Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. 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:
75,989 miles
Total Complaints:
540 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (222 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (143 reports)
  3. not sure (101 reports)
  4. replace the panel (28 reports)
  5. need a redesigned tailgate (22 reports)
  6. ford needs to pay for being fixed (13 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 15 of 27)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #260

Jan 132010

Explorer XL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles


I take excellent care of my cars. This 2003 Ford Explorer has been a lemon. The rear end, I found out later, is causing problems for everybody. I have had it fixed twice. Last week I went to the garage and looked at the back tailgate and there is a crack vertically in the plastic below the window. What a surprise when I went online to find out that lots of people are having the same problem. I think Ford should offer to fix the problem they have designed. I will not buy another Ford product.

- , Tega Cay, SC, USA

problem #259

Jan 172010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer with the crack in the back panel next to the emblem. I came out to my car and it was cracked. I called the 800 number that Ford gave me to call and they told me there is no recall and the part. There are several thousand people with this same complaint. The local body shop told me that the problem is in Fords design of the panel. They have "0" reiforcement next to the emblem to close the door which is right in the middle of the door, where normal people push to close it.

Very dissatisfied with Ford & seriously question weather to buy another ford product.

- , Marlborough, NH, USA

problem #258

Dec 292009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I had no idea this was a common problem. Like the other 200 plus folks that have registered, I too have the large crack down the back rear panel under the rear window to the left of the Ford Logo. My In-Law's that have the same explorer, but a newer model were shocked when I told them about my crack so went to go look at their vehicle and guess what?.... they too have the same crack, but on the right side of the logo. As many of you know, calling Ford to register the complaint does no good. I've also registered both complaints with the NHTSA and plan to report to the Federal Trade Commission. It's rediculous that hundreds of folks have this problem, but no action has been taken. My key long term concern is that the window will fall out, or back hatch be compromised and keep opening.

- , Mt. Pleasant, SC, USA

problem #257

Jan 042010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 121,500 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I have seen this issue on many many Explorers of this body style. I have already been to a Ford dealer and they did depreciate the trade-in value of the vehicle for this even though they also admitted that this is a know issue for the model!

- , Huntsville, AL, USA

problem #256

Dec 292009

Explorer XLT V6 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

I came out of work and saw the crack and could not believe my eyes.I have never seen anything like it.I have just started to figure out the fix on it.Ford needs to make this right and replace this panel at no cost.This is a deffect in their workmanship.I take pride in my vehicle and this looks like sh*t at no fault of anyone but ford motor company.Come on Ford back your product and do the right thing and replace these defective panels

- , Poolesville, MD, USA

problem #255

Aug 122008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

I am out-and-out shocked at the Experts and Engineering Geniuses at Ford Motor Company. The engineer or designer should be fired along with the departmental employees that participated in the flawed plastic design centered around the Ford Logo on the lift gate. In my scientific research it seems as though the window is encased in the plastic and the indent of the plastic that supports the Ford Logo is the major cause in the weakening of the plastic. We in America promote idols and marketing while sacrificing quality. Then the major companies fail to back their respective design and product when it fails to perform.. My initial crack in the lift gate was just one-half of the plastic. We just went through a few cold spells with the first ice storm. The crack filled with water during the ice storm and froze. As the ice expanded you get the picture…so did the crack. The crack has also extended to the bottom half of the logo. A few months back, I was traveling behind another Explorer and noticed they had the same crack. It is time for Ford Motor Company to step up the Consumer and back their product or take any reference of the word quality out of their ads, commercials, and any other outward reaching communication.

- , Gaithersburg, MD, USA

problem #254

Jul 022007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Crack below rear window happened a couple of years ago. Obviously when the rear window is closed, the pressure exerted on the Ford emblem flexes and then finally cracks the plastic molding. Ford should have recalled the vehicle and placed a plastic "shim" underneath the molding as support.

- , Clovis, CA, USA

problem #253

Mar 102009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles seen several ford explorers with this same problem with crack in the same area. Ford should recall and repair.

- , Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #252

Dec 102009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Fourth major problem with the Explorer, total cost to repair is more $5,000. Sure they want to sell the extended warranty...wouldn't be better to make a better Vehicle? One that will last?

- , Pleasanton, CA, USA

problem #251

Dec 102009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

This seems to be a defect in the rear panel that ford should take care of without charging the customer. If enough people complain to ford maybe they will see the light. This is not my problem. Ford needs to recall and repair.

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #250

Nov 252009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles


faulty designed plastic,ford should fix it.HOLD THE EXCEC.'S PERK $

- , Freehold, NJ, USA

problem #249

Nov 212009

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I was extremely annoyed to find this crack in my rear panel, and wanted to know HOW this could have happened, (I was blaming people, trying to figure out who could of hit me etc.)..Now I come to this website and find out that not only is it a VERY common problem that happens all on it's own, it is also a costly problem in which Ford won't stand behind it's vehicle!!! I'm super ticked now. That's all I have to say, and NO! I Don't FEEL BETTER .

