Notes: The 2002 Ford Explorer is hands-down our worst vehicle 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:
79,067 miles
Total Complaints:
621 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should pay for it (396 reports)
  2. not sure (86 reports)
  3. paid to have rear panel replaced (48 reports)
  4. file complaint with NHTSA to get a recall issued (26 reports)
  5. start a class action suit and get damages reimbursed (17 reports)
  6. dealership replaced the entire panel (10 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 6 of 32)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #521

Jun 102008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


This crack in the rear panel was there when I bought it. I had the vehicle at a car wash and the panel flew off.

- , Concord, MI, USA

problem #520

Mar 152010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I too had the cracked rear panel issue - and then what happened because of that crack really put me thru the roof because this issue is so common and yet Ford refuses to acknowledge it! Water seeped in thru the crack and eventually caused the latch to completely rust and break off so there was no way to latch it closed and no way to reattach just the latch. It cost over $1000 to replace the panel and latch....VERY frustrating! I had thought it was mainly a cosmetic issue so wasn't planning on getting the crack repaired and I didn't think so much that water would seep in like it did and damage the latch but it did. I will attach pictures eventually but I wanted to let other people know about what happened - they might want to consider getting the panel fixed before it makes the issue worse like what happened to me!

- , Maplewood, MN, USA

problem #519

Jan 232012

Explorer Limited 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 205,600 miles

From all I have read, this is a long standing and continuing problem. As a result of the cracking on my car, I have started observing other Explorers and find the problem to be quite common. Ford needs to issue a recall and repair and correct the problem.

- , Diamondhead, MS, USA

problem #518

Jan 022011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles


The rear lift gate is cracked in 2 places under the window. At some point it will start leaking into the back of the vehicle. It is cosmetically ugly. Ford needs to establish a recall!!!

- , Leesburg, VA, USA

problem #517

May 202009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

See the same problem on similar model Explorers all the time. Such an obvious design flaw should have been caught pre-production.

- , Fairfax, VA, USA

problem #516

Feb 252011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,500 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

This panel cracked once before, when the vehicle was still under warranty, and Ford replaced it. Now that the warranty is long expired they refuse to fix it, even though it is clearly a defective part. Since they already fixed it once, but it didn't last, I feel they should try again. The prior repair was when the vehicle only had 15,000 miles on it.

- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #515

Dec 162010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

the first crack occurred dec.16, 2010. I parked the SUV in the garage. the next morning I noticed the crack. It was NOT there when I parked it. I complained to a FORD hotline and they acknowledged that there was a problem but apparently they did not have enough problems to warrant a recall. I could not bellieve the %%$#$% answer.

Then this past Sunday Jan. 15, 2012, a beautiful day in GA, I did wash the SUV and rinsed it. Then I went inside to get a drink and go back out to wipe it dry. That is when I saw another friggin crack on the left side of the emblem. I know it was NOT there when I started washing the vehicle. I am really pissed with FORD and their answer in the first place and I am sure I will NEVER buy another FORD again unless they tsake care and fix this problem. Thank you for listening. Now I have TWO friggin cracks, just lovely.

Update from Nov 12, 2014: well the transmission lunging is another thing that does happen, can scare the hell out of you unless you KNOW it is a FORD problem.

Then once in a while while sitting at idle at a light the engine just cuts out. Restart it and it works fine maybe for a week, a month, 3 months. Noone can find what the problem is.


problem #514

Aug 312010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


- , League City, TX, USA

problem #513

Jan 092012

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,300 miles

I was shocked to see this crack. Vertical crack on the right side of the FORD emblem from top to bottom of the rear hatch below the window. Dealer says they've had quite a few. Ford played stupid. Spoke with Joel Mendez, Ford Motor Co Manager at (877) 785-3673. Said "keep the repair receipt in case there's a recall in the future". Yeah, right. FORD SHOULD PAY!! It is ugly and now I'm angry I bought a Ford. My Toyota 4Runner was awesome!

Only have 70K miles, and vehicle is garaged all the time. No, I didn't hit anything in the middle of the rear hatch, you Ford morons!

