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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
66,554 miles
Total Complaints:
37 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (13 reports)
  2. repaint hood and roof (10 reports)
  3. re-paint hood (9 reports)
  4. repaint (5 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #17

Jul 152009

Explorer LT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


The paint is peeling on the front edge of the hood and the roof rail sections. Disappointed with the truck in general. Would not but another.

- , Roanoke, V, USA

problem #16

Aug 012006


  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

I purchased this car in Ohio. The car came from Michigan per report that I paid for on the internet. The vehicle was a leased vehicle when it was wrecked. Ok, I am over that part. This is a black Explorer and about 2 or more months after it was purchased, I started seeing these spots (the clear coat was coming off). When I took it back to Buckeye Ford, they said there was nothing they could do. My loan was for 5 years and by then I could do nothing. The paint job sucks and from reading other complaints, Ford should know by now. What does Ford stand for...Fix or Repair Daily? Thanks for nothing Ford.

- , Columbus, OH, USA

problem #15

Jan 012007

Explorer XLT 4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

I like how after the warranty expires the paint starts peeling. I took it to the dealership where I bought it and they called Ford and said they would call me back after they hear back from Ford. I NEVER received a call back and the dealership is no longer in business.

- , Mentor, OH, USA

problem #14

Jan 152009

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


Large area of rust (12 inch x 12 inch) on front and center of roof. Paint peels easily away from the roof. Problem extends all the way down the length of the roof, mostly in the grooves that run down the roof.

This problem must be a paint defect. There is no other explanation for it. I read a service bulletin about aluminum parts that were contaminated with iron. Not sure if this includes the roof.

- , Tampa, FL, US

problem #13

Jan 012007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

I did research over the last 18 months. Every 2003 Ford Explorer XLT I saw (with same paint color as mine), I saw paint bubbling and/or chipping on both driver and passenger corners of hoods. I wrote down VIN #s and submitted to Ford (warranty, dealer, etc). Ford refused to acknowledge my complaint and investigation results. I have seen over a dozen vehicle within Michigan with this same issue. I was shocked to only see 12 complaints so far on this website. I think more of us customers need to address Ford. I have owned/leased 5 Ford Explorer products. I have had other minor issues that I have "let go". I am furious that Ford would not correct this issue. I will NEVER buy another Ford product. I will be submitting other issues on this same vehicle (visor fabric tuck issue, seat belt retainer -fabric tuck issue, paint peeling on outside trim between all doors and around windows, plastic exterior trim is fading. This is ridiculous !!!! I work with someone who has the exact same vehicle -but different color. His vehicle has the exact same issues. I am very disappointed - where is the customer satisfaction?

- , Zeeland, MI, USA

problem #12

Jun 142007

Explorer LX 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

My truck looks like sh*t. I thought maybe it had been wrecked and the replacement paint was the problem. I had my body guy look at it and that's not the case. Fords paint just sucks!!!

- , Scottsville, KY, USA

problem #11

Jul 142006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles


Paint is peeling off on the front side of the hood and also in the bottom side of the front doors

- , Harlingen, TX, USA

problem #10

May 012008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

Hood appears to be rusting , except its made of aluminum I think. The paint bubbles up and peels. Once the bubbling starts, the paint has absolutely no adhesion. It does not seem to be primed either.

It is 2008, is it too much to ask for Ford to know how to put and keep paint on a car?Guys, if you need help why don't you ask the people at Toyota or Honda or anyone else.This is on top of the mystery crack that appeared on my rear window hatch.Ford dealer said that they had never heard of this problem before. That will probably be their response to this flaw as well.

- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #9

Feb 252006

Explorer 100TH V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Funny I stumbled upon this website. I have had paint peeling in little specks on my Explorer for years now and never thought much of it other than maybe it's the bad weather or rocks may have hit it (even tho I don't recall 50 rocks hitting the front of my car) or something other than a manufacture defect. I see now that I'm not the only one. I have paint peeling in little spots ALL over the front bumper of my Explorer. I have never gotten it fixed because I figured it would cost too much, especially for something I can't explain. Thanks to all for your posts.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #8

Jun 012006

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

This car is only 5 years old and for no apparent reason, little spots on the front of the hood are bubbling and peeling. The car is in great shape except for that!

- , Fairfield, NJ, USA

problem #7

Jul 032007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 18,641 miles


Paint peeled off starting from inside hem of aluminum hood with the primer still attached to the paint!

- , Keswick, Ontario, Canada

problem #6

Jul 152007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Our 2003 Explorer started bubbling on the hood about a foot and a half long. This is on the passenger side, right where you pick up the hood. My husband heard from an employee that he too had the same problem with his 2003 Explorer. I think there should be a recall on this. There isn't any rust there, only paint missing and bubbles underneath the undercoat.

- , Keego Harbor, MI, USA

problem #5

Feb 012007

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles

This paint peeling and corrosion seems to be a defect with the Ford Explorers and Expeditions. I saw chanel 5 consumer watch did a segment on this on going problem Ford has been having with the paint. You would think some sort of recall would have been done to come up with a corrective and actions so as to prevent this on going issue. The amount of money these trucks cost, no one should have to put up with this!

- , El Sobrante, CA, USA

problem #4

May 092007

Explorer EB 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Paint on the hood is peeling off and a large rust bubble has formed. Paint along the the roof rack peeled of for the entire length of the roof on both sides. Finish around the center of all rims peeled of and rusting. $2700 estimate for repairs. All this in a 4 yr old vehicle!!

- , Amherstburg, ON, Canada

problem #3

Nov 072007

(reported on)

Explorer EB 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 34,000 miles

Sheet metal was not properly treated before painting. Paint would bubble and then peel on the front of the hood. It is not rusting yet, but it looks pathetic. Ford would not cover because I am the second owner. Even though it was still under warranty.

- , Appleton, WI, USA

problem #2

Oct 292007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

my 2003 explorer has the paint on the front of the hood is from corrosion..i took it to my dealer and it says it looks like the hood never had some sort of clear coat on that and now it is rusting...however, this problem came from Ford, but they say it is NOT under warranty.

- , Madison, MO, USA

problem #1

Apr 302007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I categorized this as "really awful" because the paint has peeled down to the metal, which invites rust and deterioration of the entire surface. This vehicle has never been in an accident and is garaged in the winter. There is absolutely no good reason other than it is a manufacturer defect.

- , Groton, MA, USA

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