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:
76,552 miles
Total Complaints:
545 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (224 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (143 reports)
  3. not sure (103 reports)
  4. replace the panel (29 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 4 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #485

Nov 272013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,000 miles


Ford needs to fix the problem, like how my transmission went at 85000 miles and they know of the problem but ate not doing anyhting about this is is a joke.

- , New Britain, CT, USA

problem #484

Jan 152013

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

Ford needs to do a recall since there are so many cars with the same problem.

- , Santee, CA, USA

problem #483

Apr 052008

Explorer ES 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I have seen several Ford Explorer's with the crack on the rear panel. This should be a defect and Ford should recall. Mine has been cracked for several years. I was trying to figure out what I did to make it crack and then I started seeing more cracked rear panels on Ford Explorer's than I could count. And I live in a remote area.

- , Red River, NM, USA

problem #482

May 012005

Explorer LX 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,000 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

As much as Ford is proud of their name, you would think a crack on pretty much every Explorer on the road, right next to their logo, would get their attention. They should be ashamed! I will never buy another Ford if they don't recall it and I've always bought Fords!

- , Plant City, FL, USA

problem #481

Dec 082009

Explorer XLT 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

Every time I see an Explorer, I see the same crack.

- , Bedford Hills, NY, USA

problem #480

Nov 082014

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles

They need to recall and fix the cracked back door panels. I have no heat and a cracked back door panel because they were trying to save money and used plastic instead of metal. I wonder if Ford Executives would drive around with no heat, cracked back door panels, paint peeling off hood? Oh, but they would not be able to drive the 2003 Ford Explorer until they bought a new motor and rebuilt the transmission because they blew up also before hitting the 100,000!!!!!!!

- , Freeland, PA, USA

problem #479

Jan 012006

Explorer XLT

  • 111,847 miles


I found out long ago that I was not the only one having this issue of the rear tailgate up panel having a crack in the plastic. I took it to Ford and they looked at me like I had two heads, and said you were the first complaint with this problem. I had the car for several years when I took it in with this problem. Hmmmm, no recalls no mention. How weird, I'm the only one in the world with this problem?

I asked further and they said $300 for a new panel plus paint and labor to finish it. $500 to $600.

Ya, ok, I'll get right on top of that. I bought some narrow stick on plastic molding and created my own "cover up"

Why do dealerships lie to our faces, yet when we go to buy our new cars or trucks, they agree with everything we say and the BS continues. Do dealership sales and service people grow up to be politicians?

- , Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

problem #478

Mar 242010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

When I talked to a Ford service person, he said he'd seen numerous cracked back panels, but Ford would not pay to fix them. Not acceptable!

- , Burgin, KY, USA

problem #477

Nov 202010

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

The cracks in the rear panel are bad and getting worse. The large crack is separating and I'm afraid the window is going to come out. The rear panel rattles when I'm driving. I can't understand why Ford will not fix this problem. If you walk through a parking lot you can see all the Explorer's that have cracked rear panels. I would think Ford would be embarrassed by this problem. After all, Ford used to be proud of their products.

- , Rio Vista, CA, USA

problem #476

Oct 172014

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

I am very unhappy that Ford has decided not to institute a fix for this well-know issue.

- , Anaheim, CA, USA

problem #475

Jul 142004

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 7,735 miles


It's ugly to look at, it's annoying and every other one other I see has the same problem. Are the Ford people stupid or what? Maybe they just don't give a sh*t!!!

- , Box Elder, SD, USA

problem #474

Nov 012012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

3 cracks on the lift gate below the window, haven't seen a 2003 Ford Explorer without this problem yet.

- , Lompoc, CA, US

problem #473

Aug 082009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Shows how much Ford cares about their product after it leaves the dealership. Should be a warning to all potential Ford buyers.

- , St. Augustine, FL, USA

problem #472

Feb 012008

Explorer NBX 4.0L, V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I just thought I would add my cracked window panel to the list.

I bought my Explorer NBX new in October 2002.

In February 2008 driving to Denver on a very cold day, we all heard a loud crack that you could feel too. As there was no debris on the freeway, I thought it was not a rock, but maybe someone has shot the car. I pulled over a few miles later, and taa daa, there was a 1/4 inch crack in the rear window panel.

I talked to the dealer. No help. I wrote to Ford. No help.

As it does not leak, I have not had it fixed to date. I consider it free advertising for Ford Quality.

- , Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #471

Dec 032013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 158,321 miles

I have always tried to take pride and care in my Explorer. The area below the back window cracked last year. It is an eye sore. I have noticed several other Ford Explorer's on the road and in the area that I live with the same defect. Ford should take care of this problem because all of the defects that I have noticed are in the same location as mine. The crack is to the right of the Ford emblem and it goes from the top to the bottom of the panel section.

- , Ringgold, GA, USA

problem #470

Oct 012010

Explorer XLS Sport 4.0L V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 76,510 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

this is such a common and fairly expensive issue, i find it insulting and annoying that ford has let this continue without any gets worse and worse without any fault of my own. I strongly believe there has to be a resolution to this ridiculous problem. Ford needs to hold some accountability and do something quick.

- , Boise, ID, USA

problem #469

Sep 012013

Explorer NBX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,645 miles

This is a design flaw that Ford knew about for 2002-2005 Explorers. A class action suit has been filed, but thousands of Explorer owners are left in the dark. It costs about $450 to have this repaired, Ford knew about the problem but covered it up, and thousands of Explorer owners are left holding the bag with de-valued vehicles and a safety hazard.

- , Alameda, CA, USA

problem #468

Jan 282010

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

This crack is above the Ford logo on my truck, and the court clerk in my city has the same things on ;hers. Its a pain, Ford dealership says no recall and they were not aware of a problem. Just wish Ford would fix it.

- , Sikeston, MO, USA

problem #467

Nov 142012

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,371 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

One day while driving, I heard a loud crack and felt my 2003 Ford Explorer XLT jolt from the impact of the crack. I stopped to see if someone had hit me with their vehicle. But there was no one else on the road but me. I arrived at home and inspected the vehicle and found that the rear panel under the back window had cracked and split completely. Upon researching, it has come to my attention that this is a known issue with this vehicle. Up to this point, I have no recourse but to fix it myself. This is a widely know problem and should be recalled. This is not normal wear and tear, and my vehicle has never been in an accident.

- , Tecumseh, Ontario, canada

problem #466

Feb 182014

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

2003 Ford Explorer XLT purchased new in 2003. Car has many flaws. The one which I am going to rant about is the rear lift gate. Rear applique crack formed in February of 2014 as on almost every Explorer Mountaineer and Aviator all have. On April 25th 2014 I opened the glass lift gate to retrieve some items. I then closed the glass lift gate and it shattered into a million pieces. I suffered cuts on my arm but nothing needing medical attention. After researching this problem I see I am not alone on both these issues.

I am joining the class action law suit in hopes to recover some if not all costs to repair. So far cost is about $750.00 for new glass and a new set of hinges because one was bent. I still have to find a body shop to paint the rear applique because this part is not painted to match the vehicle. So I am estimating the total cost to be close to $1000.00.

- , Corpus Christi, TX, USA

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