2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac XLT 4.0L from North America


Love, hate relationship


Timing chain @ 116,000 km (Expensive!! Cost around $4200).

Tune-up @120,000 km (Spark plugs, wires, fuel filter, and everything that gets done with a tuneup but is only basic maintenance).

Shocks @ 120,000. I spent around $150 for parts for all four, and done it myself since it was easy (basic maintenance).

All ball joints @ 121,000 km, and that includes upper and lower ball joints, and inner and outer tie rods. All said and done, was around $1500.

RPM Gauge @125,000 km. I noticed that its not reading correctly and got a quote from ford to fix it and was $800 (I didn't get it done, now I just live with it).

Transfer Case @126,500 km. Very expensive for a brand new one, and was tired dumping money into my truck, so I bought a used one for $400 and was $200 to get it installed.

Front Differential Seal, Bushings for sway bar @ 128,000 km, $300.

Break calipers @ 131,500 km $350 for parts, also done myself.

Now my check engine light is on and reads a code say "Engine Misfire" @ 132,000 km, and does not idle properly. I'm currently trying to get this resolved.

General Comments:

Things I like:

For a V6, the power is not too bad and has good low end torque, which gets you off the line faster!

Frame is really stiff and give a real solid feel.

Fairly comfortable on long rides.

Good leg room in back seats for passengers.

The extender on the bed is very useful.

Fairly stable on the highway.

Things I hate:

I work to fix my truck!!

I would expect better gas mileage for a V6.

UNRELIABLE and tired of all the problems.

And if you ever do own this truck, get used to hearing, "that's not a real truck", or "when are you going to get a real truck" now I'm looking into getting a Toyota Tacoma!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 24th February, 2011

25th Feb 2011, 08:50

"UNRELIABLE and tired of all the problems."

- You now know why it's called the Ford Exploder.

25th Feb 2011, 09:32

Had a 1996 Ford truck that had a similar path that yours did... bought it with about 72,000 on the meter... loved the way it rode... very smooth ride with good (not fast) power from the straight 6 engine and a very reliable truck... but started falling apart at about 107,000... A/C went... someone cut one of the dual gas hoses to steal gas (can't get that hose anymore according to Ford... out of luck)... brakes started making a lot of noises... rear end went out... massive rattles everywhere...

End up selling it for 1800.00... miss that truck a lot... it was such a great riding truck...almost carlike...

Ended up buying a 2005 Tacoma x runner with a big six and 6 speed transmission... went from cheap insurance and no car payments to 391.00 a month at the credit union and double in my insurance... The 2005 Tacoma has great power, but a very firm muscle pulling clutch that wears you out... Also numerous air leaks... A very very firm ride.... also I bought the extra cab that has no room in the rear seats for anything other than maybe tools and a few boxes...

If I had to do it again... I would have bought the older 4 door (crew cab) Toyota Tacoma... 2000-2004 model with a automatic trans.. I am sure good clean non salvage trucks like that would be hard to find .. but it would have been a better choice...

26th Feb 2011, 00:09

Haha, ya I guess I found out the hard way about the Exploder reliability. I recently went to the part store and gave the guy my information on the make and model, and he responded "oh ya, the Ford EXPLODER" haha that made me laugh.

Thanks for the info about the Tacoma, I test drove a Tundra the other day, and man it's nice, quiet, and rides like a car, so I'm also considering that now.

2003 Ford Explorer XLT 4.6L V8 from North America


Ford has made some great cars, and some bad cars... and this is a bad car


- Idle air control valve would get stuck in cold weather, causing the vehicle to stall at a stop if the engine wasn't warmed up. (VERY common on pretty much all 90s-early 2000s Fords)

- Leather seat cover replaced because of a bubble in the fabric.

- Front pinion off the transfer case needed replacing, because of a clicking noise when going from reverse to drive.

- Front driver door cable snapped in cold weather, requiring me to hold the door shut while driving for a few days.

- Thermostat replaced.

- Window motor on right rear door replaced.

- Fuel pump froze on a cold morning, causing the car not to start. Had to tow to dealer.

- Rear axle assembly had to be replaced because of very common defect on 2002-2005 Explorers

- Check engine light is on again, not sure what for.

- Pretty sure one of the rear wheel bearings is on its way out due to the noise (another common problem on these cars).

General Comments:

Do not buy a Ford Explorer from model year 2002-2005. I worked at the Ford dealership as a technician and got a deal on one brand new... and even for a mechanic working at a Ford dealership, I still cannot recommend these model years of Ford Explorers.

Common problems were transmission issues, wheel bearing problems on all 4 wheels, stalling in cold weather (not a problem on later years with wireless throttle), rear axles failing, leaky front axles, V6 engines were of a very poor design, which Ford is phasing out, and a few more I can't remember.

The unfortunate thing is that this is a great looking SUV, and comes in the perfect size. It does drive pretty well, the V8 engines were the tried and true 4.6 bulletproof motor, and the mileage even on the V8 wasn't too bad considering the car can seat 7 and tow over 7,000 lbs. But still... do not buy this car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 27th June, 2010

22nd Feb 2011, 10:07

My 2003 Sport Trac XLT was recently totaled by a red-light runner.

It had 159,000 miles on it and never had any major repairs except some radiator work after 144,000 miles. My only complaint was the clock never kept time and the dealer refused to do anything about it.

I am going to miss that truck.

22nd Feb 2011, 15:34

My experience with several Ford Explorers is at odds with this review. I own a 2002, while at work we have had a 1997, a 2005, and currently a 2009, all with a V-6.

I did not think much of the 1997, thought it was uncomfortable, very anemic power, and poor gas mileage from the V-6. There was definitely a difference in power from the 1997 to the 2002, a huge improvement.

My 2002 is great, and the 2005 and 2009 have only gotten better and better. None of these have had engine or transmission problems, broken axles, or any of these other problems. When we traded off the 2005 at work for the 2009, it had nearly 70,000 miles on it, and had never needed any repair of any kind ever.

The 2009 rides smoothly and quietly on the highway, and I took it off-roading on Jeep trails in the mountains this summer, and it performed like a 4x4. Great power from the V-6.

I have not had any experience with a 2003, but I could not agree that all late '90s to early 00's Explorers should be avoided just because he had problems with a specific 2003.