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 9 of 27)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #380

Apr 012011


  • 40,000 miles


This is totally unfair. I noticed the crack on the back panel of my 2003 Ford Explore with no explanation of how it got there. Than I start seeing other on the street with the same problem.

Now I learn that its hundreds with the same complaint. WHEN IT THE RECALL?

- , Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #379

Apr 012011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

I think if there are so many of this same problems with the crack in the rear panel it should definitely be fixed by ford with no cost to the customer because it is clearly a manufacturers defect.

- , Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #378

Dec 202009

Explorer XLS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

There really should be some recourse for my problem. It seems to be a design flaw and one that should not be my responsibility.

- , Cottage Grove, OR, USA

problem #377

Jan 132011

Explorer ES 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,518 miles



- , Erie, PA, USA

problem #376

Jan 052011

Explorer 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

Ford should really recall this problem. This is obviously a common problem, they should fix it. My father is a retired Ford employee. I have always bought a Ford. I would think they would want a returning customer. Please fix the problem.

- , Middletown, NY, USA

problem #375

Oct 122006


  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles

Members of the Rear Crack Club should caulk the crack in the most obvious color: Ford Blue.

- , Harvest, AL, USA

problem #374

Jan 012010

Explorer 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


Ok, on the back lift gate, right around where the all important "FORD" emblem is there is a crack from the bottom of the glass to the bottom of the gate. Looks very attractive and mine is by far NOT the only one of these I have seen cracked. The sad part is, I love my SUV, it's the second Explorer I have owned but I am not happy with the way my truck looks right now. In another complaint I told about the paint on the hood being almost completely gone...Sad, Sad, Sad...I fill like both of these should be recalled.

- , Rainsville, AL, USA

problem #373

Jan 292004

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,981 miles

After many years of holding only half the panel in place, my car is tail-less now [the back panel is totally gone]. First it cracked, of course it was replaced. Then, it cracked again. We decided that it "normal" after seeing all Fords with the same problem!!!. I used to like Fords. In fact I have Ford cars most of my life. But this last Ford has been a pain in the neck, too many defects, including the A/C that never shuts down, even when I turn it off. The Ford dealer told me that "it was normal" hahaaa and never fixed it.

I am ready to buy a car but it is not going to be a Ford! No, thanks.

- , Edinburg, TX, USA

problem #372

Dec 162010

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

The tailgate crack appeared after a cold weather snap. I hardly ever use the liftgate. when I found out my nephew's, explorer did the same I started checking others on the road and sure enough, there were quite a few with the same crack. We have always owned fords but I will rethink this body style. Ford should definitely fix.

- , Alton, IL, USA

problem #371

Mar 012011

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Ford has service bulletin out about problem - knows ita a problem but does nothing to fix it. I had to have the back sensor replaced (283.00) due to broken panel - now I have to replace the panel - Ford should fix it.

All the blogs say it's due to sudden temp changes and was really cold recently and it's not usually.

Why can't Ford deal with this!!!!!!!

I own 4 Fords and I'm not sure I'll ever buy another!

- , Santa Maria, CA, USA

problem #370

Mar 012011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles


I bought this vehicle from a private party. We did not see the crack at first until the first day we owned it. I did an internet search to see how to fix it and found all these complaints. Looks like a poor design. I have found other areas on this vehicle where there is poor design. The 2nd row middle seat latch, the recessed handle on the rear cargo area is broken. Its all thin plastic that cracks and breaks. Go on the Ford Explorer forums and you find all kinds of recurring problems with Gen III Explorers.

- , Newma Lake, WA, USA

problem #369

Jan 122011

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

Sent an email to Ford Customer Relashionship Center, telling them about the cracked rear panel and how I found online quantity of similar complaint, even some mentioning that Ford was fixing it and only charging $100 to the customer. I also explained that it is my 4th Ford vehicle since 2000. They responded with a pre-written generic email stating there is no warranties, Field Service Action/Customer Satisfaction Programs on my vehicle....

I was planning on buying a new Explorer this fall - it's now out of the question - Ford = never again.

- , Plantation, FL, USA

problem #368

Feb 112011

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Shortly after having the rear window hinge fixed, and the paint protection the dealership suckered me into to lower my payment, I noticed a 1/4" split (crack) just under the back hatch window, starting on the hatch door. This crack is in the center on the door and just starting at the top under the window. I am hoping it does not get worse. From what I am finding I don't think I will be that lucky. Love my explorer but it is very costly to repair.

This and the window problems Ford has should be recalled!!!!

Although I love my explorer I will never buy another.

