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 22 of 27)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #120

Mar 012008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles


Is there any hope that Ford will "step up to the plate" and admit that they have a design flaw in this model? The plastic panel snapped today as I was loading boxes at the rear of my car. Just like all of the other complaints, it is a vertical crack running the width of the panel just below the rear window and just to the right of the FORD logo.... Dear Ford, You can expect a call from me on Monday to help me understand your meaning of selling vehicles "Built FORD Tough" -- What a joke!

- , Orlando, FL, USA

problem #119

Jan 062008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

Panel "appliqué as Ford calls it" just below rear tailgate window just cracked. It was approximately 20 deg. F. when it happened. I was helping my wife unload groceries from the vehicle and when we closed the tailgate the crack appeared just to the left of the "Ford" emblem. Since then I've been looking at other Ford Explorers in our area and have seen this same kind of crack on approx 5-10% of the time on Explorers with the same design. Contacted my dealer (Grand Prairie Ford) and talked to the service adviser. He told me he had no knowledge of a problem with the "appliqué" and recommended I talk to the collision shop which I will do when they open on Monday.

- , Dallas, TX, USA

problem #118

Feb 202008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,992 miles

Our company has two 2003 Ford Explorers. Both have had the panel below the rear trunk lid window crack. Both have happened in winter during very cold temperatures. But, this is Canada and Ford knows it gets cold here. This is obviously a defect in materials and should be fixed by Ford. These are top end vehicles and we expect better materials to be put into them.

- , Barrie, Ontario, Canada

problem #117

Jul 012007

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


thought it was because moved from Colorado to Arizona and the heat got to it. I notice this on almost all explorers now...

also in summer driver window squeals and there is a weird whistling noise that comes from the engine / road area... only when its hot outside though.

- , Glendale, AZ, USA

problem #116

Feb 082008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

I found this big crack right at the center of the panel below my rear window one day when I washed my ford explorer 2003 LT, Immediately blamed my wife, but believe me the truck is been parking in my garage for a few weeks.

- , Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #115

Jan 182008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

i called ford today -800.392.3673. the representative informed me that 'ford has not issued a recall for this problem - but they have issued a 'technical service bulletin' (which confirms that this is a problem that ford knows about). she encouraged me to encourage all ford owners who are experiencing the same problem (vertical crack on the bottom panel of the top half of the lift gate) to call and log their problem with ford. they will give you a case # - hopefully if enough of us do this we can get ford to go good for the problem and reward us for having bought American Made!!! Call today! if anyone has luck in getting ford to go good for the repair costs please share! thanks.

- , Prospect, CT, USA

problem #114

Feb 172008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles


I was driving on the freeway and heard a noise. I thought I may have ran over something. Looked in my rear view mirrors and saw nothing. Later that day when I went to the store, my husband saw the crack and asked what had happen? There was no sign of vandalism or someone hitting me or me backing up.. Just a clean crack on the panel below the rear window. When I called Ford, they acted as though they had never heard of this problem. I told them about this website and proceeded to read that I was not alone with this problem. I was told to go to a dealer to get a diagnosis, and then call them back. Not sure if it will do any good, but I will do so..

- , Henderson, NV, USA

problem #113

Feb 022008

Explorer XLT 4.0L, V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I thought maybe i was at fault, when i first saw the problem, then i stumbled upon this website. I am furious to know that this happened to everyone here that is "B.S." and this should be taken care of by FORD. I will update my situation to let everyone know what happened, please let me know if anyone didn't have to pay.

- , Lombard, IL, USA

problem #112

Dec 032007

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

Got the same problem as others on this site. When I noticed the crack I wondered had did it happen with no signs of being hit by any object. Did a search on the Web and found this site and wanted to add my complaint to the growing list of disgruntled Ford owners. Also have had the Explorer back in the Service Department twice for noises in the rear end. Also had a problem with the shifter not going into drive when I try to put it in drive. Love my vehicle and had talked to Salesman about possibly trading for a new one, then this happened. Maybe I will look somewhere else.

- , Pikeville, KY, USA

problem #111

Apr 012007

Explorer ES

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

This is the last Ford I will ever buy. Piece of junk. Problems from the start with transmission, ball bearings (all bearings have been replaced) and now the body starts fail

falling apart. Dealer says its our problem. Sent registered letter to Ford Motor Co and

new Chief Executive (can't remember his name right now) and they essentially told

me to go fly a kite. American made cars stink!

