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 19 of 27)

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problem #180

Nov 142008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


I felt my cracked rear window was just another example of my bad luck but after seeing all these complaints, I too feel that Ford owes us some compensation.

- , Belle Vernon, PA, USA

problem #179

May 202008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,470 miles

click to see larger images

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

This is the icing on the cake. NO MORE FORD's!

We took this vehicle in every 3k miles to the local Oak Ridge, TN Ford dealership. Toward the end of our warranty the lifters started messing up. Took it back in and they said they'd replaced the oil, filters, etc, couldn't find anything wrong. We ended up taking the vehicle to another dealer because the Oak Ridge dealer wouldn't fix the problem. The new dealer found sludge in the oil pan! (Seems we paid for oil and filters years on end that weren't replaced.) They asked for our receipts, said if we didn't have them Ford wouldn't honor the warranty and we would have to pay to replace the engine. (I found this odd because each visit was to a certified Ford service center, and was entered into the Ford dealership database, which fed Ford because we always received information from corporate.) Thank God I kept the invoices, presented them, and the dealer/Ford replaced the engine.

After getting the vehicle back we find the back liftgate is cracked! Not only that, but we are seeing more and more of this make/model on the road with cracked liftgates. RECALL!!!!!

- , Clinton, TN, USA

problem #178

Oct 162008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,300 miles

Yes I to have this same problem with my Explorer, the rear panel has a big crack in it for no reason. I just figured maybe the heat caused it. I remember back during the summer it would sometimes make this loud thump noise like something had hit the back rear glass when I cranked it up. I did not realize there was others with this same problem as well.

- , Byhalia, MS, USA

problem #177

Dec 182008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


I have a 2003 Ford Explorer. I came out of the grocery store one day and noticed the crack just to the left of the Ford emblem on the rear panel below the glass. There has not been any type of impact to the car that would cause the crack. Since this happened, I have noticed several other Explorers on the road with the same crack. I think Ford should be responsible for repairs.

- , Columbus, GA, USA

problem #176

Jan 012009

Explorer XLT 3.4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

panel cracked in two places, as did many of the other Found On the Road Dead explorers

- , Goldsboro, NC, USA

problem #175

Oct 102008

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Same treatment as others received. Tough S---. Never buy another Ford. I hope they go under.

- , McMinnville, TN, USA

problem #174

Dec 122008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles


I have been seeing this crack on many other Explorers on the road and have been wondering how it happens.Still don't have an answer but no impact was involved, I woke up on a cold morning and went out to the car and there it was. The car was in my private drive and blocked from behind by my Range Rover, my guess is that the cold temp caused th plastic to crack vertically in the proximate center of the lift gate. Since this happened I have seen at least a half a dozen explorers with this problem, it is clearly a defect which should be covered under a recall.

- , Wappingers Falls, NY, USA

problem #173

Jan 192009

Explorer ELT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

It's been very cold in NJ lately and I noticed this crack the other morning, after initially blaming it on the cold weather, I searched and found that there are many complaints on this exact problem. I said no more Fords after my last one, and now I mean it.

- , Newton, NJ, USA

problem #172

Jan 182009

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

Was awfully surprised to walk outside today and find a crack all the way down the lower part of the rear hatch on my ford explorer. And am not looking forward to fighting it out with Ford... which it seems is what I may have to do. Sorry to hear that we are all having these issues and yet they don't consider this a RECALL issue. My family buys "Ford" because it's supposed to be American made, but if this is how they treat their customers, I might as well buy elsewhere!!! If it's not taken care of, we won't be buying Fords anymore!!! Also having trouble with automatic windows. We bought this vehicle used, so thought it was just a thing... but from further reading, this vehicle seems to have many faults!!

- , Plant City, FL, USA

problem #171

Dec 262008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

This really pisses me off, FORD needs to cover things like this, they have a bulletin that they send to insurance companies outlining the issue, they know it happens, should be up to them to fix

- , Three Oaks, MI, USA

problem #170

Dec 252008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,297 miles


First off let me say that I just called the no. provided (800-392-3673) and talked to a customer service rep and they said there was nothing they can do for me. Then I asked to talked to a manager and he told me the same thing. I gave him this website address to look at all the complaints but he did not give a sh*t whatt so ever. He said he would not look and that he didn't have to look. I mean this is why they're in this crisis right now and look who's bailing them out...we are w/ all our tax dollars. I will never buy ford again! I'm totally done w/ them. They don't care about the customer at all. At the end of the phone call he told me to have a great nerve. Anyways what can you do? I guess rant and not support Ford. They don't want to support their customers so why should we support them. HAVE A GREAT DAY!!!

