Print this page 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.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
69,000 miles
Total Complaints:
16 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace and repaint hood (9 reports)
  2. not sure (7 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

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

2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #16

Jun 122010

Explorer NBX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles


rust was first repair by body shop the "knew how to work with aluminum." - well they did not. went to ford and would not fix for free - said they just replace the hoods. not good PR..

- William Z., Monroe, NJ, US

problem #15

Jan 012013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I have noticed this same problem with Ford Explorers. What is the deal? What has Ford done about it? How have others dealt with this problem?

- frazier-kouassi, Ann Arbor, MI, US

problem #14

Oct 302008

Explorer Fozz

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

This problem took long time to show up. I asked many times at the dealer when taking the car for services, but nobody answered my questions. They avoided to answer and gave me silly explanations. Finally, I contacted Ford and they didn't give me any solution because the car had no warranty on it. Ford is a company that doesn't stand behind their products.

- Frank P., Foster City, US

problem #13

Jun 012005

Explorer XL 6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles


click to see larger images

corrosion of aluminum hood corrosion of aluminum hood corrosion of aluminum hood corrosion of aluminum hood

I just assumed it was a fact of life with autos and chips of this nature until recently finding out there were numerous complaints of the same issue. That this was known by FORD and nothing was done about it. I would at least want Ford to FIX /REPAIR the problem.

- Mary L., New Lenox, IL, US

problem #12

Sep 152007

Explorer LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 28,000 miles

Very poor paint on this year/model. I keep this vehicle in the garage 90% of the time or in covered parking and it also has cracking paint issues on the roof!

- Suzanne R., Huntington Beach, CA, US

problem #11

Sep 222006

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

purchased 2003 explorer used from ford dealership. paint on hood was bubbling and they were going to fix it before i picked it up. then next day they call and say they won't fix it as i'm getting too good of a deal on the explorer as is.

i asked some questions. like whats the big deal, this is still under the paint warranty period and ford should pay for it. they said ford won't pay for it as it is an aluminum hood and it doesn't "rust". so i told them they said they would fix it so just touch it up. they won't touch it up because the "proper" way is to take the entire hood off and have it sanded/repainted. so needless to say i had to buy a 2003 explorer with a paint problem. was not happy. but that was only the start of the problems with this clunker car!

- Billy O., Wooster, OH, US

problem #10

Aug 232008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,750 miles


Ford refused to repair due to no other complaints. It looks to me that many other owners have the same problem. Ford Motor Co should step up and fix problem or reimburse the people who repaired their Ford's poor workmanship. The vehicle needed painting as to not look like a piece of junk.

- David F., Punta Gorda, FL, US

problem #9

Feb 012007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

common blistering of pain on front hood. I don't know what else to say

- Louis A., Oregon, WI, US

problem #8

May 022008

Explorer AU Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,030 miles

All the other Explorers that were sold at the same time have the exact same problem

- bignik, Wanganui, Aramoho, New Zealand

problem #7

Sep 152007

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

Supposedly it was covered under the warranty--but since I had it fixed at the Ford Body Shop (horrible service) in Mexico--I was told I would have to pay and then get reimbursed for it--never happened--even after a dealer in the U.S. consistently sent in the paperwork and was consistently denied because the hood is aluminum--so according to Ford, it's "impossible" for corrosion to have occurred--although it's an obvious fault in the original paintwork.

- tdepew, Electric City, WA, US

problem #6

May 012009

Explorer ELT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,500 miles


The hood started bubbling and peeling a couple of years ago, when I took it to my dealer the response was that the warranty only covers perforation due to corrosion. As it got worse I tried again but by that time the warranty had expired. I called and emailed Ford Customer service and was told that there was nothing they would do. The most frustrating thing is that Ford doesn't seem to think that I should be upset, in their view I guess the paint falling off a car after 4-5 years in acceptable. I (just this week) traded in my other Ford. a 1997 Taurus SHO for a Camry and as soon as that is paid for the Explorer will go too. I have owned nothing but Ford vehicles for the past 15 years but will never own another.

For others having this problem I would suggest an aftermarket hood, it will come with a 5 year warranty instead of the 3 years for a genuine Ford hood and my body shop says they have significantly fewer problems with these hoods (also a couple hundred dollars cheaper.

There is no question in my mind that this is a manufacturing defect and it is very common in both the 2002 and 2003 models.

- tb_chaska, Excelsior, MN, US

problem #5

Aug 022006

Explorer Eddie Baur V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

P.O.S. Ford. This is one of so many problems with this Explorer. I am the original owner, and I babied this thing. Major P.O.S. and Ford will not stand by their vehicle.

NEVER AGAIN will I buy a Ford.

- xxbillxx, Stratham, NH, US

problem #4

Jul 042006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 300,000 miles

I had paint bubbles at the very front of the hood all the way across. I had my whole hood stripped and repainted under warranty and now (2 years later) it is starting again. This is the sixth major problem I've had with this truck. I will not buy another FORD.

- kaybee50, West Bountiful, UT, US

problem #3

Jul 142006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

I have seen many explorers with the same problem and I am waiting for Ford to make a recall on this issue. Hopefully I do not have to pay to fix it.

- humberto, Harlingen, TX, US

problem #2

Mar 172007

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 28,000 miles

Front edge of aluminum hood had paint bubbling up and then flaking off.

- Duane W., Fairview Park, OH, US

problem #1

Jan 272008

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

Great dealer service department discovered small paint bubble on the edge of the hood while doing other work. Zone rep authorized replacement of hood. This, of course, required painting of new hood and blending into fenders. Any repaint reduces resale value. I'm grateful to the dealer for noticing it; I'm sure I wouldn't have spotted it until the warranty had passed. Who knew aluminum could corrode?

- Kenneth T., Flushing, NY, US

Not what you are looking for?