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CarComplaints.com 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.

6.6

fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
$413.00
Average Mileage:
74,575 miles
Total Complaints:
506 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (217 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (137 reports)
  3. not sure (93 reports)
  4. need a redesigned tailgate (22 reports)
  5. replace the panel (20 reports)
  6. ford needs to pay for being fixed (9 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 26)

problem #506

Jan 092013

Explorer LS 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

At the time there was no other body damage, now a hugh crack.

- , Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, USA

problem #505

Nov 142013

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Just really fed up with Ford and all the problems they know about but don't give a damned about. Once they sell you a vehicle they don't want to see your face again. Until you need a new car because the old piece of crap won't run anymore. Guess what my next vehicle will be? You are right...NOT FORD!!!

- , Edgewater, Florida, USA

problem #504

Dec 232013

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,700 miles

Cracked panel looks awful. Truly a slap in the face to Ford for letting this go. The darn thing rattles and when you wax the car you have to be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp edges.

- , Cambridge, Ohio, USA

problem #503

Jul 042014

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Sounds like a real problem for many. A recall should be made by Ford.

- , Sun Prairie, WI, USA

problem #502

Feb 212007

Explorer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I had contacted Ford when the crack first appeared,back in 2007,I was told it was not under Recall and would do nothing about it. I paid a lot of money for my Explorer, Feeling very disgusted with the problem,What was I to do. In October 2014 I was at the mechanics when he informed me Ford was repairing those cracks,so once again I contacted Ford,This time they told me the vehicle was no longer under Warranty so once again they said they would do nothing about it, As consumers we pay a lot of money for our vehicles,and a lot of us appreciate our cars and want them to look good.This is an eye sore for me every time I get in my car. Why cant Ford just do what needs to be done and repair our rear panels.

- , Bullhead City, AZ, USA

problem #501

Mar 122010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

It's all been said before. Ford knew about the problem and ignored it. Now almost every Explorer from 02-05 has this crack. It needs to be addressed.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #500

Aug 212007

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

It's a running joke. You see them everywhere. Ours happened in the summer years ago. We came out one day and there it was, like we had finally been accepted into the club. So far we only have one, I've seen cars with as many as three. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked how that happened or what caused it. It's fun to respond "Nothing". Once you let people know to look for it, it becomes a game. They will come back to you and tell you they find it on every Ford they see in the years of this model..

There should be a recall/settlement on the transmission as well. Everyone has had to make the choice to get a new one or move on. Owners know it and mechanics know.

The 3 or so years of this model of Ford Explorer will gift you with a bad transmission and a cracked rear door bezel. Ford reliability!

- , Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #499

Mar 012009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles

Cannot find used back panel. Looks awful and has caused rust in tailgate.

- , Seneca Falls, NY, USA

problem #498

Feb 162013

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 155,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

I have always taken pride in keeping my Explorer clean. Needless to say I was embarrassed to drive it when it first occurred. Then I started to notice other Explorers that were similar in age having the same problem. These days it's almost impossible to find one without the crack.

I feel that Ford should come up with a fix for the problem and either pay for it or allow you to bring it into a dealer for repair at Ford's expense.

- , Yorba Linda, CA, USA

problem #497

Jun 012005

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles

I traded in my 1995 Ford Explorer, which I was very satisfied with, for this 2003 Ford Explorer. During the second year of ownership, the rear window latch became hard to close. Shortly after that, I noticed the crack in the rear panel below the glass. I took it to the dealership for repair, as it was still under warranty. They replaced the latch but refused to fix or replace the cracked panel! I believe the faulty latch is what caused the panel to crack in the first place! I was pissed!

I talked to the manager of the dealership (Greenway Ford, Orlando), he wouldn't help. I wrote letters and left voice messages with Ford Headquarters and got no response. I've owned six Fords in my life and would've continued to buy Fords, but they have lost me forever. I will NEVER buy another Ford! I told my kids, if they ever buy a Ford, I will disown them!

- , Orlando, Florida, USA

problem #496

Jun 152011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Panel under rear window cracked. I talked to ford company they said they would not fix this.My wife and myself count all the explorers we see with cracked panels and we have lost count there are so many.

- , Ooltewah, TN, USA

problem #495

Jul 312012

Explorer XL 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

Looks bad, have to get it repaired. please continue with the lawsuit so they can pay for the repair.

- , Pompano Beach, Florida, USA

problem #494

Sep 172009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I brought my 03 Explorer to the local Ford Dealer where I live in Southern MD, Service Mgr told me it could on be fixed under warranty even though Ford had a TSB on this issue.They really need to step up to the plate and fix this. Like somebody said in a previous complaint there are more rear cracks on these 2002 - 2005 Explorers then there is at a plumbers' convention.

- , Mechanicsville, MD, USA

problem #493

Apr 252011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Panel under rear window cracked, which according to Ford, is a common problem. I hate it cause it just looks ugly and makes my truck look cheap.

- , Jacksonville, NC, USA

problem #492

Mar 192014

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

Almost every explorer from 2001-2005 has this problem. It is obviously a manufacturer defect that Ford should address.

- , Brookline, MA, USA

problem #491

Oct 102007

Explorer XL V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Worse vehicle I ever owned, continually replacing the wheel bearings along with the cracked panel. I eventually had the panel replaced, because water was going into the back of the vehicle.

- , Evansville, IN, USA

problem #490

Nov 152013

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

My Ford SUV has been my baby since 2003. Tough as nails and very dependable. I used to see all those other Ford SUV's with the crack under the rear window by the emblem and wondered why so many people had an anger management problem. Then I found out why first hand. I took my Ford through the car wash in November. I recall it was very cold out that day. I drove through the wash and the last cycle came on...Heated blowers. Next thing I heard was the crack of a gunshot. I thought the rear window had shattered. When I checked I had the symbolic Ford crack under the rear window like everyone else - I had just joined the p.o. Ford owners club.

- , Sanatoga, PA, USA

problem #489

Jun 112005

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,500 miles

I have seen the crack under the rear window on many Explorers and have talked to the dealerships about it and their response is that Ford is unwilling to fix the problem.

- , Denver, CO, USA

problem #488

Jun 012012

Explorer XLT 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,528 miles

Whenever since my back cracked panel underneath my window has been broken, I can't set my alarm on my SUV because it won't quit going off, so therefore I can't lock my SUV. I want this problem fixed.

- , Piketon, Ohio, USA

problem #487

Oct 082009

Explorer XL 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

This problem is annoying and should be fixed at Ford's expense.

- , broken bow, OK - Oklahoma, USA

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