- , Warroior, AL, USA

problem #110

Nov 012007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


The crack appeared small, but has expanded and spread. I just saw another Explorer 1 year older (2002) with the same problem and after reading other complaints feel this is an obvious defect with the materials used and Ford should repair at no charge.

- , Laurel, M, USA

problem #109

Jan 212008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

The crack runs vertically the whole length of the panel separating it in 2. It also has

affected the "door ajar sensor" which is now constantly on because it senses that

the hatch window is open. Very annoying. Ford should definitely be looking into

fixing this problem.

- , Syracuse, NY, USA

problem #108

Jan 272008

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Baurer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,900 miles

The panel below the glass on my lift gate cracked this last week. I have noticed many Explorers with this problem. I figured it was a matter of time before mine would break. I will call Ford about this but I am sure they will tell me usual answer they give. Everytime I have a problem with this "Fart Exploder" they tell me no one else has had this problem. This is Fords standard answer. I have owned six Fords. I will never buy another. I bought a new Honda in April 2007. Great SUV.

- , Shawnee, KS, USA

problem #107

Jan 052007

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles

This is just not acceptable. Clearly this is some kind of design flaw on Ford's part and they need to address it and fix it on their dime. This is the only and definitely the last American made vehicle my wife and I will ever purchase.

- , McAllen, TX, USA

problem #106

Apr 102007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I went to the dealer for a oil change and mentioned the sudden appearance of a crack in the rear lift gate. There was another gentleman at the dealership with the exact same problem. We tried to appeal to the service manager for a fair remedy to what is obviously a design problem and Ford could have cared less. They told me the vehicle is out of warranty and there is no recall. The people at Malouf Ford in North Brunswick NJ said since there is no recall, it would cost ME $800 to fix this problem.

I called Ford Customer Service and they said there is nothing they can do. I asked what has to happen to get a recall and they said it's up to THE NATIONAL TRAFFIC & SAFETY ASSOCIATION. So I hope others will join me and contact this association ( I plan to google to find the contact information) and let's try to get this issue resolved. We should not have to pay for what is obviously a design flaw.

The gentleman in the dealership who has the same problem with the cracked lift gate, said he has done research and FORD DID RECALL CERTAIN EXPLORERS FOR THIS PROBLEM BUT ONLY VEHICLES WITH CERTAIN VIN NUMBERS BUILT AT A CERTAIN PLANT. Obviously the recall needs to be expanded to include more factories. Complain people

- , Somerset, NJ, USA

problem #105

Oct 302007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

explorer 2003 cracked rear panel, ford should pay for this problem

- , Miramar, FL, USA

problem #104

Sep 012007

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,500 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I called Ford and they said there was no recall and no history of the problem... after looking at the complaint log, I see that they were obviously lying! I never use the rear window gate, I always use the whole door gate. I'm contacting my news action team locally to see if they can help.

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #103

Nov 072007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

This crack occurred by itself and I had not even used the hatch. Now I noticed that the crack has spread below the Ford emblem as well. We have had issues with the mechanics in the dealership we purchased the car trying to advise that things needed to be fixed that did not, but had not had issues with the vehicle itself. We are planning to go to the dealership (knowing it is a waste of time) and will call the Ford Customer Service number listed. A class action suit is a good idea - I will not buy another Ford product if they do not stand behind this problem. We recently purchased a 2007 Honda because we are fed up with the American automakers complaining about not buying American. We always had in the past and look where we are with this vehicle! I think it is criminal that there is a problem out there and they are not standing behind their product.

- , Aurora, IL, USA

problem #102

Jan 042008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles


- , Dickson, TN, USA

problem #101

May 102006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Hey People,

Kimberly on this board has a address in which you can e-mail the NTSB about our problem. It only takes a couple of minutes to fill out the questions and we need all the help that we can get in order to keep Ford responsible for their defects. Take a few minutes and go to the site, it may make a difference.

I'm serious about this problem and I'm prepared to stop at 0 to make Ford fix my vehicle.

- , West Monroe, LA, USA

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