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:
75,998 miles
Total Complaints:
535 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (222 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (141 reports)
  3. not sure (101 reports)
  4. replace the panel (25 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 1 of 27)

problem #535

Jan 012006

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,000 miles


I am disgusted that the crack in the rear panel under the rear glass is not covered under a recall. You take it in and they just look at you like you are crazy. Well now, my whole back panel (glass and all) is about to fall off the back of my truck. HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO FIX THAT???????

- , Pineville, LA, USA

problem #534

Oct 152015

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles


- , San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #533

Dec 042004

Explorer LX 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,850 miles

This was the second car that I ever bought,My first car was in 1979 so when I now buying my second brand new car and having it a little over a year and the back panel crack just because its winter just broke my heart. I call Ford Motor Co and they told me that I would be responsible to have it fixed at my own expensive. which I was going thru a divorce and couldn't afford the 600 to 800 dollars to fix it. then driving around town I starting noticing all the Ford cars that had cracks just like mine...Explorers and Mountaineers i mean thousands and thousands of cars all cracked in the same place and Fords is sayings its not there fault and its not a defect come on this should of been taking care of years ago I want to sell this car and I have nothing but I have to cut the price down because of Fords not fixing the problem that they should of back in 2004.

- , South Rockwood, MI, USA

problem #532

Nov 242015

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


I keep reading this is a problem on here by so many people why isn't Ford doing a recall? Come on Ford Motor Company this is dangerous not only to the people driving the vehicle, but the potential hazard this can cause to someone driving behind this vehicle or other vehicles with this issue. I am on a fixed income as a disabled person I don't have 600 bucks to fix and then hear it will keep happening.

- , VA Beach, VA, USA

problem #531

Nov 182015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles

The panel just belw back windshield cracked right down the middle, other people have had this same problem, needs to be fixed, it has to be a defect in the panel

- , Clover, SC, USA

problem #530

May 232011

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,305 miles

Just want Ford to repair this. Tailgate problem takes away from the value and appearance of the vehicle.

- , Thomasville, GA, USA

problem #529

Sep 252015

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,769 miles


This vehicle is garage kept and pampered. I could not believe it when my wife said the lift gate had a crack in it. Sure enough a crack had appeared 1/16 which will allow water and the elements to enter this area and eventually cause major rust problems in the gate itself. After checking with loc. dealer and observing other Explorer owners, I find Ford Co. has been aware of this problem since 2002 without making any effort to fix the problem and make their Ford families happy. So being one of victims of Ford's neglect to fix this, I would like to be

added to the class action suit forthwith.

PS i have a photo of this but it is not posted on url.

- , Harrington, DE, USA

problem #528

Oct 252006

Explorer XLT 4.0L Ltr. V-Six

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,500 miles

The rear tailgate panel below the window glass continually cracks open across the whole width of the panel. It looks horribly ugly on an otherwise perfectly nice looking vehicle. It's due to the manufacturer "gluing" the panel in place instead of using other means of affixing the panel to the door itself, thus allowing movement due to expansion and contraction of the panel. It has happened and been replaced three times over the last years. Ford Co. replaced it originally while the vehicle was under extended warranty and I've replaced it twice, costing $500 each time.

It's now cracked in five places across the whole panel and I'm not going to put any more money into it to replace it. I believe Ford should repair it free of charge due to their manufacturing a defective engineering problem, ie, not allowing this panel to expand or contract due to outside temperatures of hot and cold when glued to it's inner steel framework. This damaged ugly panel makes the whole vehicle look terrible across the whole back-end while the whole remainder of the vehicle looks beautiful and is in perfect condition .

Update from Dec 3, 2015: You can have the new panel installed by a windshield/glass installer using their own type rubberized flexible glue that they install large windshields with. ( Do not use the type of inflexible Ford Co. glue which does not allow expansion and contraction due to heat/cold otherwise the panel will break again.) Naturally this will all be done at your own expense since Ford is just another major corporation in this United States that's protected by the Republican party's policy's to always protect big business at the expense of the little consumer. Just keep in mind a well known quote, United we stand, divided we fall. The big business and wealthy have been dividing this country for many decades now . Would you like to guess where we're headed for within the upcoming future ?

