to cost me $2200.00. That is not including the possible damage that may be there once they tore the engine down. I want to thank Ford for costing me my vehicle. I have always been a Ford girl and have even stood up for the product when the Chevy enthusiasts attack. NO MORE!! Ford takes your money and dosen't even seem to care. I cannot afford this repair and have no vehicle. Thanks Ford. I will join the haters.

- Tina D., Boise, ID, US

problem #14

Jan 192016

Explorer 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

have a ford 2003 explorer. has run perfectly been an amazing car, all of a sudden stopped to put water into windscreen wipers turn the car on and ouch!! engine light on and idling really bad. once i drove too far and turned the car off a little steam/smoke come from under the hood. have not driven it since. got it towed to redding auto shop. they said timing chain has broke. it will cost 3,000 to fix. however they said we shall see what it will cost for a new engine as the hours of work on this is why it is so expensive. of course i thought he was going to come back with a cheaper rate since he said it will be a better price difference. the next day he rung and said it would be 7,500 thousands dollars. i was so cunfused as he said the day before it would make it easier and cheaper just to get another motor. since they would have to pull the whole motor out to get to timing issues. now i sit here going. omg i have no car!!!!!! and have no idea what to do. i took it to these people as they had great reviews about woman and cars and would never steer you wrong or rip you off. however the guy one minutes say he will get a better price to put a rebuilt enghine in rather than fixing the one in there, only to come back with a price 2x more of the amount!??????????? what is going on. im carless regardless. i can not afford 3,000 dollars to fix it and i will not be able to work or travel to my work destinations!?!??

- Tracee H., Mount Shasta, CA, US

problem #13

Aug 092015

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 178,000 miles

Ford knew there was a problem with these timing chains breaking and did nothing for the consumers to help correct the problems. Rest in peace MR FORD

- Lonnie F., Plymouth, PA, US

problem #12

Aug 302015

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,712 miles

Timing chain was made with plastic and known design flaw by Ford. Need new motor and tools only Ford has. Cost of repair $4,500 for a new motor. We need a class action law suit against Ford. They are not claiming any responsibility for this design flaw and just stopped making this engine. I will never buy a Ford again. They are thieves.

- Connie S., Lake Isabella, CA, US

problem #11

Dec 012014

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

Timing chain broke due to Ford using plastic guide rails they needed to save a couple of dollars.

- jr9306ac, Saint Paul, MN, US

problem #10

Dec 072012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,000 miles

Went out to start the explorer one morning and it popped loud and shut the engine off.

- gallagherky, Owingsville, KY, US

problem #9

Dec 102012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

I first want to say, I have repaired numerous things on this 03 Explorer and I am tired of fixing it. On a Friday, my truck was making a loud,annoying noise under the engine while it was running. After awhile of driving,it would quiet down. When Monday morning came and I was pulling out of my drive way the brakes sounded funny(brakes are only 1.5 yrs old) When I decided to stay in the driveway and turned the car off to look under the hood,It wouldn't start again. I had a Mechanic friend come to my house to look at it and diagnosed it. He said the Timing chain might have skipped. Well after having AAA towing it to his shop, he took the engine apart and found the gears to the timing chain are all torn apart and the whole thing needs to be replaced. So right now that's where we are at. I am not sure what it will cost me in the end, but since it is a friend I am sure I will be getting a deal.They need to recall many things on this truck. NEVER...again will I PURCHASE A Ford.

- jlux, Millville, NJ, US

problem #8

Oct 102011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

well i just got a loan to lower my payments last weekend and pay down other problems because i thought i would be able to pay off car in few months after 6 years. anyway now i can't because 3 days later on my way to work 6am car started running weird, had no prior problems. seemed cold and had car checked 4 months ago the ac was going out. but was told starter was wearing out also. otherwise okay anyways made it two blocks started shaking started pulling over and engine light came on. parked at store and trail of oil or transmission fluid not sure. it was dark and nasty dripping to parking slot. found it all over back side of engine to, looked in seeing if something loose or tube missing all i can see was missing plastic from a cover and busted with a chain underneath , the chain seems to be in middle section of car in between midsection of windshield close to where oil filter screws in. had it towed home few hours later, the guy said he never seen that before. then my babysitter sent over her mecanic and he said he never seen that before he was going to look up on internet and let me know how much he thinks it would cost to fix. called ammco and he said he fixed everything and could not picture what i was describing told me i had to tow it there. called ford and they said i might need new engine 4 grand. i am in a jam because i need all the money i have to fix this. not to have it towed and estimated for lots of money. i need an idea. this car seems to have so many problems i got this car at high price to build credit. i tried to fix everything and i am in a hole now. i had electrical problems also for at least 4 years i could not lock drivers side power shortage or bad fuse. door ajar light is always on so sometimes i don't realize the back glass flies open and i didn't know i accidentally hit button on keys. and get honked at. when i pull over by people trying to tell me it came up. i know cars have maintenance they need. but this car has to much to deal with for moms who have fluctuations of money coming in. i would not recommend this car due to safety, concerns with locks. electrical maintenance is out of my range your just out of luck and have to live with out it and hope you car is locked so you are not also robbed. i have to check constantly and i drivers side i can't lock myself in or unlock. my car looks nice and i kept it up over years but now it is sitting there broke down until i figure out what to to. owe to much now.