- , San Dimas, CA, USA

problem #512

Jan 052012

Explorer XLT 4.0lV6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 176,029 miles

Since ford is aware that this seems to be a major problem with explorers between the years of 2002-2005 I feel they should step forward and do the right thing and repair their poor design instead of making their consumers pay because if they continue this practice they might not have too many consumers left!

- , Linden, NJ, USA

problem #511

Sep 172011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles


I have experience working with a similar situation for another automotive brand where a panel on the rear tailgate was cracking similarly. In a small percentage of the cases a piece of the panel would come off of the car while in motion. This became a situation where immediate action was required and testing was needed to prove the garnish met the required FMVSS standards after the initial testing.

Has this information been requested from Ford and become public knowledge?

I understand the complaints about this being an aesthetic issue (as my explorer has the same failure), but unless this poses a hazard to the general public while in motion Ford is not required to do anything. If there are cases where the panel is breaking into pieces and coming off of the car then the NHTSA and Ford will have to act.

Has anyone experienced this happening?

- , Greenville, SC, USA

problem #510

May 012004

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

Didn't bother me at first until I started seeing a lot of other Explorer's with the same ugly crack running down the panel. Looks like a lot of other Ford owner's felt the expense of having it repaired out weighed the problem. Just seems like it should have been a recall since there are so many Ford Explorer's running around with what clearly is a manufacturing defect. Strike two for Ford on my part.

- , Jimmy Byington, TN, USA

problem #509

Dec 032010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

I have contacted Ford Customer Service and sent them piuctures. They told me this is the first time ever they hear about this kind of problem with Explorer. When I took it to the Ford dealer they said this is a pretty common problem with Explorers. 465 complains on this website prove this too. I am even more disappointed with Ford now because they not only make poor quality vehicles, but also deny and try to hide it.

- , Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, US

problem #508

Jan 152004

Explorer XLT 4x4 4.0L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window

The defect affects the quality and resale of the vehicle - Ford Quality is #1 - NOT!

- , Park Ridge, IL, USA

problem #507

Jun 152004

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window

We see this crack on almost all Explorers from 2001 to 2005 model years.Looks like Ford would do a replacement or good repair on this.I have seen enough of them to make a class action lawsuit but the dam lawyers would get all the money just like they did in the Firestone lawsuit.It's not fair to loyal customers to have this happen to them.I won't be buying any more Ford's in my future because of this.I have posted pictures for your viewing pleasure.I used to love my explorer until I started dealing with Ford and our dealer's owner at Jones Ford in Shallotte,N.C.Not one of them would own up to a problem.The dealer would not even fix it under warranty.They said it wasn't covered.B.S. It was covered and when it went out of warranty Ford wouldn't do anything by that time!It was all a big run around until it went out of warranty.Look at my pictures, it will look all to familiar to all of you having the same problem!

- , Little River, SC, USA

problem #506

Jun 052011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

Stinks to get your truck all nicely washed and then see a crack which no one person caused.

- , Coggon, IA, USA

problem #505

Nov 032011

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,000 miles

If Quality is Number 1 then make a product that lasts or at least fix those that don't!!

- , Parker, CO, USA

problem #504

Oct 292011

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,800 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

The rear panel under the rear glass cracked after five months, this was five months after I picked it up brand new in July 2002. The dealership replaced the lift door with a new one. Now eight years later it cracked again. This is obviously a design issue with the plastic panel and Ford should own up to it and replace. My '02 Explorer does not have a scratch or dent in the black paint. In the 40 years of driving I have always owned Fords and this defect is about to drive me away.

- , Lincoln, NE, USA

problem #503

Dec 102003

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

This vehicle looks and performs great and I really wasn't sure of who was at fault until my friend who has the same model showed me his and they were a carbon copy of each other. I feel that Ford should be held responsible for the repair or replacement of the problem !

- , Newport, MI, USA

problem #502

Aug 252005

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

like everyone else, my rear panel cracked. Started w/ a small horizontal crack, then formed a T-shape. Went to dealers (more than one) and was told I must have hit something. That's good, a crack but no dents or peeling paint. Who can possibly hit something w/ that part tof the car. Thought mine was the only one til I saw another in the train station. Now I see them everywhere!

- , Huntington Station, NY, US

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