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 27 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #23

Dec 122006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles


This morning I discovered the crack in the lift gate. This is definitly a problem with the design and or materials used for that part of the SUV. Ford should correct the problem.

- , Friendswood, TX, USA

problem #22

Dec 132006

(reported on)

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles

the dealer wouldnt help me a bit, this really ticked me off, i had the vehicle only 2 weeks before this happened, ford should pay to replace our tailgates

- , Roanoke, VA, USA

problem #21

Jan 082007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles

Add me to the list. Wow, until tonight I didn't even know this problem existed. I got my Explorer washed this afternoon and noticed two vertical cracks below the tailgate window. The crack on the right is about 6 inches long, and one on the left is about half that. I decided to do a Google search to see if by chance anyone else had this issue. I had no idea. Ford HAS to do something about this. I'm talking to my Ford Dealer tomorrow. We'll see what happens. I'll be happy to post the resolution or lack of one.

- , Kennett Square, PA, US

problem #20

Dec 142006

(reported on)

Explorer ES V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles


this problem says a lot for the auto industry. they are building vehicles cheaper by using plastic, it doesn't matter after they are sold that they are no going to last even 3 years before the body work starts tearing up.

- , Sylvania, GA, USA

problem #19

Jan 042007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,500 miles

We own our 3rd Ford Explorer..... and never had a problem like this rear window panel crack. .... and we are extremely upset about the company's lack of assistance.... Dealer estimate was $648 so we are checking other estimates. Does anyone know how we can get Ford to realize that this is a huge problem and they need to take responsibility for it..... I can't believe how many people have had the exact same problem. How can we get statistics on how many cars have this?

- , Ivoryton, CT, USA

problem #18

Dec 272006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,010 miles

The plastic panel on mine cracked top to bottom, about 2 inches to the left of the FORD emblem. Panel cracked while NEW ENGINE was being installed (how's that for adding insult to injury)!!! After reading reports on this site, I don't believe the dealer caused the problem. Dealer reported no recalls or factory assistance for the problem, but will fix it for $300 + tax. They told me that the new plastic piece has been redesigned and should not crack again. Can anyone confirm this?

- , Brookfield, WI, USA

problem #17

Dec 212006

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,140 miles


I had heard of many Explorers developing a vertical crack thru the trim panel below the rear glass. Today 12/20/06, mine cracked open about 1/8". The car was washed, and while drying the vehicle noted the NEW crack. It appears to be a very common occurrence with all the Explorers of this design. I have not yet contacted my dealer to see what they will do about repairing / replacing the part.

- , Bakersfield, CA, USA

problem #16

Dec 192006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

It seems my explorer has the same problem than a lot of explorers (cracked panel). We went to the Ford dealership. They sent us to a first body shop. This body shop made us a estimate quote of $1600!!! So we went back to the Ford dealership. They sent us to another body shop. This time it was better, $260, but it's just an estimate. We talked more with the dealership people and they told us to call the Ford customer relationship center @ 800-392-3673. I did it. I waited patiently to hear at the end something I've already been told: not a recall, not under any warranty... no financial help. And she didn't want to listen to my arguments. She kept asking if I understood what she was telling me and if I was satisfied by the answer... We'll pay, because I want to get rid of this car and buy a brand new Honda Odyssey with a real customer relationship center.

- , Rock Hill, SC, USA

problem #15

Dec 112006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Crack in rear hatch. Starts at bottom of window, 3 to 4 inches right of window center and moves vertically downward through the hatch door. (upper half of back lift gate)

Taking to local dealer in the morning and don't expect much from the other listings reviewed here on AutoBeef. Any help please leave comments !! Phone number at FORD Headquarters? I have always been a FORD Man........ beginning to wonder if the quality is going to make me change?

- , Missouri City, TX, USA

problem #14

Dec 062006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,409 miles

Wife called and stated the rear hatch panel was cracked (i thought, here we go again). Googled the problem and found all the complaints on Autobeef and advised the wife to take the car to the local dealer. Dealer was nice and stated he would do what he could. I called another dealer and was advised he sees case after case of this and Ford has yet to handle the first case through his dealership. He advised me to give FORD Customer Service a call @ 1-800-392-3673. I did, call took about 30 min total. Less than 2 hrs later I received a call stating Ford was taking care of the entire bill through my local dealer and apologized for any inconvenience. I call the local dealer and spoke w/ the service manager and he advised he was shocked and had also already ordered the part. I honestly had no idea i would receive this kind of service after what all I had read here.. In essence, if any here have not called the customer care line you may want to do so... Good luck... Just thought I should give praise where praise is do.. Also to add, we had no extended warranty whatsoever...

- , Summerfield, NC, USA

problem #13

Dec 052006

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles


Noticed the crack to the left of the emblem from top to bottom today while closing the tailgate. Clearly this is a design defect if this plastic piece is broken and not the glass. Very troubling that Ford is not stepping up to fix this design issue.

- , Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #12

Dec 082006

(reported on)

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

It's sad to see I'm not the only one with the lift gate problems. I was astonished to see that my Explorer would just "crack." I definitely won't be buying another Ford.