- javagirl, Rio Linda, CA, US

problem #7

Feb 012011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

click to see larger images

timing chain broke timing chain broke

Why on earth would you make something as important as the timing chain guide out of nylon? It took me 6 hours to get the front cover off to finally see the extent of the damage done by the guides breaking and pretty much destroying the timing cover and getting into my oil pan. I'm really fortunate that it didn't snap one of the timing chains, a cam, or even my crank with the amount of pieces I removed from the cover and the oil pan. I have been a loyal Ford owner now for 21 years. This is the last one I will own once I found how cheap they are internally. Another problem was, that I could get one side of the guides from my local parts store, but the other side had to be ordered factory direct. So the way I see it, Ford knew this would be a weak spot in the motor and made one side not available to local parts stores so they could make money on the problem. One more reason to push me to buy a Chevy!

- Bruce S., Kennerdell, PA, US

problem #6

Feb 042011

Explorer XLT 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,041 miles

I was the only owner of this vehicle. This was my second Ford Explorer. I was a big fan. I travel about 100 miles a day for work. That is both ways. So most miles were highway miles. I noticed as the weather got colder then when I first started my Explorer it would make a loud ticking noise when it started. It would go away after it warmed up. Well right after I got off the highway my Explorer engine just cut out. I had it taken to a mechanic with the hope it was not a serious issue. My mechanic called me and told me I need a new engine!!!! $$$5100.00. He told me that Ford was having a problem with the time chain. He described the noise to me perfectly...So if all the mechanics know about this then why doesn't Ford help with this????

- Brett M., Hilliard, OH, US

problem #5

Jan 152010

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

Well the Timing chain brakes out of no wear ,it snaps at a intersection. Bad timing .the TRuck has been great other wise .it was an all of a sudden freak thing.

- Jimmie E., Covington, GA, US

problem #4

Nov 212009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 113,000 miles

Timing chain tensioner failed resulting in a cracked engine block and extensive valve damage. Vehicle was well maintained, gently driven and had no warning signs prior to the failure.

Mechanic told me that the tensioner is a cheap teflon part and Ford is well aware of this problem however have done nothing about it. The labor cost to replace the part is high since it requires removing the engine. However I would have considered paying for the replacement if I was aware of the potential problem.

The fix for my car is to replace the engine. My mechanic recommended a remanufactured engine with enhanced timing chain and valve train (Jasper Remanufacuted engines). Cost with labor approximately $5500. He did not recommend a used engine or OEM rebuilt as it will only fail again.

As of today I'm going to salvage the car. I'm not confident the transmission will last long enough to justify the investment. I'm disgusted with Ford. They saved a couple dollars on a key engine component at the owners expense. And have denied the problem.

I'll think long and hard before I ever buy another Ford product.

- Mark P., Northborough, MA, US

problem #3

May 222009

Explorer XLT 4.0L Ff V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,720 miles

Please - How do all Ford Explorer 2002/2003 drivers who have suffered this problem unite and get Ford to offer some kind of compensation ? It is obviously a fault that they are liable for, as it was miraculously dealt with in later versions of the Explorer......it is not normal wear and tear. I have lost my investment in this car and will be selling it for the amount I need to pay off $2000. I can't bear to look at it anymore as a reminder of all the $ I have lost. I am a single woman and worked hard to afford this car - I am now without a car and have to start over with no down payment. No more Fords for me. This car also has two other common complaints - cracked back, AC/Heater issue causing clicking noise/inability to control air/no heat. Even if I fixed the engine up, it is worth a piddling amount for re sale and I can't live with the constant chirp of the AC. Ford Customer service was disgustingly unhelpful.

- allybatz, Gainesville, FL, US

problem #2

Jan 042009

Explorer XLT 4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

84,000 miles on a well maintained Explorer and now we are told we need a new engine. Ford Mfg. says the mileage is too high for them to do anything at all to help with this problem. Even though the engine typically gets 200,000 according to Ford. They said it was rare for something like this to go wrong. I'd like to know how rare it is.

- strasko, Collierville, TN, Pacific Islands (US)

problem #1

Dec 292008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

Well this is looking like a common problem for the explorer, Our explorer was running fine we were driving down the road then lost all power and it died beside the road, $395 for running the tests, we found out it will at least cost $4000 TO REPLACE THE ENGINE, anyone have any ideas how to have ford fix this problem??

- Donald S., Winchester, NH, US