- , Hardy, VA, USA

problem #527

Oct 152014

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

On its own, I wouldn't bother to mention it, but it's the first in a long line of problems with this vehicle, so I'm putting it on record to let everyone know what kind of vehicle Ford sells.

- , Abington, PA, USA

problem #526

Dec 172008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

Crack just showed up one day and now I see Explorers all over with the same crack right above the Ford center logo below back windshield. I should not have to fork out the cash to fix this, Ford should!

- , Oviedo, FL, USA

problem #525

Jun 052012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


First I called the Ford Dealership to question them about any recalls on the crack in the back, they heard of the problem and then I called the Ford Main Office and made a complaint. Gave them all my information, they made a report of it by phone. I asked if there had been any other complaints of this happening to other Ford owners and was told No. I said I had seen 3 or 4 around my area. Now I read the Ford Corp. paid for some in 2007? So they lied to me. I brought it in to a repair shop and was told $500. Have not had it fixed.

This is not right. It is a defect and they should repair it.

- , Orange, TX, USA

problem #524

Jan 012015

Explorer Sport

  • Automatic transmission
  • 183,000 miles

I have a 97 year old grandmother who is in a wheelchair and I can't open the trunk because of the cracked rear panel, so I have to try and figure how to put into back seat. I took it to Ford and they said; oh well, even though if you go on line you see countless complaints of the same thing.

- , Hayward, CA, USA

problem #523

Oct 012014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Apparently Ford's design was flawed, since most have this crack that only gets worse. Not only is it ugly, water and dirt get inside and rust starts. Ford should recall this and fix.

- , hurricane, UT, USA

problem #522

May 092008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,120 miles

It's damned ugly and it is it's own eyesore and a great representation of Ford fit and finish. The Ford Logo is right there on the crappy panel for all to see and judge for themselves......

- , Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #521

Jun 042014

Explorer XLT 3.2lV6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

It's unbelievable that every Explorer I see on the road has this problem and Ford hasn't taken responsibility for shoddy workmanship.

- , Riverview, FL, USA

problem #520

Mar 062015

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,452 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

We just bought this 2003, used. It had the crack! I have always respected Ford and have enjoyed their customer service and vehicles.

How sad that they had a design that was NOT a problem (prior to 2002), changed design - with a problem and apparently will not stand behind the required repair.

I don't think I want to spend the money to buy a replacement panel only to have this happen again. Think I'll check and see if there are any fabricators out there who can make a replacement out of an alternate material.

The best solution in this woman's opinion: Ford acknowledges the problem, gets it resolved and offers the repair to all owners with this problem at either a "FREE" or very reduced price.

- , Hiawassee, GA, USA

problem #519

Mar 032015

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 147,000 miles

Welp, 147,000 miles and 12 years later, I finally joined the elite club of cracked lift gate owners. I'm consistently careful with the lift gate, and only pushed down using the emblem, but here we are. Any advice on fixing?

- , Dallas, TX, USA

problem #518

Jan 222013

Explorer LXT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Ford should pay for repairs and more people should go on record at Ford motor.

- , Terre Haute, IN, USA

problem #517

May 312012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

Every third 2002-2004 Explorer I am following down the road is a victim of this poor structural design. I have talked to auto body repair experts that seem to all agree, if you use your upper hatch with any regularity it will eventually crack from stress. Ford is doing themselves a financial disservice by not volunteering to repair this situation. I for one won't purchase another Ford, and I have owned many, for their lack of taking responsibility for the problem.

- , Bend, OR, USA

problem #516

Apr 052012

Explorer XL V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles

had this fixed at my cost. and now it has happened again.

- , So.Lake Tahoe, CA, USA

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