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 5 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #463

Dec 042013

Explorer XLS 4.0L Flex Fuel

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles


Metal panel looks ugly with crack. Also, plastic panel below metal crack where rear tailgate release is has cracked. This should have been a metal piece to begin with. Over the years, it has cracked due to people reaching for release handle.

- , Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #462

Feb 172010

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I think even though it isnt a safety issue, Ford should pay to repair.

- , Medina, NY, USA

problem #461

Oct 082006

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

click to see larger images

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


Update from Nov 12, 2014: Since the first complaint, I have been experiencing electrical, transmission, water damage underneath. The padding is eroded. The wiper doesn't work any longer. Im really upset at ford for not believing this consisted problem. I love my truck, and this is out of control. Please help me!

Update from Nov 12, 2014:

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #460

Jan 012010

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


I am waiting for a callback from Purvis Ford regarding getting the TWO cracks that need to be repaired. The person I spoke with said she knew nothing about this problem! Seriously? Every freakin' Ford Exploder I see on the road has the same cracks! Pretty certain they are going to give me a hard time and want me to pay for it! NOT!!!

- , Fredericksburg, VA, USA

problem #459

Apr 122012

Explorer LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

I have had 3 paint/body defects now and am furious that this is NOT an isolated issue. I take very good care of my vehicle and was flabbergasted that this crack suddenly appeared. In the 5 days since it has happened I have randomly spotted 5 more Explorers with the same crack....Not a coincidence, just poor manufacturing. I am really going to rethink purchasing another Ford (I have always owned one) if they do not correct this problem.

- , Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #458

Dec 012012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

OUT OF NOWHERE CRACKED IN HALF. Rear panel under rear window.

- , Clinton, IA, USA

problem #457

Feb 232013

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


We were completely caught off guard with this major vertical crack through panel under rear window! Parked at local rink when it was discovered, first thought was someone hit the car. That didn't seem to fit though, lack of any other scuffs etc. then came home to research. Imagine my surprise to see what a common problem this is! What the heck ford? Can't believe that such a common problem exists and there is no attempt by ford to recall or fix. Unacceptable. I really loved this car which I bought used for my teenager, was looking at an explorer for my next vehicle myself. Would not even consider it now. Ps we already had to replace the alternator, and I just thought no big deal, common needed repair. I tend to be pretty patient and get that cars will need maintenance. This is not the same category.

- , Hanson, MA, USA

problem #456

Mar 262013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,235 miles

Bought this vehicle about a month ago for my daughter. It had been wrecked in the back end so we took it to a body shop and spent over $3000. 2 days after picking it up from the body shop it cracked under the back window. Thinking it was the body shops fault, we were furious. in the last 3 weeks since that happened I have taken pictures of 5 (FIVE) other explorers with the exact same crack! and that is just in our small town! UNBELIEVABLE! Can nothing be done about this?

- , Fremont, NE, USA

problem #455

Jan 012012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,000 miles

Cracked lift gate. Ford needs to repair our trucks, we sure paid enough for them. I didnt crash or mistreat my truck,so it should look like crap because they f* up! And have a nice day ford!

- , Wyoming, MI, USA

problem #454

Mar 012013

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

doesn't look good. should be fixed for free. what else do you want me to say.

- , South Lyon, MI, USA

problem #453

Nov 022012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

Ford needs to take care of this. Period! I came out of the store Nov 2 2012 and it was cracked. I did nothing to cause it.

- , Mishawaka, IN, USA

problem #452

Feb 012013

Explorer XLT 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

joined the club of cracked hatch panel. Truly annoying as seeing this is not an isolated problem.

- , Mesa, AZ, US

problem #451

Feb 152013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 3.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

For shame Ford!!! This is a part quality problem that should be repaired at FMC expense.

- , York Beach, ME, USA

problem #450

May 012006

Explorer LT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

every other ford explorer has cracked rear hatch window just above the license plate.

- , Seal Beach, CA, USA

problem #449

Feb 012011

Explorer LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Obviously, this is a wide spread problem and Ford should not simply walk away from it. They should pay to have it fixed or fix it themselves.

- , Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

problem #448

Aug 272012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

We have loved this vehicle...until this crack appeared this summer. It has been one of the most reliable vehicles we have owned, so it is hard to accept that it is falling apart in this manner. Ford had a tailgate recall about 2006, which we participated in and had the necessary work done. Now this. Knowing that tailgates on this model have had problems, I would expect Ford to come forward with a solution.

- , Rensselaer, IN, USA

problem #447

Mar 062012

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,274 miles

This has been a problem since the Explorer was built. Window was changed later but, owners were left high and dry on this problem.

- , Palm Bay, FL, US

problem #446

Jul 102012

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,523 miles

Let designers repair the vehicles so they can see the problems they create.

- , Miami, FL, USA

problem #445

Jul 272012

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,565 miles

I have had some VERY EXPENSIVE repairs ($1700.00, $2400.00) at Ford Dealerships. No wonder they didn't need a bail out! I have come to the conclusion a dealership (after warranty) is the most expensive place for repairs.

Now the lift gate is cracked below the window. Going to make it difficult to trade in or sell. Not that I'm likely to trade it in for another Ford.

Update from Jul 30, 2012: Kia - here we come.

- , Fort Nelson, BC, Canada

problem #444

Oct 012008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

Ever since our back panel cracked, I started looking around at all the Ford's and a LOT of the older models like ours have a cracked panel!! So annoying! I really feel like it's their issue and they should have to fix it!

- , Boise, ID, USA

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