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 17 of 27)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #220

May 252005

Explorer XLS 4.0L L6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


Yet another example of something not caring about the product they offer. It's such a shame. No more Fords... EVER!

- , Honesdale, PA, USA

problem #219

Dec 042007

Explorer XLT 4.0L Ff V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

What can I say ? Broken engine, broken a/c after just 60,000 miles. Couldn't care less about cracked body work as am having to sell what's left of the car for a pittance and will never buy Ford again. Ford should be ashamed of treating people like this -when there are multiple common complaints for the same problems and yet they managed to fix these in later versions of the car - surely this admits liability and they owe Explorer owners of 2002/2003 versions recompense?

- , Gainesville, FL, USA

problem #218

Sep 302009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I talked to a body shop owner who said several of these similar models have come into his shop with the same problem and no explanation for why it is happening. There should definitely be a recall and fixture on the part of FORD. This is not good for the look of the vehicle especially if one should ever wish to sell. When several of these continue to show up that is not quality on Ford's part.

- , Taylorsville, NC, USA

problem #217

May 012009

Explorer ES 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles


The rear window panel has a crack below window in the middle FORD logo. Just came out and noticed it the other day. Oh did I mention the entire rear door assembly/tail gate fell off..... A hinge had come loose. Glad I had about 10 bungie cords in the car to hold it on. My electrical system is a mess on hot and humid days even with a new battery,cabin light stays on so I have to remove the bulb. About twice a week the system re-sets ??

- , Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #216

Sep 102007

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

The panel between my rear glass is cracked completely. Afraid to use rear lift gate as I feel it may fall off.

- , Jasper, FL, USA

problem #215

Nov 042008

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles

Ford had a recall on the panel window. Sent it off to fix it. When my car was ready, i didn't notice the crack under the glass down the line. I took it back to ford to find out what happened to my car. The reply was, we have no way of knowing if it was caused back at the dealership. I will never buy another ford in my life. I tried to support our maker. Back to foreign cars i go

Signed a very pissed off customer

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #214

Feb 032009

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,999 miles


just pull workmanship !fading paint around the top doors, cracked tailgate ! ajar door alarm !

- , Scotch Plains, NJ, USA

problem #213

Apr 302009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

Ours has been cracked for a long time, so I'm not sure when it occurred. I think everyone who reads these posts, and has the same problem, needs to take the time to register on this site (although time consuming), and add their complaint. There is often power in numbers, and when this problem has thousands of posts on this site, maybe Ford will get the ball rolling.

- , Euless, TX, USA

problem #212

Mar 012009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Returned from a deployment from Iraq to find that my back glass was cracked under the rear window which i have already had replaced once. I think ford should recall those windows from the manufacturer and replace them with new ones. and since it has cracked my door is open light will not go out and i have to manual turn off interior lights.

- , Jacksonville, NC, USA

problem #211

Feb 032009

Explorer Limited 4.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

The back panel is cracked under the window. "Poor workmanship and inferior parts" that should be Ford's new slogan!!! This is a big hit to the resale value bu not worth fixing. I will never buy another Ford.

- , Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #210

May 012008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


I have the extended warranty which I paid extra for and Ford still did not cover this defect. I own five Fords but this will most likely be my last. I understand engine issues but body parts should never crack for no reason! It seriously makes me second guess the "quality" of Ford cars. You would think in this economy Ford would have much better customer service on issues such as this!!!!

- , Montrose, CA, USA

problem #209

Apr 042007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

Same as all the others. The magical Ford Fairy visited last week and... POOF!!- broken panel. No wonder they abandoned their slogan from a few years back- "Quality is Job #1". Riiiiiight. Good luck in finding another sucker, uhm, I mean customer to replace me. Trust me, it's not just over a $400 Band-Aid repair to fix this issue. I have a laundry list I can share with those with insomnia. Too bad I won't have the vehicle when they issue the recall so I can take it back to my oh so friendly Ford dealer. I won't miss that while cruising around town in my reliable Yugo.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #208

Jan 222007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles

Was happy with my Explorer until I noticed that the plastic panel below the rear window was cracked top to bottom just to the right of the Ford logo. At 44K miles the vehicle is beyond the original warranty but I hoped that it might be covered under the Ford ESP extended warranty that I had bought. with the car. The dealer told me that they had seen many similar cracks all near the Ford logo but that there was nothing they could do as it was not covered under the any warranty and Ford had not issued any service bulletins regarding this problem. I am very unhappy as it is going to cost me $600 to fix what is clearly a design flaw. This is the last Ford vehicle I will ever buy.