- , D, OK, USA

problem #248

Nov 272009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

I noticed other Explorers with the same problem but never had an issue until the other day. After closing the back hatch on a recent cold day, the hatch panel cracked. Unfortunately it is not a straight line crack. It splits into two cracks and then merges into one. It looks terrible and expect better from a Ford product.

- , Hopkinsville, KY, USA

problem #247

Nov 132009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

A crack in the rear window panel of my 2003 Ford Explorer just appeared. I hadn't realized the magnitude of this problem until I researched it online. Just wanted to register my complaint here to add to the many other reports about this problem. Maybe Ford will notice, but I doubt it.

- , Mer, TX, USA

problem #246

Feb 142007

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles

Like ever one else, and many others I see on the road. My issue, it he hatch panel cracked, at 37K, and guess what Ford stepped up to the plate and fixed it for just a small amount if co pay. Now at 70K it cracked again, this time even worse, the paint chipped at the crack, and left a ugly spot. Now I was impressed, with the repair job and I had just stated that it had not cracked again, with in days, and a hot summer day is when it cracked again. It must be a continuous heating and cooling cycle that weakens the panel. Of course that does not help with solving many peoples problems so Ford should step up and offer a fix, and if I walk onto a Ford lot and they say to me the panel needs to be fixed and we must allow for that in trade estimates, my next step is Nissan or Toyota

Update from Dec 5, 2009: Just when I thought, the crack was awful, Now this morning a second crack has formed on opposite side of the FORD emblem. Ford needs to offer a fix for this, maybe just a patch or a covering that looks like some steel or something. I would complain more but have had very good success with the SUV mechanically. Still, the Crack needs a Ford commitment to fix it in some way to keep me as a customer.

- , Summerfield, FL, USA

problem #245

Jun 012009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

Same story as everyone else on this subject. Crack down the rear hatch on my '03 Explorer. Called Ford Customer Service a month ago and asked if it was recalled yet, or if there was anything they could do. They said I had to have it checked at the local dealer before they could help. Knowing that most people weren't getting them to resolve anything, I specifically asked "If I go to the local dealer, and they tell me I have a cracked rear hatch, and I call you back...can you then do something for me? Otherwise, I won't waste my time going down there." She responded with yes. Well, after spending the 2 hours to take my car to the dealer, and then calling Ford customer service back...they responded with "Sorry, nothing we can do." Car is no longer under warranty.

I'm more than disappointed in Ford. As many others have stated, no wonder why they are having the problems they are. I can assure you, unless they resolve this issue to my satisfaction, my next car will NOT be a Ford.

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #244

Sep 272008

Explorer LTD V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

My Explorer has been such a great, totally trouble-free vehicle, except for the 1-inch crack that my daughter discovered about a year ago and now has about 1-inch to totally crack across the back panel. We have (sadly) postponed my wife's purchase of an MKT Lincoln until Ford observes the simple courtesy and responds to such a simple "fix". It is the principle of this matter which should have been taken care of on day 1, or 2, or ... But please, Ford, do not abandon your customers.

- , Las Cruces, NM, USA

problem #243

Jun 122009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

I have joined the ranks of Ford Explorer owners with the cracked liftgate. I went out one morning to find it "just happened". Since that time I have taken pictures of ALL the other Explorer owners that have the same problem. THERE ARE ALOT OF US OUT THERE. This is obviously a design defect that Ford needs to "own up to". It devalues our vehicle through no fault of our own. Since my car is getting up there in age, I am thinking about a new car and with this unanswered problem, I find Ford a big turn off and would not readily consider replacing it with another Ford. I will be happy to group together to insist Ford repair this at their cost since it is apparent that this repair is not due to anything the owner has done wrong-it is a DESIGN FLAW

- , Matawan, NJ, USA

problem #242

Jul 012007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

2003 Ford Explorer XLT has cracked hatch. 40,000 miles and still under warranty and Ford would not replace. Told it was a common problem and would cost me 2,000-3,000 to replace.

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #241

Nov 012006

Explorer Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles

I was on line looking for a do-it -yourself fix to the long crack above my trunk and found it was a common thing for this vehicle. I found this crack a couple years ago. I started trying to fix it then let it go. It distracts from the look of my car. I also am afraid to use the back panel door because I thought opening and closing it was what may have caused it. I was also remembering the recall for the back window. Now I know this has to be a factory defect. Saying it isn't a danger doesn't make it right. I have always brought a ford and so had my parents. This will be my last one with this attitude. No wonder they are in trouble. People would always kid me about what they say about what F-O-R-D means (fix or repair daily or Ford backwards is D-R-O-F Drive-in return on foot). Now I am starting to agree. They dont need another bail-out They need to make better cars and take car of their customers.

- , San Antonio, TX, USA

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