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.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
70,517 miles
Total Complaints:
10 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace rims (7 reports)
  2. not sure (2 reports)
  3. replaced under warranty (1 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer wheels / hubs problems

wheels / hubs problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #10

Jan 012006

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


This was a Fathers Day gift to our father in 2003. Aprox 3.5 years later we notice the chrome starting to flake on one wheel. so small my father ignored it and went on.

Fast forward to now.

Turns out my mother took over the truck (dad stuck on his old beater) and the chrome on all 4 wheels have peeled pretty bad. The entire center of all wheels has peeled completely and very close to the where the spokes start.

I know its been through some rough days here in Chicago but I don't think this is suppose to happen.. I have not contacted dealer or Ford but am looking for any stories of people having any type of luck with Ford.

- , Chicago, IL, US

problem #9

Jan 012011

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,778 miles

2003 ford explorer chrome wheels peeling. HUGE Safety issue.1/18/2011 2:42 PM (PST)I have issues with my chrome rims peeling on my 03 explorer. First, this crap is very sharp and will slice u like a razor blade. Be careful when cleaning this scrap. Secondly, as a result of the peeling my tire would not seal properly around the rim and as a result I ened up with a flat in the middle of no where in -24 weather. Nearly froze to death walking for help. I tried to get it repaired an no one will touch that rim or any of the others as this problem is infact a safety issue. In otherwords....... junk the rims and buy new. Welllllllll......... I contacted ford... and of course the same old same old. They take no responsibility for their scrap and claim they have had no complaints of this issue. This is a serious safety issue and if you are experiencing your chrome peeling I urge you to contact ford and document the problem. No ford product is worth more than the safety of our family or ourselves. Ford has more money than god and can step up to protect their customers from crappy a$$ rims and potential death as a result of blow outs. I am livid and will stop at nothing to get my rims replaced I hope u will to. CALL THEM AND MAKE SOME NOISE. Or sit back and do nothing and risk your life or your families, this is very serious. They will not do anything about it until complaints are made. Don't come to a forum and complain CALL THEM. I cant emphasize how important this is.

Good luck.... buy a Chevy and stay safe! I know I wont be buying ford again!


- , Edmonton, Alberta, canada

problem #8

Oct 012005

Explorer Limited 4.8L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I think ford should replace these wheels they are a safety hazzard if the wheels corrode in two or you split your hand open while trying to clean the damn things because that chrome that is peeling off is damn sharp!

- , Thornville, OH, USA

problem #7

Jun 082010

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


All 4 chrome wheels of my 2003 Ford Explorer Centennial are missing the hubs. At 50000 miles I decided to replace the tires. The mechanic had to beat the tires off and could not replace the hubs due to damage resulting from major corrosion in the wheel. This could end up being a safety problem and you surely you will not be able to change a flat because the wheels will not come off. I called Ford to report this and was told that it is not covered and that it was not a recall issue.

- , New Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #6

Jun 012010

Explorer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

The corrosion in the aluminum wheel at the hub is very deep. The chrome was starting to peel when I washed the car and I took off the wheel to see what the cause was. The pitting in the aluminum is about 1/4" deep. I need to replace all four wheels as the one I looked at does not look safe based upon the depth and amount of the corrosion. Two others have the same issue with the chrome. The cause looks to be a bad anodizing of the aluminum during manufacture as I have never seen this before with other cars that were older.

It is a bit like the old doge cars in the 70's where the government made Dodge replace all the fenders due to rusting but this time it is a safety issue. last thing ford needs is to have explorers with wheels that fall off causing the cars to flip over.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #5

Sep 162009

Explorer EB 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

I can not believe the rims are all corroding...bad ford design of dissimilar metals....good luck...

- , Cumberland Center, ME, US

problem #4

Jul 012009

Explorer 100th Anniversary 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


All 4 wheels are chrome plated. The plating starting flaking 6 months ago and then the tires kept going soft. Had the shop take of the rubber and the rims were corroded so badly they spent 2 hours grinding and making the contact surface acceptable to put the tires back on but....with no guarantees they would not leak.

Alloy wheels are expensive and the ford dealer would not cover them...outside the 3 year period....

Latent defects in manufacture and fitment cause thes wheels to prematurely corrode and crack. Ford should recall them before someone loses their life in a highway accident due to fractured wheels.

- , Ottawa, ON, Canada

problem #3

Jan 222009

Explorer LTD V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,390 miles

I suspected that the chrome was starting to peel earlier last year, even though I kept them clean and sealed. Since it was conveiniently out of warranty not Ford's problem. It was just this past bad winter that it just got really bad because of road salt. I could have probably lived with it on the outside except for the fact that it had become so bad on the inside that it effected the tires & flakes were hitting the calipers,etc., now I do have to replace tires & rims because of an unsuspected slow leak one night that caused me to run almost flat on the highway in the middle of the night, good thing I carry a 12v tire pump. Finding out did have a benefit... my mechanic noticed that my front passenger wheel bearing was shot and the others not far behind (another rant to come). So, instead of finding some new rims I had to replace a front wheel bearing, only 3 more to go. Great going Ford

- , Hamilton, ON, Canada

problem #2

May 142008

Explorer Limited 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

All 4 chrome wheels on my 2003 Explorer Limited "Centennial" model are cracked at the hub where they get mounted onto the car. They are 18" wheels, and are the top of the line. I need new tires, and the tire dealer will not mount new tires onto the vehicle because they say this is an extreme safety hazard, and the wheels need replaced. I've already replaced one wheel in 2007, and it is also shot. They cost over $400 each. I haven't been to a Ford dealer yet. Anyone else have this problem?

- , Erie, PA, US

problem #1

Feb 202007

(reported on)

Explorer Limited 4.0 V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Brought car in due to excessive road noise. Dealer replaced rear wheel bearings. Brought vehicle in a second time with same issue. Dealer replaced front wheel bearings and a leaky front axle seal. The noise problem would improve and then return. Decided to replace the tires thinking they were the culprit, but during that process, the tire dealer pointed out that there were stress fractures in all four of the high-end chrome wheels around the lug nuts. The Ford dealer replaced these wheels (otherwise it would have cost me about $1800). They said that they have seen this before but there is not a recall, which concerns me since the wheels seem to have been close to failing structurally. It make sense that these wheels, being slightly out of true due to the cracks, would ruin bearings and a set of tires. These items were not covered by the warranty (mine expired) and cost me about $1500.

This problem and the cracked rear window body has led me to a new 2007 Toyota Sequoia with an extended warranty. See ya, Ford.

- , Cincinnati, OH, USA

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