- , San Jose, CA, USA

problem #169

Jan 052009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles

Misery loves company. Our 2003 developed the same crack in the rear panel that every one is speaking of. Our local Ford dealer politely told us that it was our problem because our vehicle was out of warranty, but they were aware of the issue and had replaced numerous appliques other vehicles under warranty. Body parts should not spontaneously disintegrate. This is reprehensible behavior from Ford. I am tempted to put a huge yellow arrow on the back of the vehicle pointing towards the crack with a sign that says "Are you sure you want to buy a Ford?" and then parking it in front of the dealership.

I was reluctant to buy this vehicle in the first place. I think it will be my first and last Ford.

Other issues you ask? Two rear window motors, speed sensors, door ajar sensor, rear differential seal. All before 45,000 miles.

- , Napa, CA, USA

problem #168

Dec 292008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

I happened to need something out of the back of the car, and about freaked. At first I thought someone decided to take a saw to the back of my car, then on closer look, I noticed it just cracked and was offset on the left a little less than 1/8". Today, I noticed another Explorer with the same crack just on the other side of the Ford logo; so I thought it would be a recall issue and could get taken care of rather quickly. Apparently, it should be a recall. I plan to go to the dealership and see what they say about it.

- , Charleston, SC, USA

problem #167

Dec 292008

Explorer Eddie Bower V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

Another cracked explorer here. So do the replaced panel crack too?

- , Sioux Falls, SD, USA

problem #166

Nov 072008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

This crack started and finished in one day. I tried to glue it, but the crack would open and close depending on the temperature of the day, so glue wouldn't hold. My vehicle is no longer under warranty. I may be able to find a replacement at the junkyard. With so many complaints about it, Ford should replace it.

- , West Bountiful, UT, USA

problem #165

Dec 202008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I just discovered a 1/8th inch split from top to bottom in the center of the panel below my back window. It wasn't there yesterday and I haven't used the window hatch lately so it can't be from closing it too hard. It's about -20 degrees C (-4 F) with the wind chill so I was wondering if it could be due to the sudden temperature change from a garage to outside.

I see from other comments re this problem that Ford refuses to acknowledge that this is an issue. I really like this vehicle, but this is the third issue that has really pissed me off. The reverse sensors stopped working and I'm told it will cost big $ to follow the wires looking for the problem. I've also just had the third set of brakes (top of the line ceramics) installed which seems a bit much for 110,000 km's.

We have to replace my wife's car very soon, but I'm not too interested in another Ford.

- , Abbotsford, BC, Canada

problem #164

Nov 262008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,240 miles

I bought my Ford Explorer from a car lot in Eden, NC in February 2008. I've already had to put a wheel barren on it and also about a month ago I went to the back of my car just to find a cracked panel and that really pissed me off. I bought a lemon before from another dealer in Reidsville, NC and I didn't expect to buy a lemon from a well known car dealership. You would think you can trust the car dealerships when purchasing a car but I guess not since now a days people are only out to get what they can get out of you. They just want the money and truly the way that the auto market is they can loose business.

- , Eden, NC, USA

problem #163

Apr 212008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Cracked rear door. I reported the problem to my dealership and they indicated that there were no other complaints. I find that unbelievable, I have seen several Explorers with the same problem. How many complaints must Ford have before they recall it?

- , Granada Hills, CA, USA

problem #162

Dec 042008

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,900 miles

I JUST BOUGHT this Explorer used.. I have not even had it for a month yet. I had read about the crack "buttcrack" and it just happened to me today. I called Ford customer service who told me that it was not under warranty, it was not a safety recall -- so there was nothing that they would do about it.

I knew that this was a potential issue on these vehicles when I bought it, but I am still upset that ford will not stand behind these repairs considering that it is an obvious manufacturer defect.

If Ford doesn't do anything to help me out with this, this vehicle will be my last Ford... and I am a young buyer. Ford, do you really want to piss off your young future buyers?

- , Danbury, IA, USA

problem #161

Oct 172007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

I bought this car used and had no problems with it. Then this cracked appeared. At first i thought it was the dealership covering this up but i realized that this is a factory defect. I haven't done any thing to fix it but will to put in my 2 cents.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

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