Update from May 6, 2012: 5/6/12 This is now cracked down to the Ford logo.

- , Liberty Center, OH, USA

problem #367

Sep 122010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 133,000 miles

PLEASE NOTE: Submitted problem reports may not be accepted in whole or in part. If accepted, reports may be subject to modification in order to be posted to the AutoBeef database.


- , West Palm Beach, FL, USA

problem #366

Jan 272011

Explorer Limited Centennial Edition 4.6L Sfi V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,524 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

This part was replaced by the paint & body shop repainting the whole car for me only to have it crack again 13 or 14 months later! Parts are only limited to 12mo or 12k miles. Most of us have this same problem. I spoke to Ford about this and their response was, if enough owners report this to them they might look into a recall on this part. So all you owners out there put a call into Ford @ 1-800-392-3673 and complain! Even if you haven't repaired this yet, you might get it repaired for you at their expense. If you have, they will reimburse you as long as you have the repair bill.

- , Visalia, CA, USA

problem #365

Feb 192011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 6-4.0L-F1

  • Automatic transmission
  • 205,000 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

I recently had repairs done to my car after an accident and when I picked up my explorer the crack was in the panel just below the rear window. I found out from the Ford Dealer that this was a common problem with the Explorers. I contacted a friend of mine whose sister also has an explorer and she had the same problem. This crack is very visible and it makes your vehicle look really bad. Ford should replace this panel for its customers since it is a problem that happens with all of their Explorers. I also found out that it would cost me about $500 to repair it. WILL FORD PAY ANY OF THIS COST FOR ITS CUSTOMERS?

- , Bedford, TX, USA

problem #364

Oct 012008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

Well...I guess I'm part of the "rear crack" club...that sounds even worse when you say it out loud!

I will never buy another Ford. Their customer service is the worst. Quality is a joke. Ford is a big joke. But I guess the joke's on us...they are the ones laughing the whole way to the bank.

I should be happy the vehicle is still operable but of course, I had to replace the transmission already and that wasn't cheap. Now the car smells like it's burning coolant so I'm expecting to have to pay for a blown head gasket or radiator. Oh great car God in the sky...please let it be the radiator because I don't want to sink any more $$$$ into this piss poor excuse of a vehicle.

I hate you Ford. I hate everything about your company from your lame excuse of "customer service" to the con artists that you call "certified dealer repair" people. They are certifiable alright. They should all be sent to the loony bin for the crap they try to pass off as "damaged" when in fact it's lack of quality and defective to begin with.

You suck Ford and I'm making sure everyone I ever come in contact with knows this. Ripping people off with crap cars and trucks is the most UNAMERICAN thing you do and you do it well. stink.

- , Zephyrhills, FL, USA

problem #363

Feb 262011

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

This should be recalled this is clearly a manufacture defect. Now this crack is going to cause many issues, resale, over all looks (I've got to drive around with a crack on my vehicle, and take very good care of it. The rest of the vehicle looks in great shape.) The crack is subject to let dirt and moister in the inner part of the panel, where other components can be effected.

Ford Manufacture Co. Could hold on to more customers if they would stand behind there product. It makes me said to know that the manufacturer looks at this issue as a none safety problem there for they have the choice to fix or not?

I do know this fact, it's not a moving or a wear item, the only thing that should be happening with this panel should be to the paint for normal wear.

Thank you for taking the time to read my concern


- , Peoria, AZ, USA

problem #362

Jun 022008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

Ford has a responsibility to fix this design error.

- , Seaford, NY, USA

problem #361

Jan 152007

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles

Almost every older model Ford Explorer that I see on the road has the same issue with the cracked panel. For a while I was having a problem closing my back lift gate. There seemed to be a problem with the latch. I later realized that there was a recall (#04S20) on (what I thought had nothing to do with the cracked panel) liftgate glass hinge and ball stud bracket. Right after the repairs were done on my vehicle in January 2011, I realized that the liftgate worked perfect. It was then determined that the misalignment caused problems with the liftgate closing correctly.....which caused damage to the panel.....which resulted in the crack.......Ford has done a recall on what has resulted in the crack but they have not stepped forward to take responsibility for the damage that has occurred due to the defect.....It is unfair for us to have to pay out of pocket for damages due to a manufacturing defect.....Unless we band together and demand repair of the damage Ford is going to do nothing.........This is my first official complaint about this problem....I will continue to do research to determine how to address this issue with Ford, but the key thing is to make our voices be heard..........THE SQUEEKY WHEEL GETS THE OIL!!!!!!!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

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