2023 Ford Explorer Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

A wide range of safety issues are the main causes of complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

According to the automaker, the 2023 Ford Explorer allows drivers to “experience the world on your own terms.” But those who have experienced serious safety issues aren’t driving on their own terms at all. Complaints include serious issues with malfunctioning lane keeping assist and faulty forward collision-avoidance, sunroofs that shatter spontaneously, as well as transmission problems.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2020   2021   2022

Most Common Problems with the 2023 Explorer

Launched in the U.S. as a 1991 model, the Ford Explorer seems to just keep going. Except for those SUVs that don’t meet expectations.

Those who own or rent a 2023 Ford Explorer with problems often turn to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) for assistance. While there are no standout issues in terms of volumes of complaints, problems span several components and systems. These include the engine, powertrain, brakes, steering, visibility, forward collision avoidance, and lane departure.

It is interesting to note that the independent, nonprofit organization, Consumer Reports predicts that they expect that “the 2023 Explorer will be much less reliable than the average new car.” This prediction is based on data from more than 300,000 2020, 2021, and 2022 models. They highlight 17 potential trouble spots that unsurprisingly include the engine, transmission, and brakes that coincide with some of the NHTSA complaints. Their prediction also takes into account the fact that between January 23 and May 12, 2023, Ford Motor Company issued three recalls that currently affect the 2023 Explorer.


One of the recalls is due to a loose bolt in the transmission that may cause rollaway. In the event of a rollaway the vehicle won’t stay in Park, which can increase the risk of a crash and possible injury.

The other two recalls relate to the 360-degree rearview camera image not displaying. The first of these recalls was issued on January 23, 2023, warning that the loss of this image can reduce the driver’s rear visibility. This, in turn, increases the risk of a crash. A total 382,759 2020-2023 Explorer, Lincoln Aviator, and 2020-2022 Lincoln Corsair vehicles were affected. The deal was that dealers would update the image processing module software free of charge.

Clearly, the update didn’t work, because on May 12, 2023, a new recall superseded the original one. The number of affected vehicles increased to 422,201 and Ford announced that a remedy was now “under development.” Furthermore, any vehicles previously “repaired” under the first recall will need to have the new remedy performed – when it is available.

There are no NHTSA complaints citing owners have been affected by the rearview camera failing. But there is a complaint that an owner hasn’t been able to take possession of his new 2023 Explorer because of the recall. The complaint states that he bought the vehicle on May 26, 2023, which is after the second recall had been issued. It was “during the finance process (that) I found out it had a rear backup camera recall.” As a result, “I wasn’t able to take possession of my vehicle . It’s been sitting on the car dealership lot where I bought it (since then).”

Stating that the repair still hasn’t been resolved, he says: “I’m making a substantial payment on a vehicle I can’t have! Please resolve this ASAP.”

2023 Ford Explorer Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Power Train
Electrical System
Back Over Prevention
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Lane Departure: Assist
Service Brakes

Lane Keeping Assist and Other Malfunctions

One of the most serious complaints levied with the NHTSA was the result of a crash. The complainant, who had rented a 2023 Ford Explorer, states that he had many issues with added safety features.

“Firstly, the lane keeping assist did not function properly. In construction zones, back roads, and during rainy weather, the vehicle would jerk very hard to one side to the other. Even after trying to shut off the lane keeping assist feature, it would automatically turn back on.” Luckily, most of those incidents happened in low traffic areas… “Until the final time it happened, resulting in a head on collision with another vehicle.” Three people were injured in the crash.

Another issue was that the screen displaying the lane assist activity would go blank randomly while driving. There was also a constant issue with the pop-up screen warning to “keep holding the steering wheel. Even when I would have both hands on the steering wheel, it would pop up. And sometimes, if it wouldn’t disappear in time, the vehicle would start to automatically brake and slow down the vehicle, even if I was going 70+ miles per hour.” This happened increasingly frequently… “To the point where I would have to constantly let go of the steering wheel and re-grab it over and over until it eventually disappeared.”

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Brake and Forward Collision-Avoidance Problems

An owner from Michigan complained about the brakes and forward collision-avoidance issues because he was afraid the problems would result in an accident and possibly injury.

The issue was that the parking brake was auto-engaged all the time when starting, shifting out of Park, or shifting between gears, Drive, or Reverse. He states that “to disengage the park brake you have to depress the accelerator pedal.” But “pressure on the accelerator to disengage is inconsistent every time. (The) vehicle lurches uncontrollably when releasing the vehicle off the emergency parking brake setting.”

The complaint continues, stating that the “jolt of the vehicle from the depress pressure is so significant and dangerous” there is a risk of hitting parked vehicles while parallel parking or hitting garages or other structures when parking. It is also a risk to people walking near the vehicle.

“When the auto hold feature is turned on, it can only be assumed to be engaged by pressing the brake pedal. But if the pedal isn’t engaged with enough full pressure, the auto hold will not fully activate.” Confusingly, the green warning symbol, the complaint says, is similar in size to the green auto headlight setting the same zone. “This can cause someone to believe auto hold is engaged when using peripheral vision for the indicator cue. “This gives the driver false confidence (that could lead them to) remove their foot from the brake and have the vehicle creep forward, and can lead to accident or injury.”

Transmission Problems

The transmission of any car is crucial because it facilitates the transfer of power from the engine to the wheels. This enables the vehicle to change gears and maintain the desired speed and efficiency during various driving conditions. If the transmission malfunctions, the car may experience issues like difficulty in shifting gears, loss of power, strange noises, or even complete inability to move, leading to significant drivability problems and potential safety hazards.

This is what happened to the owner of a 2023 Explorer in February 2023. He states in an NHTSA complaint that the transmission was very difficult and he spent some time “trying to figure out how to start shifting gears.” When the transmission did shift, “I felt very hard shifting. The engine revved up, struggled to rev up when accelerating, held gears, chugged, slipped, and it felt extremely lazy.” He also says that “the RPMs were fluctuating like crazy” when he accelerated.

There is no indication what steps he took to have this fixed. But it is clear that repairs or replacements were needed to ensure the SUV would function properly.

Shattering Sunroof

While driving at 65 mph, another 2023 Explorer owner heard what she describes as “an abnormal noise.” She pulled over and discovered that her sunroof had shattered “independently.” She took it to the local dealer who told her unsurprisingly that the sunroof needed to be replaced. The vehicle wasn’t repaired, but the manufacturer was informed of the failure.

What to do if your 2023 Ford Explorer is a lemon?

Every year, automakers, including Ford, buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of lemon vehicle owners. So, if you think that you’ve bought a lemon, you might like Lemberg Law attorneys to assess your problems. We do this free of charge because the law makes Ford pay the legal fees for lemon-related legal fees.

If you’d like Lemberg Law to assess your 2023 Ford Explorer problems, call our Helpline or fill out a contact form.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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