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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.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
75,974 miles
Total Complaints:
531 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (221 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (141 reports)
  3. not sure (99 reports)
  4. replace the panel (26 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 #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 .

- , 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

problem #515

Dec 312014

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,500 miles

I think Ford should recall , this is obviously a huge problem and should be corrected.

- , Belle Plaine, MN, USA

problem #514

Jul 162014

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

When I first noticed that my 2003 Ford Explorer had the crack by the "FORD" logo on the rear tailgate, I first thought that someone tried to break into my vehicle. Then I contacted the ford dealership in Phoenix to see what the cost would be to fix it. "B_ _ _ S_ _ _!" They told me that this is a continual problem with this year and that it was a stress fracture. Ford needs to fix the problems on all these vehicles at no cost to the owners. Please add me to the Class Action Law Suit. Another saddened owner of a Ford.

- , Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #513

Jan 012005

Explorer XLT 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

This should be an embarrassment to FORD. I see other explorers on the road with the same problem

- , El Dorado Hills, CA, USA

problem #512

Dec 102013

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,000 miles

This crack is due to freezing weather. My son alerted me to the fact there is a class action suit for this happening to Explorers so I checked into it. It seems that FORD has known about this since 2002 and still sold this product. Since I live in the South, we rarely get freezes. We had a HARD FREEZE a few years ago and once the ice melted I noticed I had a crack in my back panel. I wasn't aware that water could actually leak into the panel and destroy wiring.

Who do I need to send my repair invoice to once I find out all the damage this has caused???

Sign me,

Just another Explorer Driver with a cracked back panel

- , Humble, TX, canada

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