- , La Habra, CA, USA

problem #207

Mar 122008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

We noticed the crack soon after the warranty had expired, how convenient. We took the car to our local dealer who informed us that there was nothing that Ford could do, the vehicle was out of warranty - cost of repair, about $700.

We have since noticed many other Explorers with the same problem. The plastic is glued to the glass and the two materials expand and contract at different rates during heating and cooling, hence the crack is inevitable. Ford must know that this was a poor design that impacts the resale value of the vehicle. If they stood by their promises of claiming to support their customers, they would deal with this, but presumably it will cost them too much...They should realize that in the long run, they will lose out because customers will turn to other manufacturers - wake up Ford. We want to support a US product, but you seem to leave us little choice!

- , Columbia, SC, USA

problem #206

Jan 042009

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

This piece is definitely a defect and makes it very hard to open the hatch back, very very annoying! Ford should cover all these pieces that are cracking and braking on their trucks...Ford is supposed to be American made, Quality, they should back their product!!!!

- , Landing, NJ, USA

problem #205

Nov 112008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

Panel is cracked and I see lots of Ford Explorers on the road with the same problem and it is horrible that Ford is not doing a recall to fix this defect!

- , Landing, NJ, USA

problem #204

Apr 132009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

The rear window panel had a crack below window in the middle when I called Ford to complain. They told me that it was $700 to repair and wasn't covered by warranty and also that it wasn't their fault, and maybe I did something to break it. I told them I had seen a lot of Explorers with the same problem and they just said they had not heard of it and if I wanted it fixed I would have to pay.

- , San Jose, CA, USA

problem #203

Jan 012008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

After reading all the posts on this site, I started looking closely whenever I saw another 2002-2004 vintage Explorer on the road. I'd say about 50% of them have some kind of crack (some worse than mine) in the trim area below the rear window on the lift-gate either right through the Ford emblem or next to it.

We had a bad rear-end accident in late 2005 and surprisingly the only thing that survived on the rear end was the glass window/lift-gate assembly. The door was replaced, door-frame repaired, and the bumper replaced.

By late 2007 - early 2008 we started seeing a crack in the trim around the Ford emblem below the rear window. Until I saw the volume of complaints on this problem I assumed it was caused by the accident (even though this trim area was completely untouched).

Ours has become so bad that during a heavy rain water leaks in the crack and gets into the latch assembly. Sometimes if you open the window after it rains, when it closes, the sensor says it's still open because the sensor has water on it and is shorted out... so then you can't arm the alarm after you shut it off and close all the doors.

I'd love to see someone post a complaint that explains how to get Ford to fix this for free.

- , Burke, VA, USA

problem #202

Mar 242009

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,400 miles

This seems to be a common problem. Is there a way to get Ford to repair this obvious flaw with this body panel? We've spent our money on their product. They should treat us as I treat my customers and do whatever it takes to make things right. Especially when the problem is all theirs. I did nothing to break this panel, one day just noticed it had cracked. It is definitely a design flaw. Why should I have to pay to fix their mistake? This happened one week before the transmission went on this vehicle (see other complaint). I see a Toyota or Nissan in my future. Sorry American auto workers, but maybe someone should be looking out for your countrymen. It's unfortunate we have to look overseas for value for our dollar......

- , Westport, MA, USA

problem #201

Oct 112006

Explorer XL V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

This is sad that you make your car payment as a consumer, and you are treated like you stole something. They replaced this part when I had my warranty on the vehicle. Now they act like this is something new. Went to same dealer same service dept at ford the manger tells me she has an explorer with the same problem They still want to fix their employee's trucks and they do know there is a problem. They want to look the other way, that's why they need a bailout, to continue to steal from American taxpayers

- , St Matthew, SC, USA

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