- , Ooltewah, TN, USA

problem #11

Dec 042006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,350 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT. I walked out this weekend and saw a large crack extending from just below the tailgate window, down around the Ford emblem and then down to the bottom of that panel. I haven't yet gone to the dealership, as I just saw it yesterday. However, I went online to see if there had been any other similar complaints, and obviously there have. American car manufacturers gripe that Americans buy foreign made vehicles, but frankly, a person can see why that becomes a more and more viable option. I should not have a part on my car that just cracks in two for no obvious reason. If they say it's due to the cold, my response will be that I live in Orlando, FL and the temperature during the weekend that the crack occurred was not even 50 degrees. Ford needs to get real and stand behind their product!

- , Apopka, FL, USA

problem #10

Nov 062006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.3L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,600 miles

Well, I see I am adding another complaint to the list. I noticed over the weekend that the back panel below the back glass on my Explorer is cracked all the way down! Not just a hairline crack either, it is about 1/4 inch wide, top to bottom. This is crazy! You pay $30,000 for a vehicle and the body justs starts cracking up, what is going to happen next? Is the whole panel going to fall off while I am driving down the road? I called my local dealership and they told me that it was not covered because the factory warranty has past. Well this is considered a defect in my book and Ford needs a recall on this. I have replaced the transfer case and the rear end in this vehicle just last year and now this happens. I will never buy another one.

- , Athens, GA, USA

problem #9

Nov 222006

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

The panel crack appeared after 2 days of overnight temps of freezing or below. I have a call into the Ford dealership which I am sure will not take care of this. The crack is to the left side of the Ford emblem and is from the top to bottom of the panel below the window.

(We have already quit buying Fords. My husband's wheel came off of his new pickup -1 payment had been made-.. They would not cover it and said we would have to sue to get anything from them the dealership was Varsity Ford in College Station, TX. Lo and behold our insurance company did and guess what????? They paid for the repairs that were made at another body shop - several thousands of dollars - thank God no one was hurt of killed).

- , College Station, TX, USA

problem #8

Nov 042006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

2003 ford explorer 58,000 miles now has that infamous rear panel crack. The crak is about 5 inches long , an eye sore. Ford knows this is a design flaw and should have a recall on this problem. Everything seems to work but that rear panel crack is unsightly. Man up ford and fix these problems.

- , Fayetteville, NC, USA

problem #7

Nov 132006

(reported on)

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

While returning home from a trip, we noticed a vertical crack in our tailgate on the left hand side below the window. There was no evidence of it before the day started and we had minimal luggage in back with nothing pressing against the tailgate. When we stopped for gas and opened the rear hatch, we noticed the crack.

The concern I have is that water can now get inside the crack and it has the potential to cause problems, not to mention that it looks really bad. From what I've read, this problem has affected multiple 2002 Explorers and nothing can be done. Even replacing won't help since it can happen again and more cracks can appear as time goes on.

My plan is to ask a dealer if they will fix it but I don't have a lot of expectation unless Ford issues a recall on it. FYI - we did have the hinge recall fix applied a couple of years ago.

- , Kenmore, WA, USA

problem #6

Nov 132006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles

I was leaving the grocery store and had a bag full of groceries. When I hit unlock on my keys, I accidentally hit the blue button that opens the back window. I reached up with my free hand and pushed on the Ford emblem to shut the window and the door cracked above and below the emblem. I took it to the Ford place because I had the extended warranty and they told me it wasn't covered. While I was waiting to talk to him, I talked with a woman with a 2002 Explorer who was there for the same thing! I love this vehicle and have had no other problems, except that the seat belts are slow to wind back up. However this really bugs me because Ford won't replace them. It is obviously a design problem.

- , Port Arthur, TX, USA

problem #5

Nov 122006

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,000 miles

My sister just took my car for the weekend. Came out this morning and noticed the crack below the window. I googled to see just to find out information on the problem - looked to see if there was a recall - not.

As there are quite a few of these problems - I will not be fixing it on my own. My car is no longer under warranty and looking at the reports, it would not matter anyway.

- , Little Elm, TX, USA

problem #4

Nov 112006

(reported on)

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 34,000 miles

Same problem with the cracking on my 2003. It started in the winter but vehicle was still under warranty. They have fixed it 4 times now with a new panel and glued back on. Never paid for one and car has 65,000 on it now but it all stems from original warranty. I can now hear the stress noises coming from the tailgate on some turns but especially going over bumps. If I drive with the tailgate open, the noise goes away. Not sure if its the latch but it's just a matter of time before it comes off again, like it's being torqued. Doesn't even crack, just comes off from the stress. Tailgate may not be aligned well or just poor design but driving around with tape to keep it from flying off is the only solution not to kill person behind me one day. Ford should look into this. Too many complaints from folks like us who did a google search just to see if we are not alone. I bet there are thousands and dealership even admitted they had seen it before. Come on guys, put one of the engineering geniuses to work and solve this problem or be prepared to foot the bill!

- , HIlton Head Is., SC, USA

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