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:
76,460 miles
Total Complaints:
543 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (223 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (143 reports)
  3. not sure (103 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 23 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

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, US

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

problem #100

Jan 032008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles


I was aware of the problem because my brother has one with a crack and I had noticed how many of the Explorers in my area are cracked. Yesterday I found my own. I am shocked that Ford does not want to protect it's customer base by addressing this problem.

- , Jacksonville, FL, US

problem #99

Jan 022008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles

Ford customer service was not helpful. The dealer said that the cracked panel is plastic applied with double sided tape! It only costs $70 for a new panel, but $200 for painting. They said it is not at all structural and the pieces will not fall off. The car has performed well until now but it only has 38,000 miles on it.

Only other problem was motors on the windows which worked only intermittently. they replaced these during the warranty period.

- , Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #98

Jan 042008

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

I also have a 2003 ford explorer cracked panel to lefty of ford emblem 1 large crack then spits again into 2 half way through, really pissed about it, just bought car 7 months ago, dealer wants 500 bucks to fix, has anyone had any luck getting ford to pay for it, or are we jusu SOL, Best of luck to everyone

- , Myrtle Bch, SC, USA

problem #97

May 102006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


This vehicle has 3 cracks in the back tailgate panel, 1 of which is about 4 inches long. We took it to the local Ford dealers bodyshop and the manager told us that he sees it all the time in all the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury SUV's. He said that Ford knows about the problem but will not conduct a recall. He advised going to the dealer and asking them to fix it. I did but to no prevaol because the car is out of warranty. They gave me a number to call Ford and ask for their help in getting it fixed and I did. It was a waste of time!! Ford doesn't care about fixing my car that they know is a defect from the factory and for that reason I will never own another Ford in my life!!

- , West Monroe, LA, USA

problem #96

Jan 102006

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

My 2003 also has the cracked panel. I originally went to Ford and was told that I must have hit it and caused the crack. I started noticing other Explorer with the same problem. One of my friends had a 2004 and hers cracked as well. She went to Ford and they told her that it was not under warranty and she too must have hit something. Since then I have spoken again to Ford and they have admitted that it's a problem and they will fix it, if I pay $100 deductible. What a ripe off? Why should we pay a cent for a manufacturer defect? Some one had suggested a class action. I think that's a great idea..I'm in!!

- , Germantown, MD, USA

problem #95

Jan 012008

Explorer ES V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles

Same as everyone else I have seen 6 cracked panels in one day around town, I called Ford and they said there is no re-call, the rep acted as if she never heard of this problem, what liars they are, I called the dealership and they will charge me $150 to fix what a rip off, I will never buy another Ford EVER.

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #94

Jan 262007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

I had the same crack occur last January that 93 others have mentioned here. It happened on a day that was around 5 degrees outside. I was parked in a lot and when I came outside after two hours, the crack was there. Funny thing is that I met a guy three years earlier who was driving an '02 Explorer. I asked him how he liked the car and his only complaint was that he cracked his lift gate plastic trim panel when he slammed it too hard. I bought my Explorer soon after and made sure EVERY time I closed the glass that I didn't do it too hard. This happened all by itself. They really have to step up and replace these when they fail, for FREE. It is a bad advertisement for Ford when there is an ugly crack right next to their logo!

I called the customer service number today and registered my complaint. I'm not holding my breath...

- , Hanover, MA, USA

problem #93

Aug 302006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,999 miles


I will follow up on advice and ask Ford to fix their Quality problem.

- , New Castle, DE, US

problem #92

May 092007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,000 miles

Another case to add for the cracked rear panel below the Ford emblem. I called the dealership and was told to bring it in because they had heard of this problem already. Once I was there, I was told that neither the manufacturer or extended warranty covered this(how convenient). I'm not a quiet customer so they offered me to pay 25% of the $300 repair. When I picked up the vehicle I was shocked to be billed $327! They said I misunderstood the quote(Not true, my husband also heard the quote) Then I oversaw how much they were actually billed from the body shop and the invoice said $327 (I took a picture of it with my cell phone before the manager yanked it away)! So I became unquiet at their busy Saturday morning dealership and they brought it down to $216. I paid the bill angry to get my car back. So even if they try to work things with you, they still get you. And that is what you get when you purchase a $30,000 car from FORD.

- , Montebello, CA, USA

problem #91

May 282007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

Went to internet to see if cracked panel under rear lift window has been a problem for others. About 60 problems of the same nature were listed. Have an appointment with local dealer regarding this significant body trim / window problem tomorrow. Will add more after the dealer evaluates the problem. Will take copies of most of the reports listed for this complaint.

- , Feura Bush, NY, USA

problem #90

Nov 032007

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,435 miles

I accused my husband of backing into something. I didn't know what had happened to cause the crack under the back window. Two co-workers told me this had happened to them and Ford fixed the problem. I am calling today and see what I can get done. It's worth a try!

- , Erin, TN, USA

problem #89

Nov 142007

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I spoke with Ford on this issue and they told me there is nothing they can do for me without a warranty. The guy "Mike" said I would have to pay for the cost myself. You would think that for what these SUV's cost, Ford would stand behind their product. What a bunch of cowards.

Who would like to join me in a class action? I am contacting the BBB, as well as posting a sign on the back of my car. Ford should be held accountable for their workmanship, not the consumer who pays their bills.

- , Minneola, FL, USA

problem #88

Nov 142007

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

Just checked the web to see if anyone else had this happen to them and was shocked at how many others have the same problem (and these are the people who are taking the time to go online to gripe - I'm sure there are countless more who just haven't complained online).

Mine has been slowly cracking for quite a while. In fact, at first I thought it was just a crack that had always been there - it was just a hairline crack between the window and the Ford emblem. I'm not sure when it really started cracking. It was after my warranty expired that my dad pointed it out to me - he has a 2002 Explorer and doesn't have this crack.

In the last few weeks, the hairline crack has gone all the way down the rest of the panel and looks like the Grand Canyon on the back of my car. What a piece of junk!

I called my dealership (didn't bother stopping by because I knew the answer to my question) and they stated that it wasn't a recall item and I'd have to pay for it. I have a call into Ford Customer Care and have been told I'll hear back from someone this afternoon. Sure. I'm holding my breath.

I should add that I also have had the finish on the black trim between the windows peeling off and the recirculation door arm (shifts air between heat and A/C) broke off. Between these 3 things, I'd have to say this car is a piece of junk.

I replaced a 1994 Explorer with the 2003 Explorer. The 1994 was well-built and rarely had a problem. Gosh, I almost miss it!

I'm thinking of selling this old heap and getting a nice, well-built, foreign SUV.

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #87

Nov 102007

Explorer EBE V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles

I see this is a known problem, my husband said he came out and there was this huge crack under the rear glass. Haven't talked to Ford yet, this better be covered under the warranty seeing that this is a known problem.

- , New Berlin, WI, USA

problem #86

Nov 012007

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,400 miles

The back panel below the window on the liftgate cracked this August (2007). I noticed visible cracks about 2 months ago while washing the vehicle. Last week my daughter came in and said there was a huge crack on the back window back panel. I took it to Anderson Ford in Cleveland Texas. Where I bought a premium warranty with 100k 6 years. "$1795.00"never used. It is NOT UNDER WARRANTY!!!! It will cost 387.00 to fix - plus 3 days with a rental car Now Im reading these stories..Im not the only one. Another thing that is really odd.... The new Ford Explorers DONT HAVE THE BACK PANEL-I wonder why... If anyone know if this ends up on a recall-- please inform me-- As I will do the same!

- , Splendora, TX, USA

problem #85

Nov 062007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,982 miles

The back panel below the window on the liftgate cracked this August (2007). It was just sitting in the driveway. I haven't contacted anyone yet but reading all the complaints about the same problem I think Ford should consider a recall. Why should the customer have to pay for the company's defect? I have owned Ford products for years and years but seeing all the problems listed and nothing being done by the company I may consider looking elsewhere!

- , Gallipolis, OH, USA

problem #84

Oct 312007

(reported on)

Explorer EB V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

I agree with the other comments. The rear window panel is a design defect and Ford should replace it.

- , Miami, FL, USA

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