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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
39,804 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Ford Explorer:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #13

Feb 112010


  • miles


The tailgate cracks down the center.

- Rio Linda, CA, USA

problem #12

Dec 252010


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The vehicle was parked when the contact noticed that there was a large crack in the rear lift gate panel. The crack was located under the tail gate window. The failure was diagnosed or repaired. The failure and current mileages were 120,000.

- Emmaus, PA, USA

problem #11

Jun 012004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While the vehicle was parked the contact noticed that the rear tailgate was cracked. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the technicians stated that the contact would have to pay to have the tailgate replaced. The manufacturer was contacted and stated that they would pay for R half of the repair cost. The contact stated that he should not have to pay any portion of the repair cost. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 40,000. Updated 2/23/11 updated 04/25/11

- Santa Fea Springs, CA, USA

problem #10

May 042009


  • 72,450 miles


I keep reading about 2 complaints that people need to know about and Ford should take action on; the first being the back tail gate... Ford do the right thing. The second has to do with the transmission, overdrive light, the parking brake and the cruise control. I use the cruise control when driving long distances and while on a few trips the overdrive light would come on for no reason, at least I thought, I then found out that I had an ABS problem and wheel bearings problems. All happening at the same time? as if that wasn't enough my transmission was dripping fluid on my new driveway! this was while I only had only 70,000 miles, it wasn't right, I checked out the brakes, they had been replaced before however when I pull off the rear drum / disk to check the parking brake that's when I found the problem. I never use my parking brake, it rotted and delaminated and was dragging hence the od light, the overheating of the transmission which blew out the seal, the excessive brake dust which was partially the cause of ABS sensor malfunctioning. The last part impacts the bearings, when the ABS sensor malfunctions it can apply the brakes as in skidding or in tire slippage adding to early unnecessary wear on bearings and again overheating of the transmission. Ford needs to install a few "smart" sensors, one which could track parking brake malfunctions, also one for fail safe temperature readings for the transmission. (that is before it is compromised.) do the right thing Ford, your sales depend on it.

- Chanhassen, MS, USA

problem #9

Apr 212007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. In an attempt to drive the vehicle, the contact noticed a crack in the tailgate below the rear window. The dealer was notified and stated that there were no recalls. The current mileage was 80,000 and failure mileage was 60,000.

- Tampa , FL, USA

problem #8

Jan 202007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2003 Ford Explorer, after having service completed, Jan '07 noticed after several weeks vertical crack on rear hatch panel right of Ford emblem. Didn't think much of it because there was road salt coving the back hatch and I couldn't confirm what had happened.however there was no impact marks. I have noticed a number of other same year Explorer with the same vertical crack. Iwill try to pursue with Ford.

- Yardley, PA, USA

problem #7

Dec 062007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer XLT vertical crack in fiberglass tailgate panel just below rear window glass (no impact to tailgate occurred - called dealership and they noted this is a common problem).

- Clifton, VA, USA

problem #6

Nov 012007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles
The rear tailgate on my Ford Explorer has a vertical crack that runs through the Ford medallion on the back. My neighbor had the same problem with his Explorer and replaced it. When I looked on a google search, I find this is a common problem with Explorer. Not replaced, the piece will fall off and possibly create a road hazard.

- Brooklyn Park, MN, USA

problem #5

Apr 012006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Following the actions taken by the Ford dealership to correct the fault with the rear door/liftgate recall, a large crack developed on the liftgate from the bottom of the glass to the bottom of the liftgate. I have noticed this same crack on several other Explorer. I have been told that this is not something that Ford recognizes as an item for "recall." I am unsure of the integrity of the structure of the rear door/liftgate.

- Manassas, VA, USA

problem #4

Feb 012006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
Crack in body of tailgate with no cause; crack started at the bottom of the back window and ran to the bottom of the panel.

- Cottonwood Heights, UT, USA

problem #3

Nov 152006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles


Ford Explorer 2003. Tailgate cracked in half below window. No precipitating cause. Car under warranty, dealer stated this was manufacturing defect. Replaced at no charge, apparently with another defective tailgate. Tailgate cracked again 9 mos. Later. Dealership required payment of 20% from owner since vehicle out of warranty (38K miles) even though it was admittedly Ford's manufacturing defect. Ford replaced the tailgate with a third defective tailgate that will undoubtedly crack again. Both Ford facilities stated that they'd wish that Ford would do a recall and "accept responsibility for the defect". they'd replaced one a month at the small dealership and "many" at the larger dealership. Pictures available per E-mail if desired.

- Emory, TX, USA

problem #2

Jan 122007


  • miles
The panel below the rear window of my 2003 Explorer has cracked/broken into pieces. The 6-8 inch break runs to the right of the Ford emblem. Apparently this is a very common defect in 2002-2003 Explorer which Ford refuses to acknowledge.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #1

Nov 302004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Consumer received manufacturer's recall 04007, NHTSA recall 04V129000 concerning tailgate cables. No parts were available.

- Woods Cross, UT, USA

Not what